Culture

Love Wars: When the Loser Strikes Back

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Happier Times…

 

Check out the previous installments of Becky Graebner’s ongoing series exploring Netflix’s Orange is the New Black:

July 24: Orange Is the New Black: Can a Women-in-Prison Sitcom Succeed?

July 31: 4 Dumb TV Cliches I Hope Orange Is the New BlackAvoids

August 7: Piper Chapman: Dislike-able Protagonist AND Future Heroine?

August 14: Orange is The New Black Creator Doesn’t Seem To Be a Big Fan of Men…

August 21: Prisons Run on Hope (And Cup O’Noodles)

Spoiler Warning….

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Remember Jon & Kate Plus 8?  Despite the adorable sextuplets, angelic twins, and a booming TLC show, the parents of this famous family suffered through a very hostile (and a very public) divorce in 2009.  It was ugly.  Kate got the house, the kids, and Jon ended up with, well, all of his Tom Hardy clothes.  In the months and years that followed, the news periodically reported small scuffles between the TLC stars; Kate was made out to be a crazy woman and Jon a deadbeat dad.

The spats continue to this day.  Just yesterday, the Gosselins reappeared in the news because Jon did something stupid and Kate wants to sue him.  My first thought was, “Wow, really, Jon?”  My second thought was, “Is he acting out against Kate because he needs the income and publicity?  Is he really just a jerk or is he attempting to deal with heartbreak and change in his own way and is just failing?”

I’m starting to think that Jon is doing both: he’s acting out against Kate because he cannot deal with his own demons.  It’s honestly sad and Jon needs help.

Larry Bloom in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black reminds me a little bit of Jon Gosselin.  Like Jon, Larry is also stuck between a rock and a hard place… both men seem to have semi-lost their minds over a woman and family that they love-or used the love.  Similar to Jon’s antics, Larry sometimes acts like a spineless jerk, but it’s probably due to his inability to deal with his own demons and separation from the woman he loves.  I’ve been hard on the Larry character, but, in the end, he might be worthy of some compassion—so might Jon and Kate Gosselin.

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Side One: Larry the Loser 

Our first moments with Larry were positive—he was supportive, funny, and wanted to marry Piper even though she was going to prison. (Every female here flutters at this act of devotion). However, our perceptions of Larry started to change after we get to know more about him. In a previous post on the male characters of Orange, I labeled him “The Loser.”

“Turns out Larry is a pathetic guy who still can’t get his life together—he lives at home, can’t pay his rent, and doesn’t seem to get the hint that he’s not a very good writer.  In order to secure his pathetic self a piece of success, he decides to write about Piper in prison… not a smart or cool thing to do when you don’t quite have her blessing. But, I guess when you’re a loser, anything is fair game.”

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Larry’s willingness to write about Piper’s life in prison for The New York Times was the cherry on top of my Larry-Loser-Sundae.  He is unable to find anything inspiring around him—even in eclectic New York City—and is forced to write about the most interesting part of himself: his fiancée and her crazy life in prison.  He doesn’t necessarily clear the whole thing with Piper, which I found rude—the woman has no control over anything in her life: when she eats, where she sleeps, what she wears, or even her ability to come and go as she pleases.  At least let her have control over her own story!  Apparently, Larry doesn’t consider this and writes the story anyway.

The audience isn’t entirely sure what it says—only that Mr. Healy throws out his copy and dumps coffee on it.  Piper eventually cries about the story after she reads it—lamenting that he “got everything wrong.”  Good job, Larry.

Larry continues his hostile take-over of Piper’s life story by going on NPR and talking about the difficulty of their long-distance relationship, describing his fears, and relaying the colorful descriptions Piper gave of her fellow inmates.  Although Larry probably didn’t intend for this radio spot to hurt Piper, he ends up making Piper’s prison life even more miserable.  She loses the friendship of Suzanne (“Crazy Eyes”) and makes Miss Claudette cry.  Again, in Larry’s attempt to gain success for himself leads to further hardship for Piper.

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Side Two: Larry the Jilted Lover

Despite Larry’s willingness to write about Piper’s sufferings for his own benefit, the show’s increasing focus on Larry allows the audience to see the story from his point of view, leading to you to start to change your thoughts on Pathetic Larry.

At his own party celebrating his appearance in the New York Times, Larry chats with Polly and her husband about his overwhelming feelings of guilt—for feeling sad while Piper “has it worse” in prison.  While it might seem harsh, Polly’s point that you cannot shut down your own life because she (Piper) made bad decisions is the truth.  You feel for Larry as he struggles to be normal when his life is anything but.

Larry’s later appearance at a bar, and his spilling of his predicament to the cute bartender, further illustrates Larry’s crumbling defenses against depression. He looks whiny, but you start to feel for the guy. He has a lot on his plate–imagine yourself in his shoes. How would you act or feel?

His frequent visits to “The Trailer of Cal” for companionship and advice become extremely sad to watch.  Larry’s gut reaction to “cancel” Thanksgiving because Piper cannot attend demonstrates his increasingly fragile mental state and unwillingness to move on with his “new normal.”  You legitimately start to feel bad for him.  In fact, the way he bares his soul over NPR started to look more like an outlet—therapy, if you will– rather than a way to prop up his own career. (Although it did help).

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Despite Larry’s difficulties adjusting to life without Piper, it still manages to get a little worse for him.  His light at the end of the dark, prison tunnel, or his dream of a happy reunion, is extinguished. After confirming with Piper that she cheated on him, Larry is a completely broken man. Instead of feeling bad for incarcerated Piper, you start to shift over to “Team Larry.” If this were Twilight, Larry would definitely be Team Jacob—but let’s hope it turns out better for him…)

Yes, Larry is a little lame in those sweaters, but he really cares about Piper and he gives up a lot to make sure she feels love and not forgotten–phone calls, traveling to visit, etc. Piper, on the other hand, only seems to care about herself.  Yes, she’s cooped up, but that doesn’t mean she has the license to start up a relationship with Alex.

I admit that I used to really dislike Larry — but now I just feel bad for him. After seeing his side of the story, you realize that he is a complex character who also has goals and feelings. He isn’t an empty sweater vest merely trailing after compulsive Piper. Larry deserves some compassion–and Piper deserves to be alone.

I have to hand it to Larry, his decision to break up with Piper or “get some distance” was one of the bravest things he’s ever done on the show. The man might be starting to grow a backbone…