Would OITNB Be the Same Without the Language?

Orange is the New Black is one of my absolute favorite TV shows.  At first, I liked it because it was entertaining, and I’d never seen anything like it.  I continue to love it because the characters are incredible.  Every one of them has good and bad traits — I love them sometimes and they annoy me at others, just like they would in real life.  It portrays real people making realistic decisions, and that’s my favorite thing about the show.

My parents, on the other hand, are not fans (understatement).  They don’t like the lesbian themes (although there aren’t nearly as many sex scenes in the later seasons are there were in the first few), and they really don’t like the language.  I don’t watch the show when I’m at my parents’ house anymore, even in my own room late at night, because someone might wander around and hear it.

The language can be excessive.  It doesn’t bother me anymore, partly because I’ve heard it all before. I don’t swear much myself, but many of my friends in college did, and it became a normal thing to hear. Unless it’s specifically directed at someone, I hear it more as a speaking style than something offensive. But I definitely understand that it’s not something everyone wants to hear when they’re trying to watch TV and relax.

So it begins the question: would Orange be the same show without the swearing?

The issue here is realism vs. portrayal. TV shows are art in that they are stylized portrayals of real or imagined life. Some shows, like Game of Thrones, we understand to be complete fiction. Others, like Orange, attempt to portray things that might actually happen in real life. They attempt to show plausibility rather than fantasy. And part of that plausibility is making characters as realistic as possible. Since real people swear a lot, it follows that some of the characters should also swear. It shows personality.

And there is a lot of nuance in the personalities of the characters on the show. Some characters don’t swear at all unless they are extremely enraged or provoked. Others use swear words as fillers and commas. The use of language is one way the writers show different characters’ backgrounds and values. The women from better socioeconomic backgrounds tend to swear less than those who come from poorer or more broken households. Or they just care less what others think of them.  Regardless of the meaning, swearing is a signifier.

It’s true that the writers could have shown that in ways other than swearing. But would it have been as realistic then? Would the characters feel as credible if none of them ever uttered so much as a “dammit”? Would it be the same if the swearing was simply toned down, but not erased from the script completely?

I want to say no. Swearing is a part of life, so why should it be erased from a show trying to portray that?  Plus, the women are in prison, and if that situation doesn’t call for the occasional swear word, I don’t know what does.

But as I mentioned above, I do understand the desire to watch TV without being inundated with bad language.  And while the show is already extremely popular, lessening the swearing might be a way to draw in even more viewers, and thus get more people hearing the stories the writers want to tell.  For example, if more people watched the show, maybe more people would realize how women prisoners are often treated and try to bring about change.  But on the flip side (again), real life people swear.  So would eliminating that and drawing in that kind of audience really help?  Would it really benefit the show’s message to erase the swearing, when it’s not a completely true portrayal of real life?

I don’t have a definite answer to this dilemma.  I enjoy the show as it is, and tend to believe that swearing, while offensive to some, is not one of the more important social issues.  And I know in my parents’ case, it would probably take more than eliminating the swearing to get them to watch the show, anyway.

What do you think?  Would reducing the swearing on Orange or other shows reduce the believability too much?


Discussion: What Makes an Adult?

There’s a term that’s been floating around the Internet for a few years now that’s become a very popular term among my generation.  According to urbandictionary.com, that oh-so-erudite resource, the word is:

Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

I’ve been thinking about this term a bit lately, mostly because I see it so much online.  Many bloggers I follow use it, since a lot of them are around my age, and I see it all the time on Facebook and Twitter.  Even my actual, real-life friends use it sometimes when speaking with their actual mouths.  I’ve been guilty of using it.

The other day, for reasons I can’t remember, my mom and I had a brief discussion about the word.  She had heard a poll on NPR about what makes an adult, and the top picks were, as they are in the quote above, owning a home, having a permanent job, and getting married.

However, we agreed that that’s not exactly right.  Anybody with a bit of money and the ability to set an alarm can have a job or a house or a spouse.  So what makes a real adult?

My definition was the ability to prioritize.  I think a child becomes an adult when he or she realizes what is important in life and can prioritize based on that.  For example, knowing that family continues after jobs are over should hopefully cause an adult to make time for his or her family, even when he or she could — and maybe even wants to — stay late at the office in order to make an impression or achieve a work goal.  Of course, that is not to say that work goals aren’t important — quite the contrary.  It’s learning to balance all goals and knowing which ones to cut back on if needed that really makes a mature adult.

My mom agreed, but had her own spin.  She said that a person is an adult when they can take responsibility for their decisions and actions.  Many college students, for example, rent their own apartments or even houses, but not all of them make responsible decisions in other areas, such as health or relationships.  She also added that this doesn’t mean adults have all the answers — it simply means adults know how to take care of themselves and whoever they may be responsible for.  It means putting their own and their families’ best interests at heart.

At this point in my life, I don’t quite feel like an adult.  I pay for my own expenses during the school year, like rent and food, but my parents still pay for my cell phone, car insurance, and many other things.  I’m extremely glad both that I am able to support myself to the extent I am and that my parents are able and willing to help me out on things I can’t pay for.  However, I personally will feel like much more of an adult when I am able to pay for all of my own expenses (and hopefully buy my parents some nice things too!).  For me, monetarily supporting myself will be a big and wonderful step.  (Although I know I might not think that after a few months’ worth of bills.)

However, even though I still have that step to take, I also feel like I and many of my friends are more of adults than many “adults” I know.  Most of the people I hang out with really have their priorities straight — they know what is important in life and their words and actions show it.  They don’t put anyone down or exclude them based on appearance or opinion and they know how to disagree respectfully — at least most of the time.

We all have our flaws, of course.  I’m not always good at prioritizing my family or friends, I tend to have a negative attitude and consequently don’t try as hard as I should sometimes, and I judge people more than I ought to.  However, I know that I tend to do these things, and I (usually) try to combat them.  I think that’s another thing that makes an adult — knowing you have flaws and taking steps to better yourself.

I’ve really come to love the community of bloggers I follow and that follow me.  If you liked this post or it made you think, please don’t hesitate to comment!  I would love to know others’ thoughts on this topic.  Thanks for reading!