Since its’ premiere in July 2013, the popular Netflix original show, Orange is the New Black, has opened up the door for more diverse identities to be presented in the mainstream. The newest addition to the fictional Litchfield Federal Correctional Institution in the upcoming third season will help to continue the dialogue about a new variation of individuality.
Ruby Rose will be joining the crime-comedy-drama series as Stella Carlin. The 28-year-old Australian model and DJ will undoubtedly bring a new level of sass and sarcasm with her role, while hopefully shaking things up for the OITNB ladies. Her character will allegedly create some strife between main characters Piper (Taylor Schilling) and Alex (Laura Prepon) according to Elle magazine.
A relative newcomer to the U.S., Rose has been making waves online ever since the casting news broke. What is notable about the newcomer is she identifies as gender fluid. Although she openly self identifies as a lesbian, she feels very passionately about living a non-conforming life outside of finery restraints.
Gender fluidity is best described as a dynamic mix of manly and womanly attributes and representations. A person who is gender fluid may always feel like a mix of the two traditional genders, but may feel more masculine some days, and more feminine other days. Being gender fluid has nothing to do with a person’s anatomy, nor their sexual orientation.
It is important to point out that gender representations are societal constructs, meaning they are what we as a society deem to be true. This is where the ideology behind masculinity and femininity are introduced, by certain attributes or behaviors we collectively assign to each identifier. Gender fluidity basically means that the individual does not identify with the typical binary way of thinking and therefore interprets how they will present themselves based on how they are feeling.
In an interview with News Corp Australia, Rose explains that “Whether straight, gay, bi, trans, body image and identity can be a struggle for us all.” She followed this clarifying, “I am very gender-fluid and feel more like I wake up every day sort of gender neutral.” Gender neutrality allows individuals to fit into many different situations, something that may benefit Rose in her new role.
Rose wrote, produced and starred in a gender-bending short film called Break Free in 2014. It quickly went viral, accumulating over two million views. Rose has stated that the film is inspired by her own struggle with gender presentation and fluidity on her official website. The film exemplifies her non-binary outlook, first portraying herself as the stereotypical blonde bombshell while simultaneously transitioning into the short haired stud look she rocks on an everyday basis.
Rose is flipping the script on gender representations in the media world. Rose is also providing a beacon of hope for other non-conforming, transgender or gender fluid individuals by advocating for herself and her community with pride.
OITNB has previously pushed the envelope with the character of Sophia Burset, a transgender woman and inmate at Litchfield, played by Laverne Cox. Cox has received an increase of media attention since the show started, helping her to share her journey as a Trans woman and provide her a large platform to speak for the progress of Trans rights. Cox was also the first transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME Magazine.
With talented actors like Cox and Rose, the OITNB cast and crew is helping to expand audience’s perspectives of real life identities who do not receive that much recognition on television and movies. This is a positive step towards progress for the LGBTQQA+ community. Not only are they seeing someone they can relate to on a personal level on mainstream media, but they are also able to gain role models to aspire to be like.
These two characters are helping to normalize the conversation of how LGBTQQA+ individuals show up in our media. And who would have thought that this conversation would happen from a show about prison?
There are not many spoilers about the upcoming season, but Rose’s representation of Stella Carlin is sure to stir a few pots. According to Christian Post, Orange is the New Black will be available to stream on Netflix in June of 2015. We’ll just have to wait anxiously to see what kind of trouble the characters create this summer.