The Insight on Impact of Pop Culture on Racial Issues in Orange Is the New Black

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Kidd (2014) in his book Pop Culture and Freaks: Identity, Mass Media and Society takes a look at how the popular culture that is produced and consumed generates a feeling of closeness and detachment for the whole society. It has made people live in a world in which they are forced to be conventional in ways that only a small number of people can attain. This essay will describe the relationship between society and pop culture and offer a critical analysis of Orange is the New Black show (Netflix) using the course content and textbook Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media and Society by Dustin Kidd. This analysis will apply the concepts that are discussed in Kidd’s Book in Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. It show how good people survive when they were put under bad institution.

Kidd (2014) offers insight into the racial perspectives that are in pop culture. According to him, a race is both visible and invisible. He explains further that race is found in all places (Kidd, 2014). In Orange is the New Black, the main protagonist, Piper Chapman is sentenced to fifteen months in prison for an offense she committed 10 years back. In Litchfield Penitentiary, she encounters the racial and ethnic clans that are normally existent in real- life prison in the United States of America and the world as well. Piper comes to grips with the racial dynamics that are in the prison and learns a number of the rules. In the 1st season of this Netflix, 2013 show, the Racial Representation on Orange is the New Black shows the different races of the female prisoners. They include the whites, the blacks, the Latinas, and the Asians (Netflix, 2013).

The racial formation is showcased in the very first episode of Orange is the New Black; it is evident that the women in Litchfield Prison are not united. It is easy to tell the segregation that is present in the prison, particularly amongst the different races. A good example, the prison imposes segregation by separating them in their dorms and the female prisoners accept and embrace it. Another example is Piper’s first encounter with Morello, on the van that they use as transportation to Litchfield Penitentiary. Morello talks to Piper and helps direct her into the prison. She then gives Piper a toothbrush and some Kleenex prior to leaving her on her own. Piper is appreciative but Morello just tells her that “we look out for our own” (Netflix, 2013). By this, Morello implies to Piper that they have to look out for their own race. Piper is visibly horrified by this racist statement.

According to Kidd (2014), race in the social world is not something that is biologically perceptible. This distinction has been successfully made that race is not a scientific grouping, but a social grouping. In American demographics, whites belong to the category that is generally privileged based on US racial domination (Kidd, 2014). As seen in the show - Orange is the New Black; Piper comes from a privileged background. It becomes very difficult for her to bond with the other prisoners. She is even called a ‘yuppie’ by another inmate – Red after she verbally abuses her food. By calling her a ‘yuppie’ Red lets Piper know that she does not fit in at all. Because Piper is belong to well-educated and respectful society she don’t have any hate against people.

Kidd (2014) suggests that there are two theories of Race and Racism, namely structural functionalism and conflict theory. The first theory – structural functionalism thinks of the society as a type of organism that searches for stability and it disputes that social organizations such as pop culture, carry social functions that aid in retaining stability and upholding the social system. Conflict theory, on the other hand, contrasts this. This theory disputes that the society is basically unstable and that the social groups are persistently in disagreements for the power of resources (Kidd, 2014 P 38). The conflict theory is well presented in Orange is the New Black. Litchfield prison has an election for the convict's Women’s Advisory Council (WAC) in episode 6.They each have different perspectives in the council.

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In his book, Pop Culture Freaks: Identity, Mass Media and Society: Kidd (2014) references to Karl Marx’s theory test, stating that “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch (‘particular period in time’) the ruling ideas” (Marx 1978, 172)” (Kidd, 2014, p.70-73). This type of class is divided into a small circle and each has its specific feature. On the television screens, the class is depicted as a reflection, purportedly to mirror who people are, but in reality, all it does is mirror what people seriously wish they were instead. This is because TV makes it appear so capable (Kidd, 2014). In the show Orange is the New Black, Piper is a privileged white woman who finds herself in a prison that has hyper segregation. She was not treated well because it is very hard for her to survive in the rude atmosphere she was facing discriminated.

Kidd (2014) distinguishes how the class has changed from the past to the contemporary world. In order to belong to the elite class, a person must be able to splurge their money as and whenever she wishes. They do not have to worry about financial plans or about just buying the stuff that they need. In Orange is the New Black, this is depicted in Alex Vause’s lifestyle. She was an intercontinental drug smuggler who led a lavish life, she could travel whenever and wherever she wanted to. She had a classy apartment, which she shared with Piper when they were together as a couple (Netflix, 2013). Kidd (2014) articulates that audiences are shown the lifestyle of the middle class from the TV shows, akin to what an ‘average’ citizen of America is supposed to be like (Kidd, 2014, p. 66).

There are many other thing shown in this movie like Red is forced to smuggle drug inside the prison (Netflix, 2013) overall the film shed the environment of the prison how people survive their what difficulties and problem they face actually the shows the culture of the prison how system work there in the prison there are many rules and regulation which everyone was to follow and correction officers are continuously monitoring them.

Kidd (2014) further appends that as an audience, people see the families on TV that have all these things but yet the audience is rarely shown how these people were able to attain these large quantities of things. It is evident that the working class has different lives from the middle class, and their lives are different. The middle class simply splurge their money, just like Alex Vause and Piper’s parents, who live affluently in Orange is the New Black show. This is in contrast to Aleida, who operates a drug cartel with her boyfriend Cesar. They struggle financially and they have to work in order to make ends meet (Netflix, 2013), portraying to us that the working class has to work. To add on to this, Kidd (2014) states that the difference in class is intertwined with the difference in the race as well as the difference in nationality (Kidd, 2014). As above mentioned, Alex Vause, together with Piper’s parents, all live in posh homes and belong to the middle class. They belong to the white ethnic group, while Aleida and her family, who belong to the working class, belong to the Latina community.

Karl Marx describes the caste system which is very diverse from the American dreams fluidity of class. Karl Marx divides the class into two major sectors – “the proletariat and the bourgeoisie” (Kidd, 2014, p. 71). The working class is the ones referred to as the proletariat, they supply labor. The wealthy class is the bourgeoisie in this case. So in the show, Orange is the New Black, Aleida the proletariats, while Alex and Piper’s are the bourgeoisie.

Kidd (2014) come out that class is a very difficult topic to talk about even in modern America, be it in real life situations or the media. It is evident that class entails the differences that exist between groups that are within a chain of command. In this modern era, it is impractical to distinguish these categories even though extreme inequality exists, and the disparity between the rich and poor is at its maximum. While wealth and earnings are the most important factors, there is also culture, education, race and religion (Kidd, 2014). In Orange is the New Black, it is evident that Piper has had more education than most of Litchfield inmates. But if we think about race big example is when for Women’s Advisory Council (WAC), Piper was used to represented white community (Netflix, 2013).


Pop culture is something that definitely has an impact on society. When it comes to dealing with issues of racism and class, Kidd shows us that many movies and TV shows rarely depict this; it is a topic that is all so silent and yet so loud. However, Orange is the New Black depicts race and class clearly. It also illustrates the normal conversations that white people, as well as people of color, have amid themselves and also with each other. The show shows how the diverse identities and experiences of these female inmates shape those connections.

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