Editor’s Note: A few days ago I woke up around six in the morning, I have awful nightmares, and so then I watched Orange is the New Black all over again. I’m starting to know the show pretty well, so now I will finally spread some of my thoughts about it, which I’ve written for a while now.
Piper Chapman is what you would call a privileged white woman, a middle class beautiful blond in her thirties who is sentenced to 15 months in prison for something she did over ten years ago, when she was in a relationship with a woman who was a drug dealer, or who worked for an international drug cartel.
Piper’s days most often than not end up being a roller coaster of emotions and it seems she always needs a number of actions required to make it to the next day. Piper is smart and intelligent and this in itself is already a challenge to where she stands, as much as being Hispanic, as being shy, as being a horse’s ass. Therefore, it does not necessarily helps her. It’s an incredible harsh and to the minute unpredictable and spontaneous adaptation to a system and especially to the people, but actually as she later realizes, the biggest of them all is the adaptation to her true self.
As the stories unfold, we get to know the people we see on this prison, and I mean pretty much everyone. Sometimes one more thorough than the other, but always significant enough, sometimes it just takes two scenes, three sentences. And so as the stories unfold, people like Larry, Piper’s fiance and Polly, Piper’s best friend, quickly become aliens to not only her world but also for us. They easily and early on take what Piper say for granted. Like when she says one inmate is holding her hands. In the chicken episode, “The Chickening”, it’s when you can perhaps see the biggest translation of one thing being the world of Piper and then the other world outside, to what something means to Piper and its relation on the outside. It’s Piper’s life, and her life is in prison, so a chicken ends up being the bigger thing of her day.
Unconsciously and sometimes not, Piper constantly keeps bringing trouble and challenges not only to herself but all the other inmates around her and the dynamics of the prison. On the outside, the fiance keeps being more and more impatient with her fiance’s rants about only talking to white people, about chicken, about the crazy lady from the bathroom that was actuality talking to her boyfriend through a cellphone she was hiding in the toilet. Details, details, details. There are so many moments to describe, when a show brings you all these layers, these significant details, it’s a treat to watch it twice, to watch a scene five different times - which I already did.
Larry complains, Polly complains. And Piper complains. But Piper stops complaining as her days in prison go by, because she realizes that instead of complaining she just has to face the situations head on. When Larry and Polly complain, they also acknowledge their complaining and being allow to feel shitty even when they know how lucky they are. When they’re saying this, how lucky they are, they’re the ones who really don’t appreciate what they’re saying. They’re absolutely not. Because not only they keep complaining, they just don’t seem to appreciate it, you know, life. This is pretty clear as the days pass and Larry gets more and more impatient, like for his god forsaken non existing sex days. But later his concerns are also with Piper’s old girlfriend Alex, who is sharing the same prison with her fiance. We, at least I get more and more outraged or simply disturbed by Larry’s and Polly’s actions, of the people and the world outside. They become sometimes annoying the way they complain and don’t appreciate things. But then you also have some pretty extraordinary characters like Larry’s parents. It is brief, they only have a couple of scenes but they are absolutely great and thorough. It’s hilarious and down to earth in the sense that makes them so authentic and extraordinary people.
Something you notice with Larry and Polly, it’s also a big part of Piper, is that they’re selfish. Even though they’re good people at heart, they always end up talking about themselves, turning the conversations to their issues. But this is not even about being selfish; this is just a common human tendency. Being selfish is when Larry goes on a talk show to talk about his state as being the fiance of a woman who was sentenced to prison, and the exposure. This was narcissistic and just thoughtless the way he exposes Piper, he is clearly not thinking about Piper’s well being. She’s in prison, not him. And somehow the ones living outside sometimes can also seem to be the ones is prison too.
Isn’t it just fucking glorious a scene like this one - Piper is smiling, she’s finally doing her things in the toilet??
“I’ve been starved out, felted up, teased, stalked, threatened and called Taylor Swift.” Well, at the end I would go for Katy Perry. I don’t know if it is her eyes, her sweet gentle smile, her delicate figure, but she’s pretty irresistible. She can be manipulative, self centered, but then she’s genuine and sweet. So then I like her, and I don’t like her, but at the end I absolutely love her. And I really love Taylor Schilling and her small titties. At this point, I do hope she gets a bloody Emmy. Look at all her faces.
Piper Chapman and her relationship with Alex Vause is something heartbreaking. The writers allow us to go through their story through a steady building conflict; they present them to us with enough mystery which makes us even more connected as Piper and Alex go through their history together. It is just a decent story, the way they react to each other is always so strong; from when Piper is so raged she can’t even look at Alex’s face, or when Alex always shuts down and doesn’t ever say anything about Piper, in this way, showing how much she matters to her and the respect she gives. We see they care so much for each other. I have to mention this strange feeling of watching Orange is the New Black, “I wasn’t Ready” for the fifth time and remembering my early thoughts about this character of the girlfriend, Piper’s old girlfriend, that woman in the shower, and the thought that this woman was close to being just a mere extra…this is also a translation of my ignorance of TV History, because I had absolutely no idea of who Laura Prepon was. Now I know. This old girlfriend, Alex Vause, she turned out to be one of the most truthful, most strong and beautiful characters of the show. And this is saying a lot, because there are great characters on this show. Like a fuck load. Like all of them. Alex is intelligent and what I love the most about her is her ability of standing in her feet, defend herself. She stands on her own.
I just love, love, love how Alex stands on her own and responds back, with no shattering to pieces or especially making a big scene. One of my favorite moments it’s actually when Piper tells her she chooses Larry and she doesn’t take more than a minute to tell her the harsh and the most sober and fair responses – she didn’t broke down, she didn’t cry, she was tough as she could in those circumstances, because I’m sure she was absolutely broken inside, and yet she came around and raised her head and told Piper in the eyes she may never ever come back to her. Which is the fairest of replies towards the situation at hand and the history behind it and what Piper had already made her go through. I love that she stands on her own. She’s always so right. Piper/Taylor is also tremendous here, because you can see how much she’s hearting, how much she would love to be with her, but it isn’t just possible, it isn’t her world.
So yes, I never heard of Laura Prepon before. Coming to this show, the only actors I knew were Taylor Schilling, Pablo Schreiber, obviously Jason Bigs, Natasha Lyonne and possibly a couple more. One of the things I’m in absolute awe must be this unbelievably talented cast, great work done by the casting crew. Taylor Schilling is great. Laura Prepon was like perfection. Alex Vause is an attractive woman, but what really defines her is her strength, her sobriety. She’s the one that cuts the bullshit. But there are others too. Like a lot of determined people, someone like Miss Claudette.
If I start talking about this cast…it should be another ten posts. But what the hell, I’ve been talking about Piper for the past hundred phrases. You have Nicky with some serious parent issues, she turned to drugs. She tries to cope with her situation the best way she can.
“But she doesn’t talk!”, Nick says. “You might learn something”, replies Red. Red wanted more from her life than just be the cook-cleaning-wife. But no matter what, there are the ones who serve the bread and the ones who eat the bread. No one messes with her, but she’s also reliable and human. Then you have all these wonderfull and hilarious chickas, Maria, Maritza, Flaca-ca! Oh to see these girls act, what a treat. You have Yoga Jones who finds in her budaism some sort of shelter like any other, to overcome her past. Janae, who tried to belong and now she has to belong in prison and she’s no doubt looking after herself.
Poussey and Taystee are the best gals, they’re the best duo on the show! Their chemistry, they’re act and their stories, their irresistible wit it is just unbreakable and genius. Suzanne, aka Crazy Eyes, like most characters, she’s as human as her inmate neighbor. All these performances are truly remarkable and give so much to the show. Like Pornstache Mendez. Plabo Schreiber is so good here, from his pervert maneirisms, like his tongue, from the ruthless and genius comic timings. Joe Caputo, Mr. Healy and the other men are something as required to this show as…the toilets, you know? It’s part of the system.
And I still feel like I haven't even covered ten percent of interesting things I could talk about Orange. But it all comes back to the beginning and the willingness to watch this all over again. Orange is the New Black is good because it’s well written, it is defying, intelligent, it balances the details of today’s society and it becomes poignant in this aspect and then brings great awareness to a system we don’t really think about - prison. It brings questions and challenges you and there’s nothing more exciting than be looking at something and be completely taken by it and your mind goes on a roller coaster of math. It’s good because is consistent, part of this consistency is greatly followed by the great performances, from Pablo Schreiber to Danielle Brooks and their authenticity and Uzo Aduba’s credibility, to Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon’s chemistry and especially to all of the women’s courage. It’s all about them. The women in Orange.
And dude, how many times is the word “Lesbian” said in this show?
Morello - I never heard anyone speak like that, it’s genius. She’s hilarious.
The second part of this post comes right after.