By Michelle Elliot
Netflix releases its original series all at once. Consequently, with comedies like ‘Orange is the New Black’ so readily available, it is difficult not to spend your days binge watching.
Orange is the New Black is based on the memoir written by Piper Kerman: an upper class white woman facing jail time for a drug offence, a crime that she committed in her college years with her ex-girlfriend, Alex. Yet as the show runner Jenji Kohan acknowledged, Piper is ‘more Trojan horse than heroine’. Each episode focuses on a diverse range of female characters battling different demons in prison, ranging from an egotistical former nun to a transgender firefighter.
Men should not be put off by the predominantly female cast. This is not a show about women for women. This is a drama with enough robberies and violence to rival men’s prison shows. Through flashbacks we get to know the characters’ background and their story. These flashbacks enable the audience to sympathise, even perhaps with characters who, without these flashbacks we could not ordinarily relate to – including a joy riding bank robber. It completely humanizes a section of society heavily judged and hated, whilst simultaneously providing comedy moments that are so funny your sides will hurt laughing.
Each character is larger than life: from Black Cindy’s illegal frisking of hot men in her previous job, to the one-liners from Pennsatucky, including ‘it’s a metaphor, you potato with eyes!’ Each individual character, perhaps with the exception of villain Vee, will make you laugh and draw attention to serious issues not just within the prison system but society too: drug abuse, racism and homophobia to name but a few. Despite the heavy subject matter, it never feels dark or uncomfortable. The characters battle through their problems, constantly making us laugh – the show is never without some comic relief.
The balance between comedy and drama is perhaps why this show has been so successful and why it’s addictive to the point of binge. On the other hand it may be because the characters are so compelling that the flashbacks mean we actually care what happens to them and need to know why they are in prison in the first place. It offers an insight into a section of society that we rarely get to see and has an impact that is impossible to forget. If you haven’t already done so, watch this programme. For the rest of us, all we can do is eagerly await season 3’s arrival in 2015.}