When my daughter suggests I watch a TV show, I take her seriously.  A while back she suggested my wife and I watch House of Cards on Netflix. We’ve finished the first season, and we doubt if we’ll watch another.

But my daughter also mentioned a show called Orange is the New Black on Netflix. I had trouble getting my head around that title, but I gave it a try. My daughter said she liked it because the show was really about women, so unusual for TV.



The story revolves around Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen months in prison, after she is convicted of a decade old crime of transporting money for her drug dealing girlfriend.

It’s based on the 2010 memoir Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. She wrote the book about her thirteen months at a federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut.

I worked for four years as a teacher in a remand center, where I taught female inmates as well as male. I was impressed by how the show portrayed a woman’s prison. Some things were overdone, but Darcy Bullock on the Internet characterizes the show this way: 8 Ways ‘Orange is the New Black’ is Breaking TV Barriers

  1. The main character doesn’t monopolize the show.
  2. There are characters of color …
  3. Ladies of all sexual preferences.
  4. Female friendship, portrayed as it is.
  5. Portrayal of class divides.
  6. They can say the word abortion.
  7. They reference the Kinsey scale.
  8. A structure so, so suitable for binge watching

Take a look at her whole article, http://www.policymic.com/articles/57611/8-ways-orange-is-the-new-black-is-breaking-tv-barriers

Men and women in prison forget that there is a world outside. The only reality for them is what goes on inside the bars. Piper forgets an important call about her start-up business on the outside, because the inmates are chasing an almost mystical chicken inside the fence.orange

If you have Netflix, don’t miss it.

Images courtesy of:


  1. Catana says:

    I don’t watch tv and don’t use Netflix any more, so there’s little chance I’ll ever see this show. But I’ve read a lot of reviews, mostly mixed, a few very unfavorable. One thing that was mentioned in a review is that it reduces two of the black women to stereotypes. I also wondered about a photo I saw recently, of the guard fondling Piper’s breast, in view of a bunch of other women. Would any guard do such things in front of witnesses?

    I can’t judge that, of course, but frankly, I don’t think I could stomach watching a show about prison that evokes the terms cute, humorous, laugh out loud. Another thing that bothers me is that while a lot of viewers are shocked at what a prison for women looks like, the show portrays a *minimum security* prison, which is very far from the much harsher conditions most women in prison actually experience.

    • Ed Griffin says:

      I can’t disagree with you at all, Catana. I agree that higher security is much worse on women (and men). I agree that some of the guards are ‘overdrawn’, over the top, whatever term people like. No one is that open or that obnoxious all the time.
      Still, I think they got some things right. The lack of normal family life etc. I also liked how they did quick flashbacks to show the crime of each person.
      I’m not an expert on TV, but it’s another media that influences people. I wish I knew more about it. It’s clear to me that you have strong and well thought out opinions on it. Kudos to you.

      • Catana says:

        Ed, I wish I had your hands-on experience in working in prisons. But I have no way to gain that, so I read everything I can find — news articles, prisoners’ blogs, advocacy sites, books — to educate myself. That isn’t something we can expect from the general public, which mostly just wants to be entertained. TV needs to be more responsible because it’s a major influence on how the public thinks. In some ways the series does serve to wake people up. I read a blog post by someone who watched it and then went on to learn more about the justice system and prisons.

        Today’s news brings a little hope of change with Holder’s announcement that drug sentencing guidelines are going to be revamped, and his statement that the way we’re imprisoning thousands of people needlessly is wrong. Let’s hope it isn’t just a PR gimmick.

      • Ed Griffin says:

        Kudos to you, Catana, for your extensive reading. Let me know if you find something of value, book, article or TV show.

  2. Catana says:

    Ed, I can’t even keep up with what I find. I save links or copy articles and then have to file most of them without reading them fully because there’s so much. I annotate the ones that apply directly to my current writing project, and just try to file the others so I at least know what they’re about if I want to refer to them some time in the future.

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