If you have been paying close attention, there is a recurring joke throughout Orange Is the New Black. We never get the full joke, but we always get the punchline. In case you have forgotten, we hear this joke (rather, its punchline) three times:
Red tells the beautiful, young, and rich Ukranian woman the joke on their walk: “He’s not an eggplant, ma’am. He’s retarded” (102).
Cesar tells the joke while cooking drugs in Aleida Diaz’s kitchen: “And Paco’s like, he’s not an eggplant. He’s retarded!”
Nicky gives us a bit more of the joke: “So a penguin and a farmer walk into a bar … and so the penguin says: ‘Dude, he’s not an eggplant. He’s retarded.’” After, Sister Ingalls comments: “You lost me at the umbrellas.”
After extensive research and digging in, trying to find what the middle of the joke consists of, it finally dawned on me. The same joke, with a cultural twist, is told to suggest that these people, each of different cultures and backgrounds, share the same kind of humor. Despite the hate between the races, this particular joke highlights that humor is always at someone else’s expense, for we look to laugh at others to make ourselves feel better. In this case, all races put down the intellectually disabled. All races have individuals with intellectual disabilities, but they are the easiest targets because they cannot defend themselves.
It is likely that we will never hear the full joke; our desire to hear the full joke highlights a commonality between the prisoners of Litchfield and ourselves. We are all human.