Characters Welcome: Why We’re Tickled Pink Over the Success of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

orange is the new black cast
By: Victoria Nelli

With an unparalleled amount of praise, it can easily be said that ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK is one of this years best new shows. From nominations to magazine covers, this show is all anyone talks about. I can honestly say one of my favorite past times this year has been asking people if they have watched OITNB, and if they say they haven’t seen it, then I tell them they MUST watch it. The I get the text saying “you ruined my life, when does the second season come out.”

Avid TV watchers will agree when I say ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK changed television, or at least changed the way we watch television. Not only did we finally understand the term “binge watching” we realized it’s actually a life style. And the funny thing about the women’s prison hit is, it’s not even on television! OITNB is a Netflix original, which means it, was produced for Netflix only and can only be viewed on the online streaming service.

The reason so many people watch to see what happens to Piper (Taylor Schilling) or Alex (Laura Prepon) isn’t because it’s got the hottest fashions in TV. (Those orange and beige jumpsuits really aren’t that flattering) And it’s not because of the huge guest stars or elaborate sets. Instead it’s because of Jenji Kohan’s brilliant characters.

To say OITNB is character driven is an understatement, the show is all about the characters, without them and their brilliant dialogue and troubling back-stories, the show wouldn’t be what it is today. Characters like Poussey and Taystee definitely add a comedic aspect to the show, saying lines such as “I got that new do boo” and “Ina Garten is making brown butter cake today, don’t f**k with my cooking shows T.”

Piper Chapman is probably one of my favorite characters ever on a television show. She changes so drastically over the course of one season. I like to think of her as a female Walter White. (Breaking Bad fans, please don’t yell at me) White went from being a straight-laced high school teacher to a meth dealing, murderer. The way his character evolved into something almost inhuman. That’s the road it seems like Piper is headed, obviously I don’t think she is going to become a meth dealer and start killing people but she definitely isn’t the same person she was when she entered that prison. In the pilot episode we saw a scared, obedient, waspy, white girl enter Danbury. And in the season finale we saw a destroyed, beaten, desperate, prisoner, walk out onto the prison yard and almost kill another inmate.

The reason I fell in love with this show so quickly is because of the characters, their stories, and the writing. It’s the same reason I love shows like GREY’S ANATOMY and PARKS AND RECREATION. (I understand how different all of those shows are. How cool would it be though if Leslie Knope was in prison! ) All of those shows have strong woman leads and aren’t stepping down from the task at hand, they are rising to the occasion and fighting for what they want and what they believe is right, even if it changes them in the process.

There are a lot of things I would like to see next season, and I think some of the fans of the show will agree with me. I want to see a little more of Morello and Poussey’s back-story! They were two great characters this season, and to see a look into their past would be great! I want to see Piper not go crazy, and come to terms with her self, and the fact that no one put her in prison, she did it to herself. She tends to blame other people for everything she does and I think she will realize that’s not right.

The show is ground breaking! It gave a voice to these female characters that no one ever thought needed a voice, women of every race, rich or poor, fat or skinny. The person they were before they were sent to prison doesn’t matter; they could be anyone in prison. It sounds like I’m glorifying prison, but for some of these women it is glorious. It’s better then the lives they were living outside of the brick walls. Look at Taystee, she was let out early and couldn’t take living away from her friends, the rules, and order that she had in prison, so she ended up back at Danbury. Then you have people like Piper, who are counting the hours until they see real food, family, and a comfy bed again.

“You really have to admire the way these women find meaning in their days. How they take care of each other.” To me, that’s it right there, the whole series summed up in a quote. These women are just people, who at the end of the day want to be loved and have a purpose. Thanks to this brilliant show these women, the real women have a voice, their stories have been told, and they have millions of people listening.

Victoria Nelli loves TV so much that she is paying $30,000 a year to learn about it in College. When she’s not learning about TV she enjoys writing about her favorite shows, interviewing anyone in the industry that will let her, and ranting about how underrated Parks and Recreation is. She is very much aware of her Netflix addiction, and no she will not be seeking help anytime soon. You can follow her on Twitter @VictoriaNelli