So has everybody finished binge-watching the second season of Netflix’s best original show yet? Good. This one got me thinking after a particularly amusing exchange between two of the show’s black sheep characters, the prison’s hapless male counselor, Healey, and formerly psychotic hillbilly inmate, Pennsatucky, in which the former was attempting to inform his fellow anti-lesbian crusader of the feminist world domination agenda as put forth in a some book he was reading. As we all know, anything pandering to our personal insecurities in written form is automatically true; especially if they charge us for it. Ironically, this led to Pennsatucky seeking out the lesbianest lesbian she could find, Big Boo, in order to volunteer for the anti-male crusade. Boo happily (and hilariously) obliged her, although she could barely do it with a straight face.
While the idea of a real live lesbian feminist agenda to create mass male extinction is comedic to say the least, the obvious insecurity that led the character of Healey -a man surrounded by and tasked with dealing with a gender he has no clue how to relate to- is all too real. I mean, sure the male gender has maintained a dominant stranglehold on pretty much everything on the planet, but when you get down to it, what are we really good for? Sperm donations and jar-opening? If we ever develop methods of asexual reproduction and a smoother lid, surely the fairer sex will rise up and wipe us out?
Okay, maybe not, but in terms of media representation, Orange is the New Black is helping to blaze an interesting trail in entertainment and doing it in style. We’re talking about a popular television show of high quality with an entertainment factor that’s off the charts and it barely features any male characters of worth. Ladies have sat through decades of damsels in distress, Bechdel test failures, and various other lackluster portrayals of their gender in favor of more screentime for their male counterparts. It’s almost shocking to see the trope reversed so completely and successfully.
Anyone up for a game of Bro, Bro, Dude?
This epiphany happened around the same time as gaming’s latest sexism kerfluffle, in which popular developer Ubisoft revealed that the suddenly ironically-named Assassins Creed: Unity would allow four players to play together, which was great so long as none of them wanted to be female. When questioned about the exclusion the reasoning given was that it would be too much extra work to animate. An animation director who had worked on a previous game in the series chimed in to say it would only take two days’ work. Busted. Well, ladies, you know what they don’t say: zero out of four ain’t bad.
While gaming and other visual entertainment mediums are still struggling to understand that male doesn’t always have to be the default, Orange is the New Black isn’t the first property to successfully suggest and demonstrate that not only do you not need men at the front and center at all times to have a good time, you could potentially eliminate them almost completely without missing them. Let’s look at some examples of practical male extinction in geek culture.
In comics you have Brian K. Vaughan’s spectacular Y: The Last Man, in which the eponymous chromosome mysteriously self-destructs, leaving woman to inherit the Earth. One might say “Nick, you ignorant slut; the protagonist of the series is a MALE.” A more savvy individual could respond that the hero mentioned in the latter part of the title does little aside from provide outsider’s eyes through which the reader can see the transformation of the world and the exploration of the women who now populate it exclusively as they struggle to find the empowerment denied them so long and assume the social roles and responsibilities once handled by men. Take THAT, handsome hypothetical critic!
Not in the kitchen, not barefoot, and definitely not pregnant.
Anime has long maintained a large representative population of badass ladies to offset the more testosterone-laden titles. One particularly interesting sci-fi series was Vandread, which takes place in a post-space travel universe in which womankind seceded from mankind and formed their own society, leaving both sides to propagate exclusively from cloning technology. The protagonist in this case ends up a male prisoner of war amongst a band of female space pirates. While some may think the focus on the male lead and harem comedy elements may dilute the girl power somewhat, how often do you see any series that depicts women as being completely capable of running a successful (or even superior) society free of male influence? Score one for Japan.
Score two if you count the Blue Drop manga, in which Healy’s nightmare comes true and lesbian aliens take over the world, segregating men into ghettos while they re-educate the females of our race to love themselves (and each other). This one may not count since it makes the sci-fi feminist agenda an antagonistic matriarchy, but it’s still a pretty fascinating concept with some crazy results. The anime prequel was cool, but failed to capture the sexual politics that made the original work awesome.
So there you go: some examples of exceptional entertainment with almost entirely female casts where I didn’t miss being surrounded by fictional bros one bit. Orange is the New Black even goes so far as to portray most of its male characters as impotent jerks and losers, as if to even more aggressively assert the fact that this a story about WOMEN. We’ve still got our cheesy action movies and bro comedies. Nobody is taking that away from us. But it’s not going to kill us to let the ladies have their fun either.
Truth be told, the cast of prisoners in the show do nothing so well as show that, like men, women are all individuals, each with their own story and perspective. It’s not some cartoony story about women rising up and supporting each other to overthrow their male oppressors. The men have their own problems -not the least of which is crippling insecurity regarding their own maleness- but the women have their own problems too. For example, the impossibility of forming the feared feminine rebellion due to the fact that they are all unique individuals and not the hivemind collective some men seem to think they are.
And even if the worst case scenario comes to pass and the feminists take over the earth and the entertainment business that comes with it, if they can give me more of this kind of stuff I’d be okay with that. Hey, women can kick ass and make me laugh and be related too as well! How about that? It’s going to be a long wait for season 3, but until then try and look on the bright side, ladies.
“Tomorrow’s beef and noodles!”