As I had said in a previous post, I want to start reviewing TV shows and films as well as books. I’ll probably still focus on books but I feel that digital forms deserve to be bashed over too!
Anyway, I know that Orange Is The New Black isn’t exactly on the television because it’s exclusively on Netflix but it needs to be spoken about. First of all, this show is not for everyone! Not just due to its exclusivity to Netflix users but also because the humour and the immense amount of nudity and sex scenes will probably only be appreciated by a select few. I would like to say that the nudity and sex serve a decent purpose but I’m not entirely sure they do…
Having said that, OITNB does treat some interesting issues. Obviously, being set in a prison, it deals with such issues as drugs and bad house holds and broken families but it also deals with other issues such as transsexuality. Laverne Cox, a transsexual actress, plays the character Sophia and seems to tell an emotionally accurate, illegally inaccurate version of her own troubles as a transgender man. It also deals with the idea of a transsexual woman, who used to be a man, in a female prison…and her wife and son outside. So, in a way, you could say that, despite all the vulgarity, OITNB is almost educational…or at least that it offers up some serious thinkin’ fuel.
The main character, Piper, is the first inmate we meet. At first, she seems fairly innocent and sweet and we gradually learn why she doesn’t seem to be your typical criminal. Her ex-girlfriend, Alex, seems to be to blame for her current situation and, to be honest, by the end of series three it’s even more unclear as to whether or not Alex is the only guilty party. There are also many other characters whose stories are all so different and make their actions seem almost justified. A lot of them have just made silly mistakes that have left them in serious trouble. The general format (with some exceptions) is that we meet the character in the present, get to know them, love them, hate them, and then we gradually see little snippets of what happened to land them in jail. Sometimes it’s not totally, explicitly clear but I kind of like that!
I think one of the crucial parts of this series is the fact that, amongst the prison staff, there is also sex, scandal and corruption. We see their lives too! The prison itself is pretty poor, especially as they abuse the use of solitary confinement (known as the SHU), but it kind of adds to the show and the characters’ situation. There are many theories thrown about about how to survive in the prison and each person finds their own way. The ones with the big jobs seem to be the best off because, as it is in the real world, there are leaders and they seem to do pretty well for themselves! Other people, of course, try to play the game of thrones because they also want to stop themselves from drowning in that place.
Friendships, enemies and “prison wives” are formed and they all come with their own perks and complications. However, there is always a great sense of community amongst them, despite what they call the racial “tribes” which separate the tightknit families.
I think this show is amazing, but I know not everyone will feel the same. You have to look past the crude humour and boobs and see the characters’ stories and personalities become clearer as the story goes on. The storyline is often gripping and the writers have created some amazing cliffhangers, especially in the season finales.
It deals with many issues and deals with crime from a criminal point of view, which really does put it all into a different perspective.
I apologise if you go to watch this/have watched it and think that it’s just nonsense but the chaotic nature of the prison is what makes this show truly unique.
Another perk: as a Brit, I sometimes find that American comedies are a bit too obvious (especially with a laugh track of a laughing audience). I think if you need to be told when something is funny, it can sometimes ruin it. However, the humour in Orange Is The New Black is really subtle, sarcastic and extra, extra dry. I love it.
I recommend this show, and I think it should be given a chance, even by those who are strongly offended by the first episode or two, because it grows on you!