Orange may permanently be the New Black

Some shows, such as Gossip Girl, Suits, Entourage, and Californication attract their audience because they feature young, rich and successful characters with luxurious and thrilling lifestyles. Essentially, we watch these shows because we want to experience this type of life for ourselves.

What I think is unique is about “Orange is the New Black” is that audience is given a look into a scenario we would never want experience. Piper Chapman, a public relations executive, is suddenly stripped of her life accomplishments and forced to trade her steady career for prolonged jail time. She is thrown into a new and scary situation that her finance background and safe middle-class life could have never prepared her for. Filled with crazy inmates, crowded living spaces, poor sanitation, gross living quarters and corrupt authority, the prison is anything but welcoming. I think this plotline is appealing to audiences because we relate to Piper as an individual and wonder what we would do in her unfortunate situation. Piper must overcome the many emotional and physical struggles of prison in hopes of returning to her old life. The audience takes on this journey of survival with Piper and gets an inside look at the not-so-glamourous life behind bars.


Although we empathize with Piper, as the show progresses, the focus shifts from her story to the stories of the other women in the prison. Everyone is quick to judge inmates in jail because they have obviously committed crimes, and this concept is uncomfortable for us.  It is easy to label and identify these individuals as a bad people. As Piper is forced to reside (very close) with the other women in the prison,  unexpected friendships between them begin to form. With each episode, we learn about the backgrounds of the other women and what they went through before prison. A very interesting and important aspect of this show is the usage of flashbacks of each woman to tell their unique story and reveal their truths to the public. These powerful flashbacks humanize these criminals and uncover their true identities beyond the orange jumpsuits.



This article gave background on some of the main characters and their flashbacks.


I appreciate this show because it inspired me to adjust the way I view individuals, such as criminals, who have hit rock bottom because of their past mistakes. I am not saying that all people are innocent and good because they are not, but there is more to a person than their past. The in-depth look into the strong, passionate and courageous personalities of these women shatter the perception we, as outsiders, see prisoners. Piper, a successful woman with a career and a fiancee, is on the exact same playing field as a woman who lives in poverty and has no family. Even coming from all different walks of life, these women are fighting through the same journey of survival and recovery, and there is something powerful about that.




-Sarah Holt

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12 Responses to Orange may permanently be the New Black

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I have never seen Orange is the New Black, but I need to! I’ve heard awesome reviews of the show. I wonder, how realistic is the show? Is prison life glamorized at all? It would be interesting to know how accurate the conditions are. -Caitlin Herlihy

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I have to admit, I couldn’t get through the first episode of Orange is the New Black. And, I think I shied away from the show for exactly this reason: it made me uncomfortable. I decided that I wanted to watch a show that made me feel good or made me laugh, not something that was set in a women’s prison. I think your point really speaks to the possibilities of giving something new—no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel—a chance, because you don’t know how it might change the way you look at the world. I will definitely have to revisit this one!

    – Lydia Geisel

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I really like Orange is the New Black and I, definitely, see your point! The show does offer some new perspective on various characters, which allows more depth to each person. As the series progresses, it prevents you from making snap decisions about these inmates. Crazy Eyes story got to me the most because she is such a kind character. It made me really stop and think about each character and what they had to go through to reach this point. The show does not glamorize prison or stick to the same mundane story line. It touches on important issues and provides a very important aspect to different situations that many shows are afraid to talk about.

    -Shelby Halliman

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I have never seen the show myself but I have heard all of the great things about it that have been circulated over the past few years. Maybe I will have to check it out eventually, but I am hesitant to because it does not seem like my type of show. Your review of it definitely makes me more likely to look into it however.

    -Max Lissette

  5. mediaphiles says:

    Great article on a very popular show. I enjoyed the show due to its interesting and dynamic character development but never thought of the true importance of it. Bravo!

    Katherine Naylor

  6. mediaphiles says:

    I wish I could get into this show because it has such a large fan base but I havn’t been able to. Your post has motivated me to give it one last shot, I really like how you present the show and characters!

    -Kendra Thornton

  7. mediaphiles says:

    I have battled with this show on multiple accounts. I watched the first two seasons and was really into it because you are right it gives you insight on a lifestyle none of us would ever want to experience. I was sold, but then season three came around and I couldn’t do it anymore. I became annoyed I felt that it was repetitive someone was always not liking another and it just cycled. I think the idea of the show is great though it lets you experience a different lifestyle. I wonder how a show like this dealing with teens in a juvenile detention center, or even males in the prison system would rate next to this one.
    -Dez Wortham

  8. mediaphiles says:

    I’ve always been so behind on shows that I never got around to watching Orange is the New Black. I’ll definitely have to juggle this show with the other ones I’m watching now.

    Russell Lawrence

  9. mediaphiles says:

    Sarah, this is one of my favorite shows! Interestingly enough, I actually watched the series in reverse! I started at the end and then went back to the beginning! Without giving anything away, you begin to realize that Piper has always had a few things lying beneath the surface! The show has also done an amazing job, especially in the last season, commenting on social injustice.

    -Luke Dellorso

  10. mediaphiles says:

    This is one of my favorite shows as well! I think because as you mentioned, it is very different from other traditional tv series or plots. I think what I find so great about the show is how it explores the other characters and their personal narratives and their relation to Piper. Incorporating these personal details and characteristics makes it such a great show to follow and definitely the reason why I absolutely love it!

    Catherine Maier

  11. marymdalton says:

    Check out Corey Washburn’s chapter on it:

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