Why you should both Watch and Read Orange is the New Black: Part 1

Thea Baldwin

During my two seasons of binge watching the original series Orange is the New Black, produced by Jenji Kohan (creator of Weeds),I was constantly filled with a clusterfuck of anger, pity, and laughter throughout the show.  And like a pre-teen chasing drama, I was hungry for more. I discovered that the series was based off of a book, also titled Orange is the New Black, written by Piper Kerman (real-life Piper). It was nice to have both the real account of Piper’s story alongside with the fictional story. Both the book and the TV show blur the line between yourself and prison inmates and shows that people in prison are often times normal, decent people who made one bad decision and drew a bad hand.  Both are also effective in illuminating how terrible government run programs can be if ignored. If you have any doubts on starting either one, or both, here is my attempt to convince you to give them a chance.

My favorite part of the show is how the characters are handled because you get to see the back-stories of most of the characters. And of course, every character is insanely fascinating. A lot of them individually highlight flaws with our system, such as clearly needing therapy instead of jail time, or purposefully getting thrown back into prison because they were borderline homeless once they were released. Then there are the characters who are always making you unsure if they are good people or not, due to their variety of actions that vary from reprehensible, to genuinely kind. There is a nice range of absolutely horrible to wonderful people on the show which isn’t necessarily what you’d expect in a show about prison inmates.

Another strength is how diverse the cast is. There are men, woman, lesbians, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, transgenders, old and young. And unlike shows like Game of Thrones where even the supposedly unattractive characters have chiseled jaws, tiny waste lines, symmetrical features and sculpted abs, the cast of Orange is the New Black has the normal range of body types and facial features, which makes the whole environment relatable. It would actually be nice if more TV shows followed suit and realized no one is going to respond with, “EW. NORMAL LOOKING PEOPLE? How am I going to struggle with my body image now??”

I also appreciate the comedy element the writers threw in. Of course with this subject matter it can get depressing, but it never gets Sarah-Mclachlin-depressing.  There is always plenty of comic relief, making it the perfect dark, dramedy.

Show Synopsis: Piper Chapman/Kerman participated in a drug operation with her girlfriend in her early twenties. She eventually got scared, ended things with her girlfriend and went home.  She put the past behind her and 10 years later she’s in a happy relationship and enjoying her career. Unfortunately her past comes back to haunt her, and she goes on trial for a crime she committed 10 years ago. She is sent to prison to serve a 13 month sentence. Being a white, educated, middle-class woman she stands out among many of the inmates and faces a lot of challenges while trying to carve a place for herself in the community. Through out her journey she meets an array of woman who all have their own interesting pasts.


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