So, stop me if you have heard this one…a doe eyed blonde walks into a bar and into the sights of a worldly brunette Betty Page lesbian who awakens her sexuality and introduces her to a life of first class luxury, travel, and enlists her to be drug trafficker for an international drug cartel… Orange Is the New Black is a Netflix dramedy based on Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. When tuning in, viewers should expect the same dark and twisted humor Jenji Kohan had previously brought to Weeds. In the first episode, “I Wasn’t Ready,” flashbacks of Piper Chapman’s recent past with boyfriend Larry are peppered among scenes of the two preparing for her self-surrender to the federal women’s prison, Litchfield. The two engage in a laundry list of “must dos” such as going to the beach, Larry popping the question, binging on a last meal out with friends, and sex. When Piper finally comes to Litchfield to surrender, both she and Larry are treated as faceless annoyances as they wait for her to be taken back for processing. They both learn an invaluable lesson: never underestimate apathetic government employees on a power trip. Throughout this entire season, Piper’s flashbacks to her life of clean, upper-crust white luxury parallel the gritty, dirty reality of prison. She is subjected to a full cavity search, forced to change clothing in the open where prisoners and correctional officers can both watch, and must use a doorless stall. She even forges shower slippers out of maxi pads. Apparently, in a female prison, maxi pads are used for everything from cleaning floors to making face masks in order to prevent catching the flu. Racism, lesbianism, and a definitive culture exist inside the walls of Litchfield. Piper quickly finds out that each “tribe” takes care of its own. The inner society is made up whites, African Americans, Latinas, and the others (a hodgepodge of other races and the elderly). Each group provides the ground rules and absorbs the newbies into their ranks. For example, all whites are viewed as the same and privileged while the “others” are not viewed as threats to anyone. Within these racial divisions, there are even smaller subsets. Pennsatucky and her followers are depicted as impoverished Appalachian meth heads that blindly follow a Christian belief of faith healing without ever being shown reading or studying scripture. Meanwhile, a Latina who speaks very little Spanish is shamed by the rest of her group for not embracing her culture. Among all of the potentially damaging racial and economic stereotypes, there is a character included to fight against such stereotypes. Sophia is a transgender hair dresser who has a wife and son, but was convicted of committing credit card fraud to pay for her sexual reassignment surgery. Her main focuses are to maintain her hormone regimen even when the Department of Corrections switches a generic medication plan which changes her dosage and she works diligently to rebuild a relationship with her son, Michael. It is difficult to be a teenage, but adding in a transgender father who is absent because he is incarcerated only adds to the alienation and angst of being a teenager. What show about a women’s prison would be complete without lesbianism? There are two types of lesbians in this show, gold star lesbians who would never touch a man and gay for stay who just want to keep their sexual needs fulfilled while in prison. Bisexual Piper is the odd girl out. First, in “Lesbian Request Denied,” an inmate called Crazy Eyes has decided Chapman (or “Dandelion” as Crazy Eyes calls her) is her wife and that they need to work on their “swirl” (an inter-racial relationship). Piper tries to let her down easy, but fails which results in Crazy Eyes peeing in front of Piper’s bed. Piper further struggles when the aforementioned Betty Page ex-girlfriend Alex appears among the prison population. Did I mention that Alex named Chapman to the feds and is the reason she is in prison? Even though the show centers on Chapman and the impact prison has on her and her family, the supporting characters easily steal the show. Larger than life characters such as Morello, Big Boo, and Taystee are among fan favorites. The writers also take care to explain the backstory of the supporting characters and we see why they are in prison. Red, who reigns over the kitchen and has created a smoothly-run network for smuggling contraband into the prison, also serves as a strict mother, or perhaps sergeant, to the white population. In fact, she seems to almost run the prison itself. But she is not a sentimental character with a heart of gold. She is cold, intimidating, and threatening. When Piper complains to her about the food, not knowing she oversaw the kitchen, not only does Red serve her a bloody tampon sandwich, she then decides to starve her out. She aims to kill her slowly and painfully. No one in the prison dares to sneak her food except Alex. Piper, in a brief tough-as-nails moment, throws it out. The correctional officers range from soft and easy to evil and sadistic. Mr. Healy is the hardest to figure out. He has his own personal lesbian witch hunt. He seems to be the shell of a man who once gave a crap, but has been chewed up by lost causes and government bureaucracy. He also becomes fixated upon Chapman. He thinks that she will be a shining star to turn the prison around with her culture and education. When he sees her fall back in love with Alex, it is the final blow to his fragile optimism. He throws her in solitary for dancing with Alex and even tells Larry that she has been cheating on him. Bennett is another CO that falls into a gray area. He becomes infatuated with an inmate named Daya. At first, it is an innocent high school flirtation, but quickly turns sexual. Daya gets pregnant and he finds himself wedged between trying to stand by her and save his own neck. Because of the power correctional officers hold over their inmates, any sexual activities are considered to be rape despite consent. Red and Daya’s mother, another inmate, hatch a plan that would simultaneously keep Bennett’s name clear of the scandal and remove a thorn from Red’s side. Mendez is the most sadistic and abusive CO. Not only does he blackmail Red into opening her contraband channels to smuggle drugs into the prison, but he sees the prison as his own feeding ground for sexual partners. Daya seduces Mendez and the other inmates make sure that he is caught in the act. Bennett is told about the plan after Mendez has been fired and arrested, but he does nothing to stop it. Bennett is a war veteran who has lost a leg, but not in combat. He was drunk and injured the leg, which resulted in a nasty infection and amputation. He is not a hero who was harmed in combat. He is just a guy who got hurt one drunken night. This shows his moral character. He could have sacrificed to serve his country, but he was got hurt at a bar like countless drunken frat boys. He could have stood up and exposed the plan once he found out, but, instead, he took the easy way out. The most annoying and forgettable character is Larry. He is stagnant and pathetic. He serves as a reminder of what Piper has lost. She not only had freedom, but complete comfort and privilege before she went to prison. The stories and plots that take place in the prison are so interesting and well developed that it is a disappointing interruption when Larry comes on screen. He is self-involved and wears a hang dog pouty face. He is a struggling writer who finally sells an article about life with a fiancé who is in prison, but it is not his story that people want to read. They want to know about Piper and her experience. He even weasels his way on to an NRP program about long distance relationships. He tells stories about Piper’s first impressions of her fellow inmates as cheap anecdotes with the entire prison listening in. The fragile friendships she has struggled to build fall apart. We see Crazy Eyes crying and are reminded that these characters are meant to represent people with real emotions. There are two episodes that shake you back to the ironic reality that this show takes place in a prison. In “Bora, Bora, Bora,” Tricia returns from detox to find that she has been ousted from Red’s prison family. Red has a “two strikes and you are out” drug policy. Tricia feels the pressure of alienation and is haunted by ghosts. Mendez pressures her to distribute and sell drugs to the other prisoners. Unable to cope, she intentionally overdoses. Mendez, of course, covers up the overdose when he finds the body and makes it look like she hanged herself. The final episode, “Can’t Fix Crazy,” is equally chilling. The inmates have worked hard to stage a Christmas pageant. Everyone involved with the show are enjoying showing off their dancing, singing, and acting. Over the last few episodes, Pennsatucky has become increasingly less stable and obsessed with Alex and Piper. Mr. Healy has a vendetta against Piper. She plays ball when she can in order to manipulate him and get what she wants, but she is not the cultural Godsend he believed her to be. The final blow is when he sees her dancing with Alex and realizes they are in a lesbian relationship. He then sets out to destroy her. He contacts Larry and tells him that Piper is having an affair with Alex. At this point, Piper has already ended the affair and decides to stay true to Larry. Once he learns of the affair, Larry must finally meet Alex in order to try to figure out why she has such a hold on her. Alex reveals that Piper is the one who seduced her in prison and Larry calls off the wedding. Piper has not only lost her ally and lover in prison, but her link to the outside world and her previous life. Piper is now truly alone. The holidays and threats from a shiv-wielding Pennsatucky push Piper to the brink. She manages to go outside for air and is met by Pennsatucky who is dressed as an angel. Healy steps outside and Piper pleads for him to help her, but he turns a blind eye and walks off. Is she just another disappointment that he wants to throw to the wolves? Perhaps he wants to see a sexual deviant punished for her sins by an angel? Piper who is almost twice as tall as Pennsatucky finally loses all of her humanity and starts to beat her face with no mercy. After suffering through alienation and starvation, Piper has completely lost herself. Blood hits Piper’s face and the white snow. Piper has officially been baptized into the life of an inmate. See larger image Orange Is The New Black: Season 1 [Blu-ray + Digital HD] New From: $6.95 USD In Stock Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.