Carrie “Big Boo” Black (portrayed by Lea DeLaria) may have been Calle a “bully butch bitch” by Angie Rice, but she is known for many things: for spitefully dating Mercy (Tricia Miller‘s girlfriend), using the missing screwdriver for her personal satisfaction, having been revoked the privilege of training the service dogs, her awesome breakdancing, her friendship with Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett, and the two’s attempted revenge on C.O. Charlie Coates. Boo was most likely imprisoned due to her conduction of illegal gambling activities, as suggested in flashback sequences in season three.
Season three explores Big Boo’s back story; specifically, it focuses on the young Carrie’s struggle with her gender identity. While her mother constantly harangued her for refusing to wear gender “appropriate” clothing–accusing her of wanting “bad attention” that made things “difficult for herself”–she refused to pretend that she is someone else, either for her mother or her family. While Boo’s father is more supportive of her gender expression than her mother, he is not entirely supportive of his daughter’s decisions.
After picking up a girl at a gay bar and being subsequently heckled in the street for being gay, Boo freaks out at the young man. While Boo has fought her entire life, against her friends and family, to express her truest self and is used to doing so, the young woman who she is with decides to end the night early because Boo’s actions “ruined” the mood. The young woman states:
“You can’t blame a stupid kid when you’re the poster child for all things butch!”
This is when Boo illuminates to the young woman that she “refuses to apologize for herself.” As is expected, the young woman storms off after Boo accuses her of being “self-hating.”
Boo’s adamancy toward remaining authentic had driven a wedge between herself and her mother, causing there to be a large span of time when they did not speak to each other. When the chance arises to be reunited–albeit at the time of her mother’s grave illness–her father is the one who discourages Boo from visiting her mother in her “costume.” While it took every ounce of willpower Boo could muster up to show up to the hospital, her father instantly makes her rue this decision. While Boo never was fully able to enact her identity at home, her father informs her that her appearance might be “too much” for her mother to handle on her death bed, and he suggests that she change into something more appropriate instead. Boo tells her father that her family has had the forty-two years of her life to accept her for what she is and that it would be ridiculous for them to mourn all of the things they wished their daughter was. Her father retorts that nobody is allowed to be themselves all of the time and forces Boo to ask herself if her “costume is worth what it’s costing her.” Because Boo has had to fight to be herself every step of the way, she declares to her father that she “refuse[s] to be invisible.” And thus Boo’s mother dies without having had the opportunity to patch things up.
Another identity of Boo’s that is frequently brought to our attention is her weight. As a child, we know that Boo was electrocuted by a microwave when she went to investigate the status of her partially-cooked Hot Pocket. In Litchfield, it is not uncommon for Boo to store food in her sports bra, like ears of corn and the accompanying salt shaker. She also benefits from Red’s contraband supply, requesting Jolly Ranchers and other sweet indulgences. Counselor Sam Healy’s favoritism toward Pennsatucky (and his utter disgust toward Boo) inclines him to give her a pack of Oreos that he believes will help her appease the “big bull dyke”; ironically, however, it is this decision that paves the way for their friendship. In season three, she frequently indulges in junk food and sweets with the money that Pennsatucky brings in from all of the Pro-Life organizations that took an interest in her during her sentencing. Just as she takes pride in her gender expression, Boo also makes no apologizes for her body, and refreshingly so.
Big Boo rose to the forefront of the action in season two when she was looking to obtain some prison power. Knowing that Red and Vee were hotly disputing the control of contraband in Litchfield, Boo believed that she could earn some respect from Vee if she tipped her off to how Red was managing to import contraband. Vee gladly receives the information; however, she refuses to take Boo into her prison family because she “do[esn’t] like snitches.” Unsurprisingly, Red disgustedly disowns her.
At the start of season three, Boo conspires with Nicky Nichols in finding a buyer for the brick of heroin that Vee left in prison after her escape. This arrangement proves to be a difficult one, for Boo immediately suspects Nicky of taking it for herself when she claims that it is missing; however, when Nicky takes an active role in transporting it out of the prison and ends up being pinned for smuggling contraband into prison when Joel Luschek gives up her name, Boo luckily evades culpability.
Looking for a new source of junk food, Pennsatucky suggests in season three that Boo take on “sponsors,” like the ones that continue to give her commissary money for supposedly representing the Pro-Life initiative. Thus, Boo gets a “straight” makeover for an interview with one of the Christian organizations that is willing to “sponsor” her conversion from lesbianism to heterosexuality. Horrified that she looks like her mother, yet still intrigued by the cash flow opportunity that this charade poses, Boo moves forward with her meeting with the reverend, who expresses the church’s willingness to help her transform her from a “thieving dyke” to a reformed sinner. When the reverend mentions that she will have to cover up her “Butch” forearm tattoo (which Sam Healy believes is part of the “homosexual agenda”), Boo snaps. It’s safe to say that the arrangement is void.
In discussing the meeting with Pennsatucky, Boo declares that you shouldn’t fight yourself but embrace yourself, or else it’s “purgatory.”
While Boo’s arrangement doesn’t go as planned, Pennsatucky continues to share her commissary with Boo, which is why Boo is the one to notice Pennsatucky’s bruises and eventually take a greater interest in Pennsatucky’s wellbeing. When she refuses to listen to her warnings, however, one day, Boo enters her cubicle and drops a load of junk food onto her bed, demanding “sex” from her to make a point about her friend’s warped (albeit misinformed) views on prostitution and rape. When she finally gets Pennsatucky to admit that Coates had raped her, she helps Pennsatucky plot her revenge.
With stolen animal sedatives from the puppy program that she was “saving for a rainy day” (to induce a seizure, earn herself a hospital stay, and buy herself some time with the nurses), she and Pennsatucky plan to drug Coates and “rape him back”; however, when the prison guard is bare-assed and bent over the dryers, they cannot bring themselves to do the guard any harm, despite how terrible of a human being he is. As Boo says, she’s “not Sweedish enough” to do something so cruel. Instead, she and Pennsatucky use the remainder of the tranquilizers to induce a seizure that disqualifies Pennsatucky from being eligible to drive the prison van.
In season 4, Boo continues to be Pennsatucky’s rock as she learns to cope with the resultant depression and anxiety from her rape, but the two begin to worry about whether or not Maritza Ramos will suffer the same fate. Although she and Ramos are not necessarily acquainted, she still feels responsible for her fate knowing what her dear friend has been suffering through. When she later learns, however, that Pennsatucky is considering forgiving Coates, she gives her an ultimatum: she either stays friends with her, or she forgives Coates and never speaks to Boo again. Despite this ultimatum (and Pennsatucky’s choice to forgive Coates), she begrudgingly continues to be her friend because she does truly care for Pennsatucky. At a later date, when she sees Coates in the hall, she slaps him across the face and threatens to kill him if he ever “so much as hurts her feelings” again. As she walks away from the startled prison guard, she tells him that she should have raped him back when she got the chance.
When she learns that Piper‘s business is now threatened by Maria Ruiz and her group, she recommends that Piper make a move before Ruiz takes her down, and so she helps Piper in moving loads of underwear under Ruiz’s bunk so that she will be pinned for the illegal panty business. Boo clarifies that this is an act of self-preservation more than it is an act of selflessness.