As soon as I heard the trailer for Orange is the New Black had Rilo Kiley’s “A Better Son/Daughter” in it, I was immediately sold. Oh, Netflix; you know how to reel a girl in. Orange begins with our narrator and unlikely criminal protagonist, Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) saying, “I’ve always loved getting clean. I loved baths. I loved showers. It’s my happy place. Was my happy place.” while a montage of shower/bath sex scenes play and introduce Piper’s ex-girlfriend (Laura Pepron!) and current fiancé (Jason Biggs).
This is not just a show about prison life. Please. Do you think I would have obsessively binge-watched all 13 episodes in two days for day-to-day prison drama? This is a show about emotional, physical and psychological turmoil that occurs within prison and oneself. It’s about Stockholm Syndrome. It’s about survival and social issues. It’s about love and absolute hatred. Most importantly, it’s about a young woman in her early thirties who gets busted for a crime she stupidly committed ten years ago post-college, and now she is confronted with her past life, her inner rebel, and…moldy prison pudding.
If I haven’t sold you already, here are ten reason why you need to drop everything (including True Blood; it’s so not worth it this season anyway) and check out Orange is the New Black.
1. Taylor Schilling is amazing, but she’s almost just a literary foil for all the great, great characters.
Yes, the show centers around Piper Chapman’s experience in prison and how she copes with her new life, her old life and how this affects her relationship with her fiancé, Larry. However, as the show progresses, it becomes much more than a story about a woman who used to shop organic at Whole Foods and got her liberal arts degree from Smith. The plot expands and the other inmates’ stories become richer and more developed; the audience becomes invested in the LOST-like flashbacks of the characters’ former lives outside of prison. Everyone’s stories are equally heartbreaking, hilarious, poignant and important.
2. The show presses buttons.
Orange is the New Black doesn’t tip-toe around racial and corruption issues within the federal prison system. It stomps on them. Piper is told that “It’s tribal, not racist” when she questions the segregation in the institution, and is told by her homophobic guidance counselor to stay with women of her own color. The show unveils guards who take advantage of their authority and sexually harass the inmates, and prison officials who keep quiet about issues that should be dealt with for political reasons. There is not a stone that is unturned; stereotypes are presented and deconstructed, there is not one character who is only one-dimensional. It’s not just comedy, the writers are definitely making statements here, too.
3. Piper explains what Robert Frost’s poem “The Road not Taken” actually means.
I literally squealed when Piper explained to some inmates who flippantly referenced Frost’s poem “The Road not Taken,” that the poem doesn’t actually mean that the guy chose a special road and took it. Piper informs them that the speaker just happened to take one road as opposed to the other by pure chance; the roads were identical, but he ended up in a different place for essentially no reason at all. Basically, the poem stresses that there is no weight on certain paths in our lives. Things happen, we end up going down a “path” we didn’t necessarily plan to take. This pretty much sums up the entire premise of the show and I think that is so freaking smart and cool.
4. You will have like, fifty epiphanies.
It might start with Robert Frost, but you might also look at life a little bit differently after you experience The Chicken. For years, there has been a rumor that a mysterious chicken occasionally makes its’ way into the prison’s gates. It may symbolize hope, but it also represents Piper’s undoing when she drops an important phone call to go chase it down. Is she finally coming to terms with her new life? Is she beginning to separate herself from the clean-cut girl who first walked in wearing orange? When Piper says, “I’m scared that I’m not myself in here. I’m scared that i am,” I got goosebumps.
5. Taryn Manning is the best meth head Jesus freak, ever.
The last time I heard of Taryn Manning was when she was playing Eminem’s girlfriend in 8 Mile, but I hear she’s in Son’s of Anarchy, so I can’t say this is her amazing comeback. But you guys, she literally looks like a meth head! Her teeth are all brown, her voice sounds like she eats cigarettes for breakfast, and she is tenacious! At one point of the show, she is convinced God has granted her healing powers, but that’s all I’m going to reveal.
6. This is probably what prison is actually like (minus the hilarity).
It seems like Jenji Kohan did her research (the show is also based on a memoir). Upon watching Orange is the New Black, I never knew how roommates were assigned in prison. I also didn’t know that you never sleep IN the bed, but on top. Also, never insult the chef. She will probably starve you out and put you on her sh*t list until you make it up to her in some kind of innovative prison way.
7. It’s unapologetic in every way.
The show explores bisexual, homosexual, transgender, and straight relationships honestly and explicitly. At one point, Piper says, “I like hot girls. I like hot boys. I like hot people. What can I say? I’m shallow.” Furthermore, the women in the show are not afraid of being intimate for the sake of feeling loved and feeling something. On the flip side, there is a lot of antagonism going on towards homosexuality as well, revealing fundamental issues that reflect real life societal behavior.
8. You can learn how to be resourceful.
Piper doesn’t have any funds for her first week in prison, so instead of showering barefoot, she constructs flip-flops made out maxi pads and tape. In fact, there are many outside-the-box things you can do with maxi pads. Who knew?
9. The plot twists are to die for.
Do I mean that literally? All I’m going to say is that you won’t be able to watch just one episode. Every single character will surprise you in some way; they will leave you moved, laughing, angry, or crying.
10. The best part, is that you can watch it all in one go.
Because Netflix is an evil genius who has catered to us young people who are too impatient to wait a week for more. Or, you can savor it and watch it at your own pace. It’s up to you, and it’s so, so beautiful.