One Sentence, Two Prisoners: Movie Review of Orange Is the New Black
One Sentence, Two Prisoners
Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) has
nothing but time on her hands. She is serving fifteen months for laundering
money for her estranged lover, Alex Vause (Laura Prepon), who dealt heroin for
a West African kingpin in the blockbuster Netflix hit, Orange Is the New Black.Orange
Is the New Black, based on the true story and book by Piper Kerman, was
created by Jenji Kohan and produced by Jodie Foster.
When we first meet upper-middle-class and
ever so cultured Piper, she is preparing to leave her business, her best
friend, and her adorable fiancé, Larry Bloom, played by Jason Biggs. It is hard
to imagine how she will survive the chaos that awaits her – kind of like
sending Chelsea Clinton off to contend with a Russian mafia cafeteria manager, who
takes offense at one measly comment about her unpalatable food and decides to
starve Piper until she is good and sorry for her faux pas. Meanwhile, cliques,
gangs, lewd male prison officials and every other conceivable kind of terror
a series about men in prison, Orange Is
the New Black focuses on the female experience. It is a riveting dramedy
made all the more entertaining by the fact that it's real.
It also poses the question, who else is
affected by our adverse experiences even when we feel entirely alone? Larry is
an aspiring writer and one day he has a column published in TheNew
York Times about his experience being engaged to an inmate. Neither Larry
nor Piper can truly celebrate his good journalistic fortune because Larry feels
guilty that Piper is still in prison and he is living a normal life where no
one will suddenly attack him with a wrench or throw him into a moving dryer in
the Laundromat, and Piper feels that Larry doesn't know her; he has written
about the old Piper, the person she was before IT happened. Larry doesn't know
the new Piper, who struggles in the estrogen jungle and she takes issue with
the title of his column: "One Sentence, Two Prisoners." Is Larry
really a prisoner, too? He thinks so.
Recently I watched Foreverland, a Canadian HBO show about William, a young guy with
cystic fibrosis (Max Thieriot from Bates
Motel), who spent nearly three hours every day doing physical therapy on
his lungs just so he was able to breathe. He hooked up with a girl who
encouraged him to go all the way to Mexico to scatter the ashes of one of their
mutual friends who had just died of CF. Most people with cystic fibrosis don't live
past 21. William made the long trek at great physical cost. At one point he
argued with the girl, who was trying to connect with him. She said to him,
"Do you think it's easier being
the healthy one?" And he shouted an emphatic yes.
Yes, it is easier being the one who is not
going to die of cystic fibrosis just as it is easier being the one who can
visit the penal system and get in the newly-washed BMW after a stressful hour
together and go home. But that's not to say that the people who love us and are
involved with us are not deeply affected by our experiences, be that
incarceration or terminal illness. They are profoundly influenced and they have
the right to their own feelings – but they may not get much sympathy by telling
them to the person who is actually imprisoned in a compound or by their body.
Is the New Black is a radically different kind of
TV series. First, it's only available on Netflix and not on TV or DVD. Second,
it focuses on women, and third, it lets us know what most sane people already
realize: the penal institute is failing us. Inmates are disproportionately
people of color, they are not treated humanely or with respect (the new
blacks), there is little protection from violence within the walls, and the
concept of rehabilitation is a joke. These women are just doing their time and
desperately counting the days until they get out. Will they have changed?
Perhaps, but not necessarily for the better.
Thanks to the criminalization of marijuana,
the reduction in rehab centers for addictions, which is where sick people belong,
and the large number of illegal immigrants in the US, the country has one of
the highest incarceration rates in the industrialized world. Not exactly
something to be proud of. With 1 out of every 18 men and 1 in 89 women behind
bars, according to CNN, Orange Is the New
Black is educational and eye opening.
Originally from New Jersey, I'm the owner of Book Magic, a company that provides manuscript evaluations and copyediting. I'm also the author of three books. Contact me at sigridmac13 at hotmail dot com or visit http://www.bookmagic.ca/