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The Legacy of ‘Orange Is the New Black:’ The Broadsheet

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Mellody Hobson chimes in from her ‘corner office,’ Ivanka stays silent, and we reflect on how the women of ‘Orange Is the New Black’ changed our culture. Have a wonderful weekend. 


– Orange you sad to say good-bye? Believe it or not, the final season of Orange Is the New Black comes out next Friday, July 26th. And while I actually lost track of the series a few seasons back (nothing personal, there’s just too much TV!), it’s been a pleasure to reflect on the ways it sneakily changed what we think of as “prestige television”—and culture’s ideas about whose stories are worth telling.

This Variety cover tells the fascinating story of how the show came to be. As it makes clear, the show is an overwhelming female affair—it was based on a woman’s memoir (Piper Kerman), created by a woman (Jenji Kohan), shepherded by a female exec (Netflix VP for Original Content Cindy Holland) and brought to life by a largely female cast—many of whom are women of color and/or LGBTQ.

As Variety puts it, the show “passed the Bechdel test a thousandfold.” And while its main character was ostensibly white and privileged, Kohan has said that Piper was intended as “a Trojan horse to introduce stories about Latinas, black women, older women and women of different socioeconomic classes.”

It’s clear that viewers were ready for those stories. Although Netflix has revealed that about 105 million users have watched at least one episode of OITNB, making it the streaming service’s most-watched original series of all time. As Uzo Aduba (Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren) tells Variety, “I don’t even know if people at the time knew what they were thirsty for, but when we gave them that to drink, it was consumed so quickly, because it was like, ‘Yes, that is what I’ve been looking for.’”

And speaking of Aduba—the show helped make her and several of her fellow castmates into stars. The New York Times has a nice round-up of the many OITNB actors who are now household names.

For a big picture view of how the show changed the television landscape—and helped define the Netflix that we know today, I also recommend this piece by NYT TV critic James Poniewozik. Coming on the heels of “bad men” shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men, he describes OITNB as something of a changing of the guard: 

“The era of celebrated TV that preceded it had a preferred protagonist type: mostly white, mostly men, mostly like the sorts of people who ran TV networks. The next era would be open to a wider range of identity, color, sexual orientation and life experience. And “Orange” was instrumental in busting those gates open.”

Kristen Bellstrom


– Where’s Ivanka? As attendees at a Trump rally chanted “send her back,” in reference to the president’s attacks on Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, another question surfaced: where was Ivanka? According to Atlantic writer Elania Plott, who profiled the first daughter earlier this year, Trump has abandoned “even the pretense” of being the voice of reason inside the White House—as security concerns mount for Omar. The Atlantic

– Mellody’s corner office. Now that she’s co-CEO of Ariel Investments, Mellody Hobson sits down for her Corner Office interview. She talks about experiencing poverty growing up and her philosophy on capitalism. “I believe in capitalism,” she says. “But I also believe that capitalism needs to work for everyone.” New York Times

– Bathroom talk. The need to diversify company boards was a hot topic at Fortune Brainstorm Tech, where Cisco’s Amy Chang, NEA’s Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, and Christa Quarles, formerly of OpenTable, and others talked about their strategies for getting more women into board seats. Quarles, who sits on the board of  Kimberly-Clark, told attendees that when the company added its fifth woman to the board, all of the women celebrated being able to talk business in the ladies’ room. “Men have been having conversations in the men’s room for generations,” she said, “and we just had enough critical mass to have a conversation in the ladies’ room.” Fortune

– Hope and prayers. Files unsealed yesterday show Hope Hicks’ role in Trump campaign’s payoff to Stormy Daniels. “Keep praying!!” she texted Michael Cohen when a story about Karen McDougal, who also received a payment, didn’t pick up that much traction. The Daily Beast

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Benefits platform League hired Susan Van Klink as chief revenue officer. Optimove hires HP’s Rachel Shehori as VP of research and development. GE Ventures’ Lisa Coca joined Trinity Ventures as executive-in-residence. Wunderman Thompson global chairman Tamara Ingram joins the board of directors at Marsh & McLennan Companies. Former Netflix exec Sarah Geismer joins Crooked Media as head of creative development and production. Marks & Spencer hired Topshop fashion director Maddy Evans to replace ousted fashion exec Jill McDonald. Anna Bross was promoted to VP, communications at The Atlantic.


– Disney v. Disney. Millionaire of the people Abigail Disney visited Disneyland and spoke out earlier this week about conditions facing workers at the theme park. Now Disney (the company) calls Disney’s (the heiress) remarks “gross and unfair.” Bloomberg

– Women as ‘luxury goods.’ An essay on the Jeffrey Epstein case examines the treatment of young women as “luxury goods,” or “consumable pleasures,” part of doing business in global capitalism. Author Rhonda Garelick draws on her own experience running a database of (of-age) women for a wealthy man at an early-career job. It’s worth reading the whole thing: The Cut

– Fashion’s GOAT. When it comes to fashion in sports, Serena Williams is at the top. The tennis icon is No. 1 on Sports Illustrated‘s Fashionable 50 list, beating out a bunch of NBA players in the top 10. She has big plans to expand her S by Serena fashion line into beauty and jewelry. Sports Illustrated

– Unsafe policing. In one village in Alaska, every single police officer has a record of domestic violence. Stebbins, Alaska gets so few applicants that even the police chief has a history of domestic violence; the hires violate public safety laws, but communities haven’t reported the new hires to the state regulatory board. ProPublica/Anchorage Daily News

Today’s Broadsheet was produced by Emma Hinchliffe. Share it with a friend. Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


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“I want to be a spokesperson for older women.”

-Shirley MacLaine on why she never wants to quit acting