I’m not much of a binge watcher, but I am positively drunk on Orange is the New Black. I think it’s the show I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. It somehow manages to be a combination of all the things I love about television writing and character, and something new altogether. Dark, gripping, awkward, funny, sweet, sexy, and unabashedly honest. Its lead character, Piper Chapman, is a mess. A complete and utter mess. She’s thoughtless and entitled and selfish.
And yet, I root for her.
More importantly, I love that I don’t know exactly why I root for her. For some reason, she touches me. Maybe it’s her fear and sense of responsibility. Her heart that is pulled in so many directions. Every time I think I get her, she does something to disappoint me. I think that is fucking beautiful.
Jenji Kohan’s touch is painted all over Orange. Her ability to make us love Nancy Botwin, the grossly negligent parent and drug dealer protagonist from Weeds, is evident as well in Orange. Very few female characters get to be this flawed. It makes us uncomfortable. We blindly accept the Walter Whites and Tony Sopranos of this world, but we like our female characters to be above that. Nancy Botwin wasn’t above anything.
Piper Chapman certainly isn’t.
The beauty of Orange is that this isn’t just Piper’s story. It’s just as much Red’s, Nicky’s, Sophia’s, Dayanara’s, Ms. Claudette’s and all the women at Litchfield’s story. Theirs are the stories that don’t ordinarily get told, but hold so much pain and hope that it all inevitably comes spilling out. This isn’t OZ, with its gratuitous violence and terror. Orange isn’t about teaching us a lesson, or scaring us straight. Orange is a chapter in the book of Americana. These are our stories. Black, white, lesbian, trans, Latino, evangelical, spiritual and everything in between. Broken hearts and dreams. Hope and hopelessness. Love. Love that hurts. Love that comforts. Love that carves its name onto your heart, so that everything that comes after brushes up against the grain and makes you feel it all over again.
Piper struggles with this. Hell, Piper struggles with a lot. She doesn’t know who she is, or what she wants, and I for one can identify with that. I bet you can too. Alex is the name carved in the inside of her heart. No matter how fraught with rage and confusion it is, it’s something Piper can’t erase and watching her deal with that is so memorizing. Does she belong with Larry, the great guy who loves her and can offer her a normal life? Does she belong with Alex, the ex girlfriend (with the sexiest glasses I’ve ever seen), who gets her so deeply yet sold her down the river based on her own broken heart? Piper doesn’t know, and neither do I. I’m so grateful that Orange has been already greenlit for a second season, so we can explore all these questions and more.
Thirteen hours. Thirteen of the best hours of entertainment I can remember. Do the time. Lose yourself in this story.
Ps…Laura Prepon as a brunette with glasses. Just saying.
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