Summer is over. Technically speaking, we have about a month until autumn is here, but if the kids are going back to school, summer is over. This poses the question, have you watched the Netflix summer hit Orange is the New Black? If not, or even if you have, here are my top 13 reasons why you should:
13. It’s witty but very thought provoking.
Orange is the New Black does an amazing job of making the viewer laugh at really inappropriate and sarcastic dialogue. Yet, the amazing part of the show is how significant the small things in life are so very important in prison.
12. Portrayal of prison isn’t overly glamorized.
Unlike many portrayals of prison in the media, where it is either totally funny or not a real consequence, Orange talks about the things that happen happen in prison that people don’t necessarily consider. There are plenty of funny moments in the show, but there are also plenty of horrible ones. The way the women are willing teach each other a lesson through the use of used feminine products, the drug use that women can find themselves still clinging to, and most obviously, the treatment of prisoners by (some) guards who don’t know where to draw the line the power struggle.
11. The details in the background.
There are many things that happen in the background that we only get a taste of. Whenever the protagonist, Piper, is on the phone, there is a woman in the background crying… every time. Of course there is also the devil-women who stays in the bathroom stall yelling constantly, an inmate’s beloved picture of Denzel Washington hanging on her wall, and the overweight guard who only eats soft foods in order to lose weight. These things are what make the show come to life and seem a little more palpable.
10. Representation of class system in America.
It becomes apparent quickly in the show that the portrayal of the women in the Litchefield prison come from varying backgrounds. Piper is one of the only (if not, the only) inmate who comes from an affluent background. It shows how easily people from lower economic status fall prey to not only crime, but to the stereotype that they are automatically criminals because they don’t have equal opportunities for success. That doesn’t mean that everyone from the “lower class” is likable or even people we can sympathize with. When a television show can so subtly convey this to the audience, it is quality writing.
9. Piper’s “Atheism” speech.
Piper has had few likable moments on the show, but the two she had are worthy of this list.
8. Piper’s “Life in Prison” speech.
Piper also said this to a “scared straight” student who has a bad attitude.
The whole speech goes:
“You know I could tell you a lot of things that would scare you, Dina. I could tell you that I’m going to make you my prison bitch. I could tell you that I’m going to make you my house mouse, that I will have sex with you even if we don’t have an emotional connection; that I’m going to do to you what the spring does with cherry trees but in a prison way. Pablo Neruda. But why bother? You’re too tough, right. Yeah, I know how easy it is to convince yourself that you’re something you’re not. I mean you could do that on the outside. You can just keep moving, keep yourself so busy you don’t have to face who you really are. But you’re weak. I’m like you Dina. I’m weak too. I can’t get through this without somebody to touch, without somebody to love. Is that because sex numbs the pain or is it because I’m some evil fuck monster? I don’t know. But I do know that I was somebody before I came in here. I was somebody with a life that I chose for myself and now, now it’s just about getting through the day without crying. And I’m scared. I’m still scared. I’m scared that I’m not myself in here and I’m scared that I am. Other people aren’t the scariest part of prison Dina. It’s coming face-to-face with who you really are. because once you’re behind these walls there’s no where to run, even if you could run. The truth catches up with you in here Dina and it’s the truth that’s going to make you her bitch.” – Piper Chapman, Orange is the New Black
7. Representation of GLBT Women
The Kinsey Scale. It’s even mentioned in the series. Ever heard of the Kinsey scale? Look it up. Everyone falls somewhere on it, including the women on the show. There is a transsexual, a butch (that’s not being insensitive, she has it tattooed on her forearm), and a bunch of other women who just like other women, whether it’s for the stay or not.
This scene is an “in your face moment” for a cruel guard who is a homophobe, but majority of the scenes show a tenderness between women, which is so rare in an industry that over-sexualizes women who dig each other.
6. The main character is a catalyst for all the other stories.
Ok, so I mentioned this before. Piper (the blonde in these pictures) isn’t very likable. She is snobby and whiny. She has been allowed to live a cushy life making soaps and not really working. But because of this, we get to appreciate the stories of the other women a lot more. The show does a great job of doing flashbacks to show different women’s lives before prison. Without Piper being the lead, it perhaps would have been hard to pitch the rest of the characters and a show may have never been made.
5. We root for different people at different times.
I love when characters are written so well that I don’t always like them. I may not like Piper all the time, but she has redeeming qualities. Red, the head cook and leader of the other inmates in the prison, is very dislikable by the end of the first episode, but as time wears on, she becomes one of the best. These are just some examples. But its also wonderful to root for people who society have always told us aren’t the people to root for.
4. Representation of Women of Color
Because the main character is a pretty, blonde, white female, many critics have faulted the show for not being able to truly understand the plight of being a minority in America. I agree with this, yet this show does a good job of not stereotyping one race or another as unlikable. It is clear that the whites stay with the whites, blacks with the blacks and the Latinas with the Latinas. But there are divisions within their own races, too. And it doesn’t mean that the races can’t mingle now and then. Race is a topic of discussion in the show. I don’t know of many shows who discuss race or are able to pull it off.
With that being said, there are also some hysterical moments about race:
3. Representation of Women
How many scripted shows on TV have strong female characters? How many of those women can talk about anything but men? How many of them range in age, sexuality, race and class? Not many, if any. And how many times do we associate female characters by who their boyfriends or husbands are? For once, we are seeing women as their own people with their own ideas, fears, and hopes. If for nothing else, watch Orange for this reason alone.
2. Taystee (and Poussey)
Taystee is just about everyone’s favorite character. She is loud, popular and funny. But she isn’t just one layer, either. Taystee has been known to say some pretty weird stuff (“So I’m sittin’ there, barbecue sauce on my titties, and I’m like ‘What the fuck? Again?'”), but she is academically one of the smartest people in the prison. She is the head librarian. When her new roomie gets a death threat, Taystee points out something very important.
And then is her friendship with fellow inmate Poussey. They fight, they make up, they love chicken together. And they can lean on each other when they are down. You wish you had a friendship like them.
1. Crazy Eyes
Oh Crazy Eyes. She may not give a single fuck when she pees on a fellow inmates clean floor, but she does give a single fuck about most things that happen to her. She is blunt and upfront about her feelings. She is eccentric. She loves acting and poetry. She loves easily. And she can see through bullshit. And she is just a tad… off. But I love her. Crazy Eyes aka Suzanne is the most sensitive woman on the show and she deserves to be loved. She may not become my prison wife, but if I went to prison and Crazy Eyes was there, I would befriend her.
There are countless other occurrences I didn’t mention not for lack of want, they just didn’t fit in this top 13 list (13 for every month Piper spent in the slammer). Orange is the New Black has so many wonderful layers, characters and snippets of dialogue. Writing this makes me want to watch the whole thing over again! But mostly for Crazy Eyes and her pie 🙂
written by Adrian Puryear