Tomorrow is the day we’ve all been waiting for. Tomorrow is when the gates of Litchfield Correctional Facility will open once again to grant us access. Tomorrow we will once more join the ranks of ladies dressed in orange, stabbing each other with plastic forks. Tomorrow, the forth season of Orange Is The New Black will come to Netflix.
So I thought this would be a good moment to tell you all how much I love this show, and why I think that is. I must warn you beforehand that there will be spoilers here up to the end of season three, so if you aren’t caught up yet you shouldn’t read any further.
First of all, let me introduce Orange Is The New Black to those of you who have been living under a rock for the past few years. We call it OITNB for short. It’s Netflix’s most watched original show, and it’s about the inmates of a women’s prison. The story is based on Piper Kerman’s real life experience of prison, which she wrote down in her book: Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women’s Prison.
The show is both tragic and hilarious. It is both witty and honest. It is, perhaps the greatest achievement on television to date when it comes to diversity and representation, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today.
OITNB has African American characters. It has Asian characters. It has Latino characters and caucasian characters. It has gay people and straight people. On the show, there is a transsexual character who is played by a transsexual actress. There are characters of all body types and costumes and make-up are minimal, so there are no attempts at disguising or glamorizing what real women look like in real life. The result is breathtakingly beautiful.
But that is not all. You can make your show’s cast as diverse as humanly possible, and I will applaud you for that, but that doesn’t necessarily make it engrossing television. And if there’s one thing OITNB is, it’s engrossing television.
For one thing, the narrative structure is astounding. Throughout the seasons, an intricate web of characters is woven and like the true ensemble cast, none seem to be more important than the others. Sure, the show starts out from Piper’s point of view, but by now it’s shifted so often that no one gives a damn about Piper anymore. Actually, I never cared for Piper much in the first place. She’s a brat.
Even Pennsatucky, who I disliked for the first half of the show, was recently given a storyline in season three that humanized her and, dare I say it, made me love her.
The show draws attention to a lot of problems of modern day society, such as the ill treatment of prisoners in over-crowded American facilities, the stigma upon those with mental illness and America’s drug problem. It shows us that discrimination is still deeply ingrained into our lives and how harmful that is. It shows us the pervasiveness of rape culture and all the suffering it causes. It shows us how violence begets violence and how women can be incredibly strong when everything, everything, is against them.
Pennsatucky: “No offense but men being in charge hasn’t ever done me any good.”
In my weaker moments I turn to the inmates of Litchfield to see an example of what strength truly looks like. I will greatly enjoy doing so again tomorrow, and I invite you all to turn on your television sets and get trapped with me.