Fangirl Friday: Orange Is The New Black

I am a very stubborn person. I know, I know. It's a shock. You thought I was easy-going and laid-back. I'm not. I like things my way, and I usually resist when they aren't. And one thing that I'm stubborn about is not doing what everyone else is doing. I don't knew where this came from, or why I avoid trends. I can't even remember when this started, so maybe I've always been a salmon (swimming against the current). But I do know that if everyone else is doing it, loving it, wearing it, chances are, I won't be. Usually this stubbornness serves me well, but sometimes I'm missing something really great, and don't find out until the furor has died down, and everyone else has moved on. This is the case with the Netflix show, Orange Is The New Black.

The show debuted the summer of 2013 and was an instant hit. Everyone was talking about it, so that, of course, meant that I was not going to watch it. The buzz died down, life went on and a year passed. Then my husband asked me to watch with him and I reluctantly agreed, knowing that if I didn't like it I could read while he watched. But something strange happened. I got sucked in. I couldn't stop watching and neither could he, so we binge-watched the two seasons in less than a week, staying up into the wee hours of the morning on the weekends because we needed to know what happened next. Then last month the third season was released, we devoured it, and I was so loathe to let go of the ladies of Litchfield, that I started over at the beginning.

What is is about OITNB that has so captured my time and attention? Come with me through the jump and I'll tell you all about why this amazing show is one of the best things on television right now, why you should be watching, if you aren't already.





Who Rules The World?


I love when the ladies call
each other out on their shit.
The number one thing that sets OITNB apart from other shows for me is the girl power. The vast majority of the storylines feature women, which is so damned rare on TV these days. Because the central setting is a women's prison, of course most of the characters will be women and the show will revolve around their problems, but it's still refreshing. We get to see all kinds of women, going through all kinds of things: love, loss, friendship, illness, betrayal, death, depression. It's all here, it's all handled with care and it all feels so real. These women could be your sister, mother, aunt, friend. Hell, they could be you. And their stories are being told, honestly and boldly, not as caricatures or as objects of fascination. It's just life.


We feel you, Blanca! 
An immensely beautiful aspect of the show is the fact that the women feel real and whole. They aren't stereotypes of women, it's not a show about strong women with no vulnerabilities. These women are strong and weak and sad and as happy as they can be and depressed and angry and withering and thriving. They have a depth of character that is rarely seen in any media. And it's not petty arguments and high school antics. These women live and work together 24/7 and they grow to view each other as family, to rely on one another to get by. In a male show-runner's hands I could see this material turned into childish behavior and stories with males at the center despite the setting, but Jenji Cohan brings a woman's touch and realism that is refreshing.


Diversity


The other big factor that sets OITNB apart from most everything else on TV is the sheer diversity of the characters. There are people of every color from every walk of life on this show, and that's just not done. I think TV in general is better in recent years about putting
Those Golden Girls are badasses who give no fucks.
shows with people of color as leads, but they aren't in the same shows. In Litchfield we see white women, black women, Hispanic women, older women (The Golden Girls on the show delight me with their don't-give-a-shit attitude!), young women, all living and working together. They have their tribes, groups with whom they feel most comfortable, but they don't have animosity for one another and they all have issues that are universal and real.


OITNB also treats sexuality in a way that I've never seen in media before, depicting women who fall all along the sexuality spectrum in a frank and honest way. Although I will say that I don't understand why we can't just call Piper bisexual and be done with it. In the first season, when she's engaged to a man she says she "used to be" a lesbian, and then when she tells her parents she has a girlfriend (after her engagement is broken) her mom asks if she's a lesbian again. It seems obvious to me that she's bisexual, so why don't they call it that? But I digress. Other than that one little hiccup, I really appreciate how honestly they handle such a delicate subject.


Yes, girl, YES!
There are so many LGBT characters on the show who are amazing and wonderful and living their truth as best they can, but I was floored with Boo's backstory this season. Her refusal to be anything but exactly who she is can come off as combative and confrontational, but seeing the adolescent Carrie asked to hide herself, see her grow into the big, brash, beautiful woman she is, was awe inspiring. Her refusal to be invisible may have made me cry a little and should be a rallying cry for all women, regardless of what aspect of ourselves society is asking us to hide. #RefuseToBeInvisible


All You Need Is Friends


BFF Goals
Possibly my favorite thing about the show is the depiction of friendship. From pairs of friends to solid friend groups, the ladies of Litchfield have amazing relationships. My very favorite is Taystee and Poussey. They are the kind of BFFs I've always wanted: smart and funny, they get each other and always look out for one another. They want nothing but happiness for the other person, even when it makes them sad. They are amazing together. 


Proof you don't have to agree on everything
to be amazing friends.
In season 3 the friendship that developed between Big Boo and Pensatucky was surprising and wonderful. From the first episode of the season, when Boo helps Penn feel better with some brutal truth it's clear that this unlikeliest pair of friends are developing something special. Then Pennsatucky gives Boo her own brutal honesty while trying to help her take advantage of some sanctimonious assholes. But the absolute best, the part that made me cry was when Boo forced Penn to face her truth, supported her when she needed it, was infuriated on her behalf, and then stood beside her to help her get revenge. It was amazing and powerful, both in helping Pennsatucky harness her sadness and anger and in the depiction of Boo's protective side. 

There really are too many amazing friendships to be able to list them all here. Perhaps one day, a post about my top ten? In the meantime, if you aren't familiar with the relationships formed at Litchfield Prison, start watching OITNB. Even when they're frustrating, they're still glorious. 


Bottom Line


Suzanne: hilarious and so real!
There are so many amazing reasons that you should be watching Orange Is The New Black that this post barely scratches the surface. The killer backstories for everyone. The hilarious moments and plotlines. The ridiculousness. The on-point social commentary. The character arcs that make you love people you used to loathe (I'm lookin at you, Pennsatucky). The smart characters. The painfully dumb characters. All of Suzanne's antics, especially her writing. The fact that, so far, the bad guys get their comeuppance; that is so refreshing in this show. The literary references, including some Wench favorites. It is just a wonderful, wonderful show. It is so good and so smart that I get caught up in it, binge-watching, devouring every episode and then standing back to see the bigger picture, all of the details that equal one of the best TV shows ever. 


Are you hooked on Orange Is The New Black, Saucy Reader? Have I convinced you to give it a try? Have you tried watching and it's just not your cup of tea? Share your thoughts below!


***All GIFs from http://orangeis.tumblr.com/ and http://orangeitnblack.tumblr.com/

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