Orange Is The New Black is an amazing show. It’s sharp, smart, and humane. A show about criminals does more to reaffirm my love for my fellow person than any show about cops ever has.
I’m currently halfway through the second season — as I imagine so many of us are this Sunday afternoon — and I’ve found there’s only one part of the show I can’t stand. It’s now the one part of the show I fast-forward through.
Its name is Biggs.
Jason Biggs plays Larry Bloom, the sometime fiancé of the show’s lead character, Piper Chapman. He is awful. And by “he” I mean Bloom. And Biggs.
Here is the problem with Larry Bloom. The show keeps giving him scenes. Not just scenes where he interacts with his incarcerated beloved — those scenes make sense within the context of the show — but scenes outside the prison. Scenes from his life.
This is a problem for several reasons. First of all, Larry’s life is very boring. This is a show about a women’s prison. That’s a fascinating setting. Any time the show leaves that setting, it ought to be for a damn good reason. Nothing Larry does has thus far ever been interesting enough to justify the distraction.
Second, his very presence — and the idea that he and his experiences are worth spending time with — are kind of insulting to the show’s strengths.
This is a show about women. It is rightly acclaimed for its devotion to and interest in the lives of women. And not just one kind of woman. The cast is full of women of colour; older women; lesbian and bisexual women; uneducated women and women from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds; women with severe physical and mental health challenges. One of the show’s breakout characters is a transgender woman, played by a transgender woman.
We rarely see these characters on screen at all, let alone so many of them together, and never portrayed with so much sensitivity, never given dimension, agency, story.
The show is a breath of fresh air because of its women.
And in the midst of all this I’m supposed to take some time out to see what some straight white guy is doing in New York?
Am I supposed to think he’s important? In the context of this show? Am I supposed to waste a single thought on how tough it is for him that a woman is going through hell in prison?
Straight white guys are what all other shows are about. So why the hell does this show have to waste time on them as well? How much time do shows with straight white male leads ever spend on the stories of young Latina women, or older women in failing health, or black transgender women? Why do straight white men have to get into everything? Like bedbugs?
It’s not as if Larry is just the token straight white guy, either. The ensemble offers up at least three others, and all of them have stories, and all of them have lives outside the prison that we’re obliged to explore.
Frankly I’d rather not, but it doesn’t bother me so much because these guys all work at the prison. Their lives and stories intersect with those of the prisoners. There is a place for these straight white men in this show.
But not Larry Bloom. Certainly not in almost every episode. And not when he’s such an uncharismatic boor with such a boring, ordinary, commonplace TV existence.
This brings me to the third reason Larry’s presence is problematic. The only prisoner Larry interacts with is Piper. Piper is the de facto lead character, but that’s a point I tolerate rather than celebrate.
I don’t hate Piper; I actually think she’s an interesting character, moreso this season than last. But I love the show because it’s an ensemble.
Larry really only exists to remind us that Piper is the lead. His leaden stretches of screentime are urine to mark out territory. “This is the Piper Chapman show.”
This is not the Piper Chapman show. That is not the show the audience tunes in for. And every time Larry Bloom appears on the screen, with his man-pain and his narcissism held up as a worthwhile distraction from the real suffering of the women inside that prison, it’s a glimpse into a world where this show is not as sharp, not as smart, not as humane as the show we love.
Fourth; Jason Biggs is awful. He’s a turd. His crass, witless Twitter feed is a useful reminder of this fact, should you ever need it. Sure, Biggs can be tolerable in small doses, like in his couple of guest appearances on The Good Wife, where he plays a turd. But this show does not give us small doses. It gives us the recurring drip-drip-drip of his turdy self.
Orange Is The New Black is full of talented actors, and written by brilliant writers. Between them they show us the soul of racists, homophobes, scuzzbags, murderers, molesters — and yet they can’t locate the soul of Larry Bloom.
Perhaps the writers can’t pierce the smug shell of Jason Biggs. Perhaps the character just doesn’t have a soul. He’s not from this planet. He’s from some other planet of generic straight white television guys who live in New York and worry about how much attention their penis is getting. No-one has a soul on that planet.
Larry is the only character in the show who’s completely detestable. Yet there he is, in almost every episode, getting in the way, wasting our time.
I’d sooner go to prison than spend any more time with Larry Bloom.
Over and over again, Reifman insists that everything happened without explanation and that he needs “closure” and that he deserves some sort of “resolution” to the end of their (again: four month) relationship. This is something I see over and over again – mostly from men, but from women too – people complaining that they can’t get over someone because they need “closure”. In theory, the idea behind closure is that either by confronting the issues that ended the relationship or having a final airing of grievances, the afflicted party will finally be able to tie their relationship up in a neat bow and sail off into the sunset. Except… that’s not only not how things work but that’s usually not what they want in the first place. Nine times out of ten, when someone’s looking for “closure”, what they’re really looking for is vindication. They want an explanation that they can accept – preferably one that explains why they’re the wronged party. But here’s the thing: you don’t really want the truth because the truth is ugly. The truth is unpleasant. And frankly, the truth isn’t going to satisfy you because the truth is messy. It’s not always going to be something you can understand or wrap your head around. Sometimes it’s going to be “you make my vagina cry”. How, exactly, is that going to help you “get over things”? What resolution is that going to give you?
Whoever injected our collective brain with the idea that love is something we earn by making ourselves want only smaller, appropriate, manageable things needs to come here and fight me, with fists. Because I want EVERYTHING. I want love, I want great sex, I want great kissing, I want to be able to relax and laugh with my love, I want us to both contribute financially to the household as well as we are able, and when the time comes I want to stand up in front of the people I care about and say “You bet I do” and sign that “meaningless” piece of paper. I want those things without apology. Without limit.