‘Orange is the New Black:’ How I went from unimpressed to craving-for-more

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman who goes to prison for carrying drug money for a friend

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman who goes to prison for carrying drug money for a friend

By Rachel Misty Walt

At first, all the buzz surrounding “Orange is the New Black,” Netflix’s recent hot original series, barely fazed me. My interest was initially piqued when I saw a creative subway advertisement, but continuing my commute pushed the image of the ad into the darkness of my dormant memories and I quickly stopped thinking about the show.

Then the show premiered, and suddenly a hot topic on social media, but still I ignored it. After all, I like to think I decide what interests me on my own. I am no production follower, so the fact that “Orange” was created by Jenji Kohan, the creator of “Weeds,” did little to catch my interest.

What did catch my attention was an article on interesting facts regarding the show, and along with those interesting facts I got to see a very fascinating cast—including the voice of Patti Mayonnaise, Donna from “That 70’s Show,” and the awkward guy from “American Pie.” I am pretty sure what sold me was Patti Mayonnaise, or Constance Shulman. Being a child of the 1990s had me craving to hear and confirm the voice made popular by Doug.

To be honest, when I finally saw the first episode of “Orange,” I was not too impressed. Sure, the story was unique and the show did a lot of work to include some authenticity. I was just annoyed by the main character, Piper Chapman. She had all the little quirks that just could not get me to sympathize with her—I couldn’t relate to her interests, from Toms to the need to constantly be connected via her iPhone. I could not pick a word to describe her, until a later episode that called Chapman “yuppy.” I had forgotten that the word used to be a part of my vocabulary—way back from my middle school days with a cast of characters as colorful as the inmates on the show. It was in the middle of the second episode, during Chapman’s lemon cleanse phase, that I just stopped watching. Like I said, I really could not relate or sympathize.

I only picked it up again when I suggested it to my roommate. Watching it with her was the trick to keeping me interested. It really helped that we held the same opinions on the characters and the situations they find themselves in. As she puts it, the show does a great job at keeping you curious about what’s going to happen next. It did not take long for me to start telling people, “The show is not too bad once you get past the annoying white b*.”

Before anyone gets too offended by that phrasing, I chose it from the tone of the show and as a throwback to my middle school days in northern Florida—as stated earlier, the environment was similar, and we were all trying to act just as tough. The “yuppies” went to the county’s academies.

Prison inmates: the show’s other characters hold a lot of depth

Prison inmates: the show’s other characters hold a lot of depth

I just finished the season recently, and looking back, that might have been the perspective with which I watched the show. I tried to watch it with what little “street” knowledge I had, even though I am pretty sure I got “soft” and have lost quite a fair amount since starting high school, and then college, in totally different environments—those populated with types that could relate to Piper Chapman more than I could.

Thank goodness I had my roommate with me. She also picked up on all the annoying characteristics of Chapman and those related to her. Once she started picking up a harder, and I suppose more “prison-like” attitude, it was easier to sympathize with her—though there were still moments when we just could not figure out what she was thinking, like with the hidden cell phone episode (no spoilers).

What got to us even more were her supposed loved ones, all wrapped up in their own superficial issues.
They are described in actual reviews as selfish or self-serving, especially her boyfriend. We agree that we just really want to punch the boyfriend. He profits off of Chapman’s ordeal as an inmate, claiming to be the victim of their temporary separation even though he is free to go wherever, do whatever, and all within easy contact of family and friends.

What I loved about the first season was how the show just felt real, from the lesbian scenes to the racial divide. I actually read that the racial divide was not strict enough, and that the sex scenes were great since they were not just gratuitous pornography. The other characters hold a lot of depth, especially as their back stories are slowly revealed throughout the show. The variety is just so enjoyable, and the drama caused by their interactions keeps one craving for more.

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2 Comments

  1. mm wrote:

    I must tell you that I have no clue about much that is going on TV. I don’t watch any sitcoms at all. But what I trying to tell you is, you are a very talented writer and, I think you have a very promising career as a writer.

  2. […] We are not exactly close, having met briefly all of two times. But I did invite her to write for The FilAm, and she obliged with two well-written essays: the insightful “Raised a Pinay” on how the women in her family have been the biggest influence in her life, and a snappy review of the TV series “Orange is the New Black.” […]

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