Five Reasons to Watch Orange is the New Black
Like a good portion of America, I consumed all 13 hours of the new Netflix original series Orange is the New Black within 24 hours of starting the season. Wait… a good portion of America did do that, right? Well anyway, despite my fangirl-ing all over Twitter and Facebook about my love for the show, I’ve noticed that a small yet persistent number of people have yet to dive into the series. This is a grave mistake. Here are five reasons to watch Orange is the New Black (immediately):
1. It’s based on a true story
A privileged white woman gets sent to prison for drug-smuggling crimes from almost a decade prior, is forced to leave behind her fiancé to serve time, and finds herself in the same prison unit as her one-time lesbian lover and former partner in crime. You literally couldn’t make this stuff up (and trust me, the stuff is great). Orange is the New Black is based off of Piper Kerman’s bestselling 2010 memoir of the same title, and the show and its characters are inspired by her true stories and experiences. Kerman was involved in the development of the show, co-writing the material with “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan.
2. It paints a fascinatingly accurate portrait of prison life
…Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never been to prison, but The Washington Post called OITNB “the best TV show about prison ever made,” and the show has a gritty honesty that is both critical of America’s prison system and sensitive to its prisoners. Issues such as drug addictions, abuse, untreated mental illness, racial segregation, mistreatment of trans prisoners, and poor prison conditions are all tackled throughout the show’s hour-long episodes. The show also makes some poignant statements about how our prison system fails to rehabilitate and prepare prisoners for freedom, and the dire consequences of such a fundamentally flawed system.
3. So many strong female characters
It’s a little sad that “strong female characters” is still viewed as a bonus and not a given when considering the representation of women on television, but let’s be real here—in general, mainstream entertainment isn’t quite there yet. OITNB, however, is full of strong female characters--- and not just strong, but dynamic, complex, sexual, flawed, courageous, bat-shit, diverse, resilient, multi-dimensional female characters. The kind of characters that do justice to the actual depth and complexity of real-life women. Sure, a good number of them are significantly quirkier than people you’d regularly encounter, but not a single one comes off as a caricature, and they’re all honest and sympathetic in their own ways. The male characters are also thoroughly well written, making for a pitch-perfect ensemble show.
4. It’s actually really funny
Orange is the New Black absolutely nails the “comedy-drama” genre. The subject matter and events are often really, really dark--- to the point where you’ll probably feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach at least once per episode. Yet miraculously, and without ever cheapening or trivializing the seriousness of the stories, the show still manages to be hilarious. In a Q & A with the LA Times, Piper Kerman discussed the authenticity of the comic side of prison life by saying, “There’s nothing funny about much of the reality, but there is humor to how people navigate every day to get through there.” The show is witty, creative, and laugh-out-loud funny, and you end up having a real affection and a certain respect for even the nuttiest of characters.
5. It’s available for binge-watching
This is a dangerous one--- I wouldn’t say that I recommend it, but I’m just saying… if you wanted to watch 13 straight hours of OITNB, you can. The whole first season is on Netflix, to be consumed at whatever pace you see fit. My advice would be to take your time with it--- after all, they’re starting to film season 2 next week, which means it might be a frustratingly long time before we get some new material. Take my word for it; finishing this brilliant show in such a short amount of time leaves you in a pretty dark place when you realize there’s nothing left to watch (and that you have to wait many months to see what will come of those insane last few minutes of the finale). But at whatever pace you choose, Orange is the New Black is out there, and it’s ready for you.