True confessions: I binged watched the two Orange Is the New Black series in a matter of days. I can’t even remember why I decided to start watching – it had never been on my list to try – but I think it happened during a weekend when I was holed up at home, alone with the pup and had run out of work stuff to do. I guess it never interested me before because I was scared it would be super gritty or violent or depressing or an awful combination of all three. There was definitely a bit of grit, some uncomfortable eyefuls, and few sad parts in the first episode and those that follow but the humor is what surprised and hooked me into watching episode after episode until my eyes hurt.
Basically, I love the show. I don’t think prison is funny and the concept of women being humiliated while serving time is jolting but the taboo setting and storyline does make one think differently about what life in prison might be like. My favorite part of watching, aside for the hilarious one-liners (new favorite insult: “potato with eyes”) and the great cast of actors, are the flashback stories that show how individual inmates ended up with their sentence and the people they were before going to prison. Having the main character, Piper, being a bisexual makes the storyline a taboo inside a taboo. Her frequent pre-prison flashbacks to her life when she committed her crime (lesbian lover who helped smuggle drug money) to the woman she was ten years later and up until entering prison (straight, “normal” girl engaged to a man and making soaps with her friend to be sold at Barneys) are particularly interesting as the episodes show her struggling with her personal values and self definition.
I prefer Season One to Season Two, only because there is a lot more rough prison drama in the second season but while the first showed flashbacks of pre-prison life the second season episodes have flashbacks of prison life many years before Piper comes into play and they tell of past relationships between the women inmates. I’ve talked about the show to other women devotees and I think our obsession and fascination, along with thinking “prison doesn’t look all that bad,” comes from seeing the way the characters bond and form relationships. There is a warmth and sweetness to many of the friendships and a like-minded “we’re all in this together” mentality that makes the inmates seem more like family than lawbreaking women who should be feared.
I’ll be completely honest in saying that I have never given much thought to those who live a life behind bars. It’s a “they must have done something bad and been punished accordingly” thought process that’s kept me from ever wondering about the hows and whys. Knowing that Orange Is the New Black is based on the memoir by Piper Kerman and the true account of her 15 months in prison and the people she met there makes me think so much differently about convicted felons and the flaws in the US legal and prison system. Piper’s “it could happen to you” predicament and how she, her family, and friends face her situation and prison setting also makes me wonder how I would handle something similar – being in her shoes or if something similar were to happen to one of my family members of friends.
SO: Have any of you watched the series? Loved it or hated it? Obsessed or repelled by it? There’s not a premiere date for the release of Season Three but they’ve apparently started filming…hurry Netflix, hurry.
(Image via Song of Style)