Thoughts on Orange is the new black season 1

Hello everyone! Sorry for being so lazy the past two weeks (? I lost track). Also sorry for writing so many reviews these days even though the blog is actually supposed to host my fiction – day job is keeping me from writing creative stuff. Also, Netflix keeps me from sitting down and writing.

Which brings us to today’s review-thingy: Orange is the new black season 1! Because Germany finally got Netflix (geez, guys, why on earth did it take you sooo long?)! And I’m spending way too much time with it! Enough with the advertising! SPOILERS GALORE!

So! How did I first hear of OITNB? Probably somewhere on Twitter. And what got me interested in the first place? Laura Prepon, who I LOVED on That 70s show – until she dyed her hair blonde. But then again, nobody liked that last season, I think. And now she’s back – with black hair. Suits her better. I digress.

Because I want to talk about the series and the characters – and let me start by saying: I love it! Let me chart this in more detail:

START: Poor Piper – holy shit, those women are awful!

MIDDLE: Piper is actually pretty naive – and I like her inmates better than her.

FINALE: Piper is just so stupid – can I get more about the others?

I guess that’s what the writers were aiming for. As an audience, we’re supposed to root for Piper. She, the good girl, comes into that messed up jail, is harrassed, we feel for her and hate everyone. We even root for her fiancé! (Jason Biggs has evolved ever since his American Pie days – but not that much.)

And then they show us where those other women are coming from. Why they’re in prison. What drives them. And what I actually love about this show: nobody ever is judged. We’re just presented with the facts, and nothing is ever black or white (possible exception: Christianity – I’ll get to that). And every time you get to think “How would I react?” “What would I do?” “What would I say?” – and pretty quickly you arrive at the conclusion that there is often no wrong or right. Just different consequences. Amazing.

As I said, Christianity is the possible exception to this rule. Because let’s face it: you’re supposed to hate Pensatucky. Since she’s not taking Meth anymore (at least it doesn’t look like Medez supplies her with it), what she says is what she really believes in. And even when they reveal her background story in the end, you can’t help but think that she got what she deserved. Remarkably, her background is also the most absurd – come on, a crowd of anti-abortionists hailing her as their savior in court? That was a pretty ridiculous scene. I’m not saying that the bad guy (or girl, in this case) shouldn’t be a radical Christian. I’m perfectly happy with a radical Christian villain. But somehow it feels like it’s all too easy to hate her. I guess that’s the danger when you’re creating extremist characters: if the audience doesn’t agree with their extremist opinions to some degree, they become shallow.

Still, by the end of the series I almost liked Pensatucky a little bit more than Piper. Wow, a show with a main character I don’t like and that I still don’t stop watching. That’s pretty rare. Like I said, in the beginning I liked Piper. Yeah, she’s naive, but hey, she’s a nice girl, trying to make the best of her situation. But as it turns out, she’s not only naive, she’s also stupid. And she thinks she’s getting tough, but actually, she’s not. She believes the world outside stops turning while she’s in there and even though she sees right from the start that that’s not the case, she doesn’t stop believing that it does. Okay, and she has a stupid fiancé and failed to set up rules with him for her time in prison. Like: respect my privacy and that of my fellow inmates. Or: talk to me, for heaven’s sake. She hasn’t thought anything through – essentially, she’s still the 20-something who started dating Alex because it was exciting. But even Alex has evolved since then!

Luckily, when you’re done with Piper, you still got a ton of interesting female characters left to choose from. Which actually makes the series similar to Sailor Moon. Huh?! Okay, so the Comics Alliance recently noted that one of the things that made the Japanese anime so compelling was that it had so many female characters for girls to relate to: even if you didn’t like Sailor Moon herself, you could find some girl you liked among the other characters (10 females in the core group! TEN!). The same is true for OITNB: don’t like Piper? Pick someone else! (but be warned: it’s hard and you might be in for a disappointment)

So in sum: It’s an awesome show, you should totally watch it and I’m really looking forward to the events of season 2 (no, I’m not binging – yet).


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