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Orange Is the New Black? More Like Red Is the New White! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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June 19th, 2014


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10:32 pm - Orange Is the New Black? More Like Red Is the New White!
Once again, the Internet was right: Orange Is the New Black is fucking fantastic. Mixing the cheeky humor of Weeds with the prison drama of Oz, it creates something fresh and original (based on a memoir).

Everything's going great for Piper Chapman: she's white, she's blonde, she's pretty, she's well off, she's engaged, she's arrested, wait, hold up, that's not supposed to happen. Just like that, a torrid lesbian relationship with a drug runner comes back to haunt her, and she's sentenced to a year in a women's prison in Litchfield. Piper is the audience's POV character, a fish out of water, and she is our gateway to a cast unlike any other on television: women, women, women, of all colors and sizes and backgrounds. White women, black women, Latina women, Chinese woman, Japanese-Scottish woman, transwoman, it's basically unreal. I loved how different everyone looked, not just from the usual women you see on television but also from each other. And even better, they sounded different; so many different (literal) voices on this show, from Morello's hybrid East Coast accent to Miss Claudette's authoritarian Caribbean accent, from Yoga Jones's Patty Mayonnaise voice to Miss Rosa's husky voice.

Although the show is ostensibly Piper's story, it's the stories surrounding her that are the most compelling. And there are so many because everyone has one. Todd VanDerWerff calls Orange Is the New Black one of the most empathetic shows in the history of television, and he's right: this show cares about its characters. Everyone is a person, for better or for worse. Through flashbacks, we learn how the characters ended up in prison, and many—perhaps too many—are victims of circumstance, committing crimes to get out of a bad situation, usually for love, familial or romantic. The show does not absolve them of guilt or responsibility, but, again, it empathizes with them. Even the few male characters, most of whom are pretty terrible people, are drawn well enough that we understand why they're terrible and, in some cases, even feel the teensiest bit bad for them. In the end, nearly everyone's story boils down to a story of identity: who are you? Who were you out of prison? Who are you in prison? Which is the real you? And what kind of power does it give you to answer that question?

I could wax rhapsodic about how much I love all the characters, about how Taystee is the best because she loves Harry Potter, about how Crazy Eyes lives up to her name but isn't just a joke, about how I have never seen an episode of television like the one focused on Sophia, a transwoman. I could marvel at how intricately plotted the show is, especially in its second season, where multiple character arcs interweave and converge upon each other. I could point out the major flaw, which is Larry, Piper's fiancé, who is supposed to be our eyes on the outside to show what Piper is missing, how the world moves on without her, but instead makes us wish the show would get back to Litchfield already.

I could do all of these things, but you've got 26 episodes on Netflix sitting right there, waiting to be watched.
Current Mood: fullfull
Current Music: Jets Overhead - Blue Is Red

(5 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


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From:rufinia
Date:June 20th, 2014 04:28 pm (UTC)
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It's a great show! It's also a show that knows that Piper is the gateway (Jenji called her the shows Trojan Horse)- no one would buy a show without a Nice White Lady POV character, and a lot of people wouldn't watch it at first without one. This is how she got all of those stories that are NEVER told in the mainstream out there.

[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:June 20th, 2014 04:33 pm (UTC)
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Piper is definitely the gateway, and although she's surrounded by a lot of very interesting, different stories, I enjoy hers as well. A lot of people seem to find her dull and would like the show to lose her, but I think she's had a good character arc.
[User Picture]
From:missquita
Date:June 21st, 2014 02:29 am (UTC)
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Yep, yep, and yep!
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From:catalyst2
Date:June 21st, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC)
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I really need to watch this show - you are the fourth or fifth person to comment really positively on its originality. Sadly, it's not on TV here yet but season one is on DVD so I may have to watch it that way.
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From:etherealclarity
Date:June 23rd, 2014 01:35 pm (UTC)
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YES. YES YES YES. ALL OF THIS.

We just finished up Season 2 last night - so good.

Also, I read the book, and it is well worth reading. Most of the show is fictionalized, but when you read the book you can see so much of the inspiration for the show. And the book does a great job of highlighting the flaws in the prison system and sentencing. (Which is a very good lead-in to 'The House We Live In' documentary, available for streaming on Netflix, if you're interested in that sort of thing.)

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