Netflix’s megahit, “Orange is the New Black,” returns, to the joy of the non-incarcerated everywhere. And possibly the incarcerated. If they have Netflix. Not yet into it? Count yourself lucky, because you don’t have to wait a year for season two. Here are spoiler-free reasons you’ll fall for “OITNB.”
Writing forms the foundation of any TV show or film, and this one is smooth and solid. From “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan, OITNB is courageous and unafraid, as evidenced by this moving piece from writer Loren Morelli, who discovered her own orientation while writing for the show. OITNB lays bare the very innards of human workings. Not literally, though. It’s not that kind of prison show.
I realized that OITNB was something special right about the third episode of the first season, which centers around Sophia, the character brought to life by Laverne Cox. Suddenly, there was the interior life of someone who, in most TV or film, is relegated to background, or used to create atmosphere, or is the punctuation to the joke. Not Sophia. Sophia is a whole person. She’s deeply flawed, of course, as are all our OITNB inmates, given that they’re in prison, but she’s no decoration. We see her struggle told fully, with no one to interrupt or say it wasn’t that way.
The Portrayal of Women
And that last point doesn’t only extend to Sophia. The women of OITNB are far, far from perfect. Far enough to land them in federal prison. And maybe it’s because they are in prison that we can see women stripped of the usual media façade, the usual niches into which they’re shoved. These women are real, are whole people who don’t spend their entire screen lives as satellites to male characters. We see ugly sides to human nature, and that’s a freedom women rarely have on TV.
The Razor-Sharp Humor
Maybe a show about prison isn’t supposed to be funny, but OITNB can have you turn, so suddenly you have no idea how it happened, from tears to laughter in no time flat. When it’s funny, it’s a range of funny, from the quiet rue to the kind where you’re cringing, yet can’t help but laugh. It’s a laugh at life, and we all need that.
Best part of OITNB? You can watch it until you can’t keep your eyes open anymore. Long live the binge.