Suzanne Warren

You know what, Dandelion? Crazy Eyes was a great name for this great character back when crazy was the most we knew about her, but turns out she has ample identity: so let's just call her Suzanne. A breakout role by Uzo Aduba in prison comedy-drama 'Orange is the New Black', Suzanne Warren's life is a chaotic fist-fight between what she wants and what she needs. I’m gonna try and guess which is which.

Spoiler Alert
First thing we ever see her wanting is aforementioned “Dandelion”. Piper is the series lead, a self-centred middle-class Yuppie from Connecticut. We’re introduced to Litchfield Prison through Piper’s prejudiced eyes, so of course she’s quickly confronted by the inevitable: an offer to become someone’s prison wife. Hello Suzanne. Stoppit.

Suzanne is fixated on Piper’s pretty blonde hair; a shallow but ordinary reason to want her as a wife. But this reasoning gets more complicated when we meet Suzanne’s adoptive mother: a white woman with pretty blonde hair. It’s a similarity that gets a big mean thumbs up when Suzanne breaks down and calls Piper mom... while punching a fine crater in her face.

But is there something oedipal about Suzanne’s desire for Piper, or is it not desire at all? Maybe what she wants is a wife, but what she needs is a mother. Maybe? Let’s see..

Enter mom. In season two, Pat Warren crops up in flashbacks that help explain how Suzanne's eccentricity sprang over the line between harmless and harmful.

At first, a simple case of adopted child syndrome is implied; Pat and Dennis thought they couldn’t have kids, so adopted Suzanne and then, oops, found themselves with a biological daughter too. So did the green-eyed monster drive Suzanne down the wrong path? No, Suzanne’s mother tries her utmost to treat both daughters equally and encourage Suzanne to become something great.

And by “encourage” I mean “push”. And by “push” I mean “shove way too hard”.

There’s the problem with mom. Suzanne is naturally weird and shy; but her mother wants her to be ordinary and popular. It’s about wants and needs again. Her mother thinks she needs to be pushed to greatness, but that only tips her over edge, plummeting into a horrifying graduation scene in which her mother forces her to give a speech and Suzanne breaks down, slapping her own face and screaming that she can’t do it. Being pushed like this was never something she wanted or needed.

Suzanne remains endearingly childlike, gravitating towards anyone who can point her in some direction. In season two it seems she still wants a mother (no longer Piper), but a new kind. Someone who sees her for who she is. Someone like Vee.

Vee is season two’s villain, a master manipulator with a history of befriending orphans and grooming them into loyal drug associates. We find out later that the drugs bit was always more important to the conniving Vee than the befriending bit, despite the tragic loyalty she garners. One observer aptly describes her as “a pedophile without the sex”, and the childlike Suzanne quickly becomes her next victim.

Vee seems to be exactly what Suzanne wants, but she’s the last thing she needs. Sure, Vee tells Suzanne she’s a strong woman with the right to build her own destiny, but it's all talk. What she wants from poor Suzanne is loyalty, which is already wrapped up and ready to be given to the nearest person who wants it. Vee elegantly mutates this loyalty into blind obedience and exploits it, using Suzanne as muscle and collateral. And even when Vee betrays her, Suzanne’s faith in her doesn’t flicker for a second.

When Vee is killed, we breathe a sigh of relief for Suzanne. She needed that. But she sure as hell didn't want it: she’s still living in denial of the late Vee’s cruel facade. Still, it’s the beginning of an evolution for Suzanne: she finds herself with a solid group of friends who were also affected by Vee's selfish exploits and broken promises.

The en—

Oh wait, but then sex happens!

It’s been easy to think of Suzanne as a totally unsexual creature, partly because she acts like such a kid, partly because her designs on Piper were more about a kind of weird innocent possession, and partly because we’re too distracted by her crazy. But then she pours her freaky creativity into 50 Shades of erotica, which becomes a prison-wide hit, and then finally she thinks about it and wham. Remembers she’s a virgin.

And that's when she meets the uber-sexual Maureen, who wants to teach her aaaaaaall about it.

It's funny and bizarre to watch Suzanne in such a situation, but Maureen is weird too. Real weird. And suddenly it seems like a new sexual side to her life is kind of what Suzanne wants. And after that moment with the turtle, it could also be love. Suzanne knows a lot about love. She'd throw her pie for you.
How come everyone calls me Crazy Eyes?
No, it's not just sex, it's love. It's two people connecting. With four other people. And aliens.
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Published on 22 October 2015
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