Episode three of season two was largely a character development episode; despite the lack of action, this episode provided some great details and shaded in some of our beloved characters, which, in Pennsatucky and Crazy Eyes’ case, served to explain prior events (such as why Piper wasn’t put away for good) as well as foreshadow future ones. From what we see of Vee so far, it seems as though she is ready to play with the big girls now: crossing Gloria Mendoza and bashing her and Red to the respective matriarch of each race, we know that Vee is in it to win it, despite the fact that she claims that she will “keep [her] head down and do [her] time.”
Significance of the Title
Vee emerges in episode three as a manipulative, two-timing, strong black woman who will not let the new prison system, which is new to her, trump her or prevent her from claiming her spot as the matriarch of the black women in Litchfield. She appears as a benevolent force who is willing to ally as she trades Gloria cigarettes for cake; however, Red’s investigative work, experience, and intuition lead her to see the fruits of Vee’s dirty work in the kitchen.
Although the hug in the hallway between Vee and Red seems amicable enough, we know that by their conversation that they were once adversaries, and will likely become opponents again. There is a certain mistrust in Red’s voice as she listens to Vee’s supposed plan for her time in prison.
Race in Prison
Once again, we see Lorna bringing new prisoners in and bestowing welcome gifts upon Piper and Brook because she “[doesn’t] look full . . . Asia.” When Vee asks her for supplies, Morello is rather cold toward her and is loyal to her own pack. According to Vee, back in her day, “the black women ran this place,” which leads us to conclude that either the white or Hispanic groups run the place. Since we know that Gloria Mendoza and “her people” run the kitchen, it is safe to say that the Hispanics are the top group; before, Red and her girls were top dogs.
According to Christopher J. Lyons,
the Bureau of Justice Statistics now estimates that one in three black men can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime. A growing body of work implicates the prison system in contemporary accounts of racial inequality across a host of social, health, economic, and political domains.
Observing that the black woman is no longer the “top dog” in Litchfield does not mean that the gap in inequality has been bridged; rather, I think Vee’s observation (and the racial spread of the prison) has to do with plot mechanics and the trajectory of season two. According to Giovanna Shay,
scholars have suggested that mass incarceration is a new form of achieving class and racial subordination. Michelle Alexander has suggested that the American prison system is a successor to de jure segregation, or “the [n]ew Jim Crow,” while Loic Wacquant has referred to mass incarceration as a “judicial ghetto” . . . mass incarceration does not affect all persons of color regardless of class. Rather, Wacquant argues, the prison contains those who are subordinated by race, by class, and by geographic location, typically inner-city African-American men. (359)
Women in Society
As we observed last season, the women of Litchfield are communal and are inclined to travel in packs. Red is the den mother for the white inmates; Gloria for the Hispanic; and now Vee is the den mother for the black women. Brook Soso reports that “traditionally, women are much more communal than men;” however, Piper insists that she is a “lone wolf.” Where we do see the packs come into play, the prison is every woman for herself.
What I would like to point out here is that, as second-season viewers, we see Brook as . . . well, the only word I can think of to describe her is “granola.” She’s well-read, has a voice that sounds like she is always asking a question (and childish at that), and is always gung-ho to raise awareness and bring social justice wherever she goes. The “granola” aspect comes into play because her name is “Brook,” which, when combined with her voice and her annoying book reports, makes her sound like she was lifted right from L.A. (no offense, California). My point is that we are no longer new to Litchfield. We see Brook as the other inmates saw Piper Chapman upon her entry into Litchfield last season. It’s an interesting foil when you think about it. We know the rules of prison now and we have no time for annoying questions and weeping and crying from girls like Soso.
We are reminded that there is someone looking into the budget holes of Litchfield; the man who met with Natalie Figueroa in 202 is now meeting with Larry, requesting that he set up a meeting with Piper for him so that he has an “in.” Whereas this man is investigating the budget of Litchfield, my duty with this blog is to investigate prisons. Perhaps he was meant to inspire us, and inspire me he did.
Giovanna Shay reports:
Representative Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts, issued a press release estimating the cost of America’s prison system at $75 billion and saying, “our prison population is expanding at an alarming rate, with costs to the taxpayers that are unsustainable.” (355)
Although Natalie Figueroa is symbolic of this budget issue that exists in America’s prisons, perhaps Jenji Kohan is trying to shed light on the amount of money that is poured into the prison system. And for what? The prisons do little or nothing to rehabilitate their prisoners. As Nicky Nichols points out, society has a “bullshit need to infantilize grown women” through imprisonment, the “wedding industrial complex,” and the patriarchy.
Litchfield: A Comedy
Taystee: [Giving charades clues to Poussey] “Crazy dude who believes in aliens.”
Poussey: “Tom Cruise!”
Brook Soso: “Funny story, my parents named me Brook after Brooke Shields, the actress. Um, but except without the ‘e.’ They thought it would be a bit more original. But sometime around my tenth birthday, they started saying I was named after a brook instead. Um, like the babbling kind.”
Red: “I want to look fierce.”
Lorna Morello: “She’s a whore. You don’t go Jessica Simpson when you got Rihanna. Yes. Yes. Yes, I know that Rihanna is black, thank you.”
Gloria Mendoza: “Prison is gluten. Don’t commit the crime if you can’t fuckin’ have flour, got it?”
Poussey: “I miss that creamed corn, yo.”
Gloria Mendoza: “Yeah, well, I’d give my left tit for a pina colada and a smoke, but you don’t see that on the menu, right?”
Brook Soso: “You seem so calm. Are you a murderer?”
Piper: “No, I am not a murderer.”
Lyons, Christopher J., and Becky Pettit. “Compounded Disadvantage: Race, Incarceration, and Wage Growth.” National Poverty Center Working Paper Series 8.16 (2008): n. pag. Web. 17 June 2014. <http://2025bmb.org/pdf/justice/working_paper08-16.pdf>.
Shay, Giovanna. “Illich (Via Cayley) on Prisons.” Western New England Law Review 34.2 (2012): 351-61. Wilson OmniFile Full Text Select Edition. Web. 14 June 2014.