Guys, if you aren’t watching Orange Is the New Black, you’re seriously missing out! I think many people assume that shows about prison are depressing, and while Orange certainly has its bleak moments, it’s also light-hearted, clever and very entertaining. Based on American ex-felon Piper Kerman’s memoir detailing her year in a federal prison, this award-winning Netflix show follows a character named Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) as she learns how to survive amongst hardened criminals and adapt to her scary, unfamiliar surroundings. An educated blonde woman from Connecticut, she fell in with with the wrong crowd in her 20s and was charged 10 years later for knowingly transporting a suitcase full of drug money – also known as money-laundering – across international borders. The character’s uneventful and seemingly innocent life story is probably what makes her so relatable to the audience; other characters often comment that a “nice, white lady” like Chapman doesn’t belong in prison. With each Orange episode we find out more about the (often shocking) backgrounds of the other characters, which helps us understand more about where they come from and how they landed in prison.
The writing on this show is excellent and every once in a while there are some real gems that leave me in stitches. For example, this Season 3 quote about vision being necessary for assassination had me laughing for days. (I would post more clips, but the language is hardly ladylike!) Orange has also gained fame for its diverse cast, which includes a transgender African-American woman (portrayed by transgender actress Laverne Cox), as well as its true-to-life portrayal of the struggles inside a federal women’s prison. Inedible food, harassment from guards, bathroom stalls without doors and haunting trips to solitary confinement are just some of the challenges these women face. When they learn to work through everything together is when the real magic happens.
As much as I enjoy it, Orange can be tough to stomach at times. The issues the characters have to deal with are purposely difficult, likely because the directors and writers know that these things happen in real life and need to be examined. The often-present homophobia, racism and sexism is quite vital to Chapman’s story – if you’ve read the book, you know much of that inequality was experienced by the original Piper and her fellow inmates. Go ahead and check out the first season of Orange Is the New Black on Netflix – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!