When Orange is the New Black deals with the stories that take place in the present, the social commentary dealt with is typically of socioeconomic or racial themes. When the show features flashbacks, they tend to provide a better understanding of the marginalization of women in society, particularly when the women featured are some of our older inmates.
Something to appreciate about this show mid-way through season three is the evolution of some of the most minor characters. Case in point: Chang, who was highlighted with flashbacks this episode, has grown from a verbally disinclined background character with substantial upper lip hair to a verbally disinclined but fully realized character with actual business. Who saw that coming?
In her youth, Chang was brought over from China for the purpose of being sold off to someone as a wife for a mere $800. (With inflation, and assuming they’re in the 1970s, the price is about $5,000. For a human life!) Unfortunately, she lacked both the looks and charm to win even anyone over, and absorbs insults like she’s a “squatty peasant who still smells like sheep shit” like a champ, but perhaps she’s just used to hearing things like that. Rather than subject herself to the abuse of a stranger, Chang insists on staying with her brother and working in his shop. And they don’t just sell groceries; the main moneymaker for the store is in the black market trade of smuggling animal parts and fluids (bear bile is a thing!) for medicinal use. Chang’s knack for blending into the background lends her to becoming the perfect dealer for the operation. “She’s invisible,” her brother says.
Her invisibility has only gotten better with age. Chang is able to get away with things few people can at Litchfield, simply because no one notices her. She’s able to smuggle food out of the cafeteria to make what look to be pea and Frito latkes and enjoy them in the yard with hot sauce. She hides oranges just outside the fence as a snack while she watches tv on her hidden phone. (And it’s even a smartphone!) But the price of being invisible is a lack of friends, or at the very least, people who take you seriously.
During Berdie’s drama class, Chang has inmates to perform her dramatic reenactment which involves a man telling her she’s beautiful and strong, and she subsequently eats his gall bladder after he’s died. Berdie claims Chang took the exercise “a little too far to be constructive,” and no one else likes it except for Crazy Eyes. However, Chang took the exercise just far enough to change the dialogue, but her flashback shows that her dramatic reenactment is actually fairly close to the truth.
Her addition of the line “Girl power” at the end of her scene is telling. In a time when women hardly had power at all, let alone an immigrant who was about to be sold, Chang used whatever she could to make her life better. Had she been born a man, she may not have had to do the things she did in order to have control of her life. If Chang spoke more, she’d likely perform a monologue like Red’s to Healy, as he calls her out for using him to get back into the kitchen. Red says, “You take a woman’s power away. Her work, her family, her currency. You leave her with one coin: the one she was born with. It may be tawdry and demeaning, but if she has to, she will spend it.” And she did, and she’s back in the kitchen. Girl power.
– I really loved O’Neill’s diatribe on red velvet. I have similar feelings.
– They’re teasing television chef Judy King as a Martha Stewart-like character. Will she end up in Litchfield?
– Morello’s scheme to get random men to deposit commissary money was bound to fail. At least she found one nice and normal one.
– The new hot inmate doing work duty with Piper is going to be a problem for her. They can’t just add someone that hot on this show without having some repercussions on Piper and Alex’s relationship!
– Gloria’s food must really be slacking if everyone wants kosher meals. Speaking of which…
– Best line of the episode: “We don’t got enough to deal with around here, now we got Jews?”