Why 'Orange Is the New Black' Deserves To Be Revisited
Nothing But Netflix
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 21:02
Netflix can do no wrong. Instant, unlimited streaming of “30 Rock?” Check. The ability to watch “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” at your leisure? Check. And with its decision to start producing its own exclusive original shows, Netflix has basically negated any need for actual cable.
Although released half a year ago, “Orange is the New Black” is a show that demands to be revisited or marathoned for the first time, if you missed the craze when it was originally released. Raw, blatantly sexual and not afraid to address social and cultural controversies, Jenji Kohan’s creation is a hot mess, but one worth the time.
One prison, dozens of women, and way too many orange jumpsuits is a tricky premise to ground a show on, and begs for the comedy to either be painfully crude or the drama to be painfully sappy. Yet “Orange is the New Black” skirts past all of these potential difficulties with grace.
When I first discovered the show, a part of me was shocked, a part of me judged the explicit crudeness and a part of me was completely enthralled.
Although a large chunk of the show is devoted to graphic sex scenes, the plot manages to intertwine the lives and backstories of multiple characters, so that even though Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) may be the protagonist, it’s not just a show about her. You begin to develop an interest in the lives of everyone, from the former drug dealer to the girl struggling with developing feelings for one of the guards. Flashbacks are utilized to effectively flesh out characters so that they become more than minor aspects of Piper’s life. It creates a sympathy for people that would normally be written off as criminals — it reflects on society and how being good or bad isn’t necessarily denoted by whether you’re in front of or behind the bars.
The show takes place in a prison in upstate New York, a prison Piper is sent to after being charged for carrying a suitcase of drug money ten years ago for her ex-girlfriend, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon). Piper finds out about her 15-month sentence after creating a new life for herself as an engaged, law-abiding woman in New York City.
When Piper arrives at prison she is immediately greeted with a cold shoulder from pretty much everyone. She unintentionally gets on the bad side of the kitchen matron. She makes enemies with the Bible-thumping drug addict, and is forced to deal with the reality of past relationships and loves. Part of what makes the show so fascinating is how Piper slowly descends into insanity, altering her own morals in the name of survival. Although she begins the show as your typical WASP, Piper is forced to reexamine herself when she can no longer hide behind her career and juice cleanses.
Each episode is a masterpiece in its own right, especially because each episode tackles a different, controversial theme and boasts unabashed sex scenes that often makes “Girls” seem tame. As you’re prepping for the new season of “House of Cards,” don’t forget about Netflix’s other extraordinary release.
Jason Cardinali is a freshman in the College. Mariah Driver is a freshman in the College. Nothing But Netflix appears every other Friday online in the guide.