Upper-class, college-educated Piper Chapman is sentenced to 15 months in a low security prison for a single drug offense that she committed a decade earlier during her “lesbian phase.” Enter these crazy sitcom scenarios and stereotypical characters and you get a cliché comedy.
No, no. “Orange is the New Black” is a Netflix show, so it’s going to break the freaking mold.
Rather than a bland pastiche, we get about 10 independent and interweaving storylines throughout the 13 episodes, plus flashbacks telling the backstories of quite a few inmates. And these backstories humanize the prisoners, showing not only how they went to prison, but why they did what they did.
We get characters who are hilarious and over the top, and some who are evil to the nastiest degree. But they are built up with such depth and emotion that you can’t help but sympathize with the ones you hate and hate the ones you love. You relate with the characters, and then they graduate from fictional convicts to somehow very real people. These are the characters that stand the test of time and become truly iconic.
Also, it’s an ensemble cast in the true sense of the world. It’s made up of men, women, whites, blacks, Latinos, the wealthy, the poor, heterosexuals, homosexuals and many others from a variety of backgrounds.
“Orange is the New Black” is a great all-around comedy, but it was after a long analyzing conversation with my good friends that I realized why this show is truly one of the best things you can watch right now.
The major thing I picked up on was the show’s portrayal of a transgender woman. It seemed like a true and honest approach to the character and wasn’t glossed over at all.
Not being completely familiar with transgender issues, I asked one of my friends, a transsexual male himself, to find out if the show got it right. Apparently, it did. Not only is the character played by an actual transsexual woman, but it nailed a slew of issues that other productions have gotten wrong in the past.
As the conversation continued, I realized there were a ton of sociological points that the show hit which, while I certainly appreciated, I did not outright acknowledge while watching the show.
We see white privilege openly addressed by the characters themselves and racial divides between groups of prisoners in their most raw forms. This show isn’t here to mess around, and it’s not going to gloss over any issue. It’s going to show these issues at their ugliest, and they’re going to show them right.
So for those of you who are still asking, “Why should I watch this show?” I give you this final reason: because I said so. Trust me. Take my word and just watch the show. Sit down and go for it. You will not be disappointed.
Because whether you’re watching purely for the entertainment, for the sociological issues it deals with or because you’re just like “Why not?” “Orange is the New Black” will make that $8 Netflix fee the best $8 you have spent in a very long time, and maybe the best $8 you’ve ever spent.