Atheism on Orange is the New Black

Have you guys been watching this show? Oh, man, this show.

Orange is the New Black is a new Netflix original series about Piper Chapman, a young well-to-do white woman who goes to prison for drug running and learns things. It could easily have been terrible, but while it is in some ways problematic (there are moments that smack of the “white savior” trope), it is in many ways awesome. It has to be one of the most diverse casts in a television series, with many black, Asian, and Latina women as well as a transgender woman and at least one amputee. There are lesbians and bisexuals and people who don’t conform to simplistic representations of sexuality. And for the most part these characters are three-dimensional and interesting to the point that there’s even a scene in which a group of women of color mock the “sassy black friend” trope in other series.

Of course, the main character, her fiance, and her ex-girlfriend are all white, but c’est la vie.

One other fun bit of diversity is that the main character is an atheist. Check out this scene:

I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens. Although I do admit he can be kind of an asshole. I can’t get behind a supreme being that weighs in on the Tony awards while a million people get whacked by machetes. I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think that we get cancer to learn life lessons, and I don’t believe people die young because God needs another angel. I think it’s just bullshit.

Saying she believes in Hitchens while acknowledging he was an asshole? Approved. I love this show.

Have you seen it? What do you think?

Oh and here’s Laverne Cox, the transgender actress, talking about her character:

Oh my god her real-life twin brother plays her before her transition! Amazing.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. Sounds like a show I’d like to follow…great to see an “out” atheist depicted on TV saying stuff I think! However, while I have cable TV, I don’t have Netflix and can’t afford another expense. Is there any other place to watch “Orange Is the New Black” besides Netflix? Thanks!

    1. If you want the easy way out, the way you can probably only do once, sign up for a free month of Netflix and then binge watch the show. Netflix posts the entire season all at once so you can watch it any way you want. Then cancel at the end of the month. Of course you won’t be able do this again on the same email and credit card. The only other way to watch is to pirate. Also if you look at your monthly cable bill it’s easily $80+, if you found something you could ditch off your cable bill maybe you could find that $8 a month? Personally I think it’s worth it, the new netflix shows are great plus there is plenty of suprisingly good series that you just don’t hear about, most of the BBC catalog is on netflix (except the latest season of Doctor Who).

      1. Or you could watch it with a friend who has Netflix… We don’t HAVE to watch TV alone, just because all the latest technology (iPods, tablet PCs, Tivo, etc.) seems to be geared to put us each in our own little cocoon. Okay, I admit it. I have hippy tendencies locked in an anti-social, Aspergers-like mind.

        P.S. Pedantic small step department: She said Hitchens could be an asshole, not that he can be an asshole.

        1. “P.S. Pedantic small step department: She said Hitchens could be an asshole, not that he can be an asshole.”

          Well he’s too dead to be an asshole now.

          1. But you can still feel the full effects of his assholery by watching his videos and reading his writings…

            To me, the difference between “could be” and “can be” is that “could be” means that is possible that he is (or was) and asshole, i.e. a permanent, continuous state of being, whereas “can be” means that sometimes he was an asshole. The first case means he might have been an asshole, or maybe he was just acting like one or came across as one. The second case means he was an asshole, at least some of the time, but maybe not always. See my 17-volume philosophical treatise “The Varieties of Asshole Experience:A Study in Human Nature” for more details. (We’re reading “The Great Agnostic” for Book Club, so I’m sort of on a 19th century religious philosophy thing at the moment.)

          2. How do you know, might be the only part left.

            Hitchens did get Bin Laden the Iraq war completely and utterly wrong and he was pretty nasty about it too. Hitchens attacked Bill Clinton’s attack on Bin Laden as a ‘wag the dog’ strategy then completely ignored W’s incompetence.

  2. Tropes aside, keep in mind that this is based on a true story – the real Piper and Larry are white folks. I LOVE seeing a positive Atheist portrayal on TV. Happens not nearly often enough.

  3. I was blown away when I saw that episode! Also- in a previous episode she identifies as a secular humanist. I was so happy to hear that! I think the show is overall wonderful, can’t wait to see more next season. Cannot believe they had the guts to tackle a fundamentalist Christian topic. Go Orange is the New Black!

  4. This show! It’s fantastic for all the reasons you mention. And a lot of the flashback scenes were filmed in my neighbourhood. In fact, the scene in episode four where Piper meets Alex takes place at one of my favourite bars with the camera angled from my favourite seat! Red’s deli is a real deli nearby, too.

    In more serious tones, though, I also appreciated their diversity simply on the basis of looks. Not just body shapes and sizes, but even stuff like skin. The opening credits astounded me the first time I saw them. Even though I know makeup was involved, that’s a portrayal of real human skin. Blemished, unblemished, wrinkly, firm, all shades and types. I don’t know exactly why I appreciated that, but I did.

  5. Love this show, for all the reasons everyone has said. On a side note, my skeptic self loved the scene where they make fun of cleanses.

  6. I fucking love this show. It is one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. There are so many aspects to it that I like.

    Not only is there a trans woman character, but she’s a trans woman of color! And praise cheesus that she’s a well written character that is not one of the usual trans trickster trope roles!

    The woman who plays the out-of-control Jesus lady Pensatucky (to which Piper is responding to in the above clip) is amazing. In fact, all of the acting is amazing, but particularly her, Red (CAPTAIN JANEWAY!!!!!!!!), Nicky (loooove Natasha Lyonne), Poussey, Taystee, Sophia…wow. They all deserve Emmies!

    I binge watched this in one day and I cannot wait for the second season.

  7. So Laverne Cox’s twin brother plays pre-transition Sofia?! That is so cool and completely explains how they did that. I wondered how they managed to get her looking so masculine again because it seems to be so obviously the same person. That is too fucking cool.

    The show is good but Piper can get on my last nerve. Also, I’ve always hated Laura Prepon. She always seems to be smirking at something and I find it hard to believe her characters.

    1. I wondered how they did it, too!

      I agree with you. The two “main characters” are the least convincing to me. I don’t have anything against the actresses, I just don’t find their acting to be as strong as literally the entire rest of the cast.

  8. Saw some previews and thought, hmmm, not sure. Now that I’ve read this review and the above comments I’ill be giving the first couple of episodes a try!

    1. This was how things unfolded for me:

      Episode 1: “Hey, this show is pretty good.”
      Episode 2: “Wow. This show is great.”


      1. This. There are some mushy annoying parts to it, but it does so much to question things like privilege, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. Love it.

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