Laverne Cox’s Sophia Burset: One of TV’s Most Influential Characters?
Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” issue is out, but they’re not just celebrating real folks like Pope Francis. They’ve also put out a list of the year’s “11 Most Influential Fictional Characters”, and our favorite commissary hoe is number four on the list: Sophia Burset, as portrayed by Laverne Cox.
Recognizing her fan-favorite status and fantastic dialogue, Sophia also made the list because she’s “the most dynamic transgender character in TV history.” Sadly, there’s not much competition in that category, and in the few portrayals of transgender characters onscreen, most have been played by cisgendered actors (layperson’s definition: people whose gender identities and expressions align with the sex they were assigned at birth). Furthermore, transgender characters have more often than not been the butts of jokes or ridicule.
Sophia definitely has some of the funnier quips in the show, but she’s not merely present as a vehicle for comedic relief, and that’s a big step in the right direction. Beyond that, her casting marks one of the few times a transgender actor has been cast in the role of a transgender character. To have that ground broken by an actress as good as Laverne and in such a visible, nuanced role is a powerful win for a marginalized group of people who have rarely seen themselves reflected on screen.
While it’s completely up for discussion whether the character of Sophia is all that positive (after all, she is in prison for identity theft and credit card fraud) or realistic (others have summed up that discussion better than we could), we agree that she’s one of the most groundbreaking characters of the year. What do you think?