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?

Just Admit You Love Your Wife

The other day, I took my car in for an oil change.  It was a bit overdue, and I had a coupon, so I ended up at the local Midas with my fiance.  While we waited for the mechanics to get done with my car, we chatted some with the manager.  He saw that we were a young couple, so he ended up telling us the story of how he met his wife.  It went something like this.

“I’m not from here originally; I’m from up north.  I came down here 30 years ago for a two week bike trip.  But close to the end of the trip I got into a wreck; some woman hit me as I was driving down a mountain.  I ended up in the hospital for awhile.  Right before I was supposed to be released the nurse came to do one last check and I told her, ‘I’m only here for a day or two more.  Wanna go on a date?’ I didn’t think she’d say yes, but she did.  I got back up north, and after a couple weeks I called her and said, ‘I’m thinking of moving down south.’  And she said, ‘Okay.  You can move in with me.’  So I moved in with her and her roommate, and six months later we were married.  We’ve been together 30 years now.  That’s a lot longer than most guys my age.”

At that point my thought was, How cute!

Then he added, “Thirty years…it’s about time for me to get a new one, don’t you think?  Ha ha ha.”

The cuteness vanished.  Instead of thinking how sweet his story was, I felt sorry for his wife.  I don’t know his life, or his relationship, or his wife.  But I would bet that he doesn’t say stuff like that to her.  To me, it sounded like he still loves her.  I mean, he told us their story in detail, and seemed proud that his marriage had lasted longer than many of his friends’, even if it was because it began earlier.

I could be wrong, of course.  It could’ve been that they married when they were very young, and realized they weren’t right for each other, but stayed together anyway.  They could be having issues.  I don’t know.  But that comment really rubbed me the wrong way.

Making that thoughtless comment, in my opinion, devalues the person you’ve committed your life to, for better or worse.  Most marriages, at least in the beginning, are entered into because two people love each other and plan on doing so by combining their lives for, hopefully, the rest of them.  Thirty years ago, the man that did my oil change loved and valued his wife enough to envision a life with her, and to commit to her.  But now he feels okay joking that it’s been 30 years, and for whatever reason — they don’t love each other anymore? he’s restless? she’s too old? — he should “get a new one.”

It’s been said, but I’ll say again — women aren’t like cars that you can just replace when you get tired of them, or when they quit running as well as they used to, or when you decide you like the newer model better.  Marriage is a serious commitment, and whatever your situation is, you’re not going to make it any better by joking about replacing your wife like you would a vehicle.

As I said above, I bet the man doesn’t say stuff like that to his wife, even jokingly.  And I do understand that the comment was meant as a joke.  But why is staying married to your wife for 30 years, which to me is an incredible accomplishment, something he felt like he needed to make an excuse for?  Does staying married to one person, admitting you love her to strangers, make you feel so uncomfortably vulnerable that you have to joke that oh, I don’t love her that much?

know he didn’t mean any of this.  Even my fiance, when I mentioned it later, didn’t think anything of it.  It’s seen as normal, because tons of guys make this joke.  Everyone gets that it’s a joke, so it’s okay.  Right?

I don’t think so.  To me, a woman who will be a wife very soon, it sounded harsh and stinging.  I wouldn’t have wanted to have been his wife, even though she wasn’t around to hear the comment.  I’m tired of jokes like this, about wives being the “ball and chain” and about how 30 years is too long to have one wife, especially given the fact that marriage is more beneficial for men than women.  See this quote from the link:

“Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among woman than men,” said Dr George Ploubidis, a population health scientist at the UCL Institute of Education.

“Being married appears to be more beneficial for men.”

I’m ready for us as a society to quit devaluing women as wives.  Not spouting off comments like the one he made would be a great place to start.

The Maiden Name Dilemma

This has been on my mind since before I even got engaged.  To change my name, or not to change my name?  That is the question.

Lately, the more I think about it, the more I lean toward no.  I’m pretty traditional, but this is one thing that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  At risk of sounding feminazi (the horror!), I feel like it’s an antiquated practice that I could do without.  In the “olden days,” women changed their names to signify that they were now under the care of their husband rather than their father.  It was a sign of commitment, yes, but also a transactional symbol.

Obviously, that’s not really how name-changing is seen these days.  Most women change their names as an added symbol of commitment and as a public symbol of the switch from single-ness to marriage.  And if that’s what you want to do, that’s all fine and good.

To me, though, there are enough symbols without me also having to change my name. Our commitment to each other will be displayed through our marriage certificate, our rings, and our wedding.  Everyone important to us will see us get married.  We will both make the mental, emotional, and financial commitment (which really has already been made).  And after the ceremony is over, we will both wear rings on our left hand that say to everyone who sees them, I am a married person.  To me, that’s plenty.

Marriage, in its proper form, is a legal, emotional, and financial commitment between two individuals.  I am already a whole individual, and so is he.  Therefore, I think that the legal documentation, the rings, and the ceremony are sufficient public symbols.

There are obviously some cons to not taking his name.  The first and most obvious is that he is a traditional person as well, and I know he’d like for me to take his name.  That, honestly, is my biggest hangup.  It’s a little difficult to balance my own wishes with his, but that’s what marriage is.  Two individuals essentially becoming one unit comes with a ton of issues like this, as I know most are well aware.  Probably (definitely) more aware than I am.  We will have to discuss this and come to an understanding.

The other big issue is potential children.  I don’t particularly want any children, ever, but in case we do have children, whose name would they take?  I would be fine with them taking his — again, I’m fairly traditional, and I got my last name from my father, so I have no problem with them having his.  But that would be something that would have to be discussed.

I haven’t completely decided what I’m going to do yet, and I have some time before I really have to make that decision.  But it’s definitely something to think about.

I know many people have strong feelings on this; feel free to tell me what you think and/or share your own experience!

 

Why Do We Hate Discussing Controversial Issues?

I know very few people that enjoy discussing politics and controversial social issues.  Most people, including me, tend to shy away from these topics and stick to lighter, more enjoyable, less divisive conversations.  In my experience, the people who actively bring up politics and divisive issues are the ones who have strong opinions backed by very little research (not always, but usually).

I have one friend I typically discuss social issues with.  She’s a sociology major, so she often talks about current events in her classes, and we generally have similar opinions.  Even if we disagree, we know how to do it respectfully, and we both admit when we have and haven’t done research on a topic.  Last time we met for coffee, we intended to stay away from politics, but ended up discussing them and other controversial issues almost the entire time we were together.  It was intellectually refreshing.  And then we wondered why people don’t do this more often.

Of course, there is the obvious reason.  Politics and social issues are divisive.  I’ve mentioned before that talking about politics means talking about everyone’s baggage as well.  It’s uncomfortable and annoying, and sometimes not worth the arguments that will inevitably ensue.

But why do these things hold so much passion for us?  One reason is that our political beliefs are closely related to how we view ourselves — our self-identity.  I read an article the other day about what parts of our brains light up when we discuss politics.  I couldn’t find the original article, but I did find this (older) one that got similar results to the one I read.  In the study, scientists monitored subjects’ brains while they evaluated “information that threatened their preferred candidate” just before the 2004 presidential election (I told you it was an old article).  Here’s what they found:

“We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning,” said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. “What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts.”  [emphasis mine]

Discussing politics isn’t the same as discussing what color to paint the walls.  Attacking someone’s political beliefs is more like insulting their kid.  The parent isn’t going to think rationally about that (at least at first); they’re going to be angry.  How dare someone say that about their kid, who they have a strong emotional connection with?  How can they believe x, when clearly y is true?  It’s hard to separate reason from that innate emotional response, and it’s much the same for politics.

I think another reason it’s hard to discuss these things is because it requires true self-examination.  It’s hard work.  First, we must inform ourselves about what’s really going on.  Then, we have to compare our moral values against what’s happening in the world, and then we have to pick a stance, and then we have to defend it.  It’s difficult.  It’s time-consuming.  In my experience, I’ve never just known what my opinion is on a hot button issue.  I have to research.  I have to discuss.  I have to mull it over.  And then I sometimes end up changing my mind.  It’s introspective, and introspection is hard, because it requires us to really know ourselves.  And sometimes, we don’t like what we find.

Other times, we think we do know ourselves.  We have opinions and we stick to them. But we still avoid discussing hot topics because what if someone has a better argument?  What then?  If my views are disproved, am I really who I think I am?  Good counter-arguments can dismantle us, and our sense of self-identity, completely.

But as uncomfortable as it is, these things can’t be avoided.  If we avoid learning and trying to form opinions, we will get used, or ignored.  We’ll be seen as ignorant or outdated.  Our usefulness to society declines.  My friend brought up this specific situation: over the past two summers, she has worked at a children’s Christian sleep-away camp.  It’s similar to the quintessential camp experience: horseback riding, rock wall climbing, and overnight camping trips.  But the staff faces big issues.  Last summer, they received  call from a mother wondering what the camp’s policy was for transgender children.

Transgenderism and gender dysmorphia is something that Christians typically avoid.  It’s incredibly difficult to understand, especially within the context of Christianity, and on top of that it has to do with sex, which is often a taboo topic in Christian circles.  But if the camp staff hadn’t discussed it, they would have come across as willfully ignorant to that mom.  And they might have missed the chance to minister to a group of children that needs love the most.

Politics and issues like this aren’t fun.  We live in a messed-up world that often just looks bleak.  But the only way to affect it is to know what’s happening, and know how we feel about it, so that we can do something to enact change.  They say nothing good in life is easy, and in this, it’s more than true.

“Differently Abled”?

One of the bloggers I follow, Sherina at sherinaspeaks, recently wrote this post in which she mentions the terminology we use to describe people who can’t hear, see, or do other things that most humans can do.

She states that:

“[she] strives to say ‘differently abled’ instead of disabled. No one is lacking in ability – they just have a different ability.”

Here’s why I disagree.

Someone who can’t hear is absolutely lacking in ability.  For whatever reason, their body lacks the ability to transform sound waves into meaningful ideas.

Someone with cerebral palsy absolutely lacks some ability of movement.  For some, this lack of ability may be more severe than others, but there is no question that people with cerebral palsy cannot move the way that the majority of humans can move.

That’s why I think that the word “disability” is a fine word to use.  It’s a descriptor of human bodily capacity.

Using the phrase “differently abled,” in my opinion, brings even more attention to the fact that the person being described can’t do something that most humans can. As my friend who writes at Rants You Didn’t Ask For eloquently noted upon reading the draft of this post:

to claim they aren’t disabled also puts a stigma of shame on their disability, which is the opposite of what [Sherina is] trying to do by changing the word. (emphasis added)

Maybe more so, this implies a fear of acknowledging that disease and other bad things exist; that the world, however unfortunately, is a place full of pain and suffering. Disabilities suck, and that should be acknowledged as well as the fact that people with disabilities are awesome people.

What I believe Sherina was trying to say is that we need to quit getting hung up on what humans can and can’t do with their bodies.

People who can’t see, or hear, or move like most people aren’t lesser people because of that.  We as a human society should absolutely emphasize this and try to live our lives in such a way that allows everyone, no matter their ability, to participate in society without discrimination.  This could mean employers buying bigger desks for employees with wheelchairs, or a student learning sign language to be able to include a deaf classmate in conversation.

But ultimately, for human beings as a whole, these bodily abilities are not the abilities that matter most.  Whether or not a person can see doesn’t have an effect on their ideas and opinions — the things that really make people people.  This is the whole idea, I think, behind Sherina’s post: that rather than focusing on what people are and are not able to do, we need to strive to see people as people, period.

Everyone is different, and there is no “normal” ability. There’s just your ability, and that’s the only one that should matter.  -Sherina