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“Game Of Thrones” Meets “2 Broke Girls,” Or, Saturday Morning at 8:34am

Orange is the New Black

I have a new TV show for you. It’s called Orange Is The New Black, a story of women in prison, and you can find it streaming on Netflix. A composite sentence you never expected to read?

The show is neither comedy nor soul-searing drama. It’s just a story, based on the memoirs of a woman named Piper Kerman. It’s a good story too, completely addictive, wholly entertaining, and available in 13 full episodes. Think Game Of Thrones meets 2 Broke Girls.

Think character. Characters plural, to be precise. My favorites are Suzannah,”Crazy Eyes” Warren, played by Uzo Aduba, Poussey Washington, played by Samira Wiley, Lorna Morello the Italian from Long Island, played by Yael Stone (if only for her lipstick and accent), and Laura Prepon from That 70’s Show as the engaged-to-be-married heroine’s lesbian lover. Again, a surprising sentence. Also a long one.

You might suspect that we’re entering the land of stereotypes. Of course we are. Prison populations apparently self-segregate, even in real life. Women Behind Bars movies spawned a set of cliches that any writers worth their salt have to reference.

Do we object to the stereotypes? Some do, of course. Here’s an example. And I would never deny the rights of groups who have been oppressed and objectified to police their public portrayals.

But in my case, I’m happy to see the heroine’s WASP identity called out. Even though they get it wrong, of course. Even though we suffer through yet another Ice Queen mother. Even though they’ve written Piper herself as a mushy amalgam of Artsy Cousin and Sturdy Gal. That last surprises me, as Ms. Kerman herself consults to the producers. Never mind.

I’m just happy to see the WASP in the movie referred to as such, instead of as The Heroine with no ethnic or cultural identity. No more the white-washed wall upon which other, more nuanced portraits hang. I’ll be even happier when someone else gets a turn as The Heroine, but the WASP in the background is correctly drawn.

I figure that once we High WASPs are regularly named, writers and artists might start to break us down, to deconstruct, to tell a richer story. The Archetypes might become well-worn, well-understood characters, available for anyone’s telling.

All social discussion aside, Orange Is The New Black is really a fun show, ripe for binge-watching. Enjoy. Have a good weekend everyone.


NOTE: This thread got cantankerous. I take full responsibility, having responded to an early comment with a tad of snip in my voice. As a result, I’ve unapproved all the comments that were either critical, or in response to criticism. Even the ones by my regulars, my friends, and by me, so you know it’s nothing personal and equally meted out to all. (You may still be able to see your own, as awaiting approval, in case you can’t remember what you said:)). Anyone who would like to continue the discussion is free to email me. But it’s really important to me to keep the site polite. Of course, I’ve kept the comments about TV shows and movies, because Orange is the New Black really is fun, and everyone is likely to enjoy it.



33 Responses

  1. Anxious to see this show. In the middle of binge watching The Newsroom, but right afterwards. Sounds like a very interesting story.

  2. The story sounds interesting, and you introduced it well.
    But I must confess, that referring once again to the WASP stuff, the stereotypes, the Artsy Cousin and Sturdy Gal , all, which I still after all these years ( though you patiently have explained it all ), can´t seem to ” get “, confuses me.
    But this is only my problem..

  3. It has been my observation that all stereotypes are wrong – because they are stereotypes. I’m a WASP, Dutch/English, but I’m very different from you. I’m from poor immigrant WASPs. TV doesn’t seem to be able to get people right 9 times out of 10.

  4. I signed up for Netflix yesterday (first 30 days are free) just so I could watch Orange (and the new Arrested Development). I watched two episodes yesterday and will probably watch three today. I love it – the characters and their stories are so fascinating. I’m now totally addicted! I’m trying not to watch too many at a time (so tempting), but it’s too interesting to rush through.

    1. Anne,
      As long as you have Netflix – highly recommend their first binge series “House of Cards” as well.

  5. So complex,thought I understood what an American Wasp is,now there seems to be a HIGH WASP??
    Thought us Brits; social classes’ were complicated!!!! gee whiz, any books on this?

    1. Honest, frank discussion of the economic class structure here in the US does not happen too often – it’s more comfortable to remain fixated on the racial/ethnic/religious/gender differences in the melting pot soup….

  6. Read Cheerful Money by Tad Friend. Read F.Scott Fitzgerald. I think that the Archetypes are already rather “well-worn, well understood characters”…fascinating nonetheless.

  7. It’s funny, someone just described this TV show to me yesterday as a cross between “Oz” and “The L Word”.

    Just finished watching the first two episodes, and agree that it’s quite binge-able!

    Sure, there are some stereotypes. But I love that the women’s bodies are portrayed more realistically than any other show: with a range of shapes, sizes and ethnicities. Their hair and makeup stylings also range from messed up to natural to obviously cared for in a variety of ways. These characters look how many women actually look. It’s refreshing.

    The show has also gotten positive attention for featuring a transgender woman actor as a (surprise!) transgender character. I wasn’t familiar with Laverne Cox before, but am looking forward to seeing more of her work.

  8. Lisa, are there any good examples of movies or tv shows that portrayed WASP identity in a nuanced way?

    1. So this is going to sound odd, but the closest I ever came to feeling like my family was approximated was watching Rachel Getting Married:). Except less toxic. And that’s of course about a Jewish family, so I have no explanation for my sense of recognition. America loves screen Irish-American, Italian-American, and African-American families. Asian almost never, Latino we’ve tried but failed. High WASP, nope. The worst was The Ice Storm. Every possible cliche in one movie. Took me ages to forgive Ang Lee.

    2. Lisa, I personally thought Ice Storm captured a moment in time brilliantly. To me it rang very true of the adults I knew, not WASPs necessarily, but well-to-do suburbanites. The theme of using sex in search of connection summed up a good bit of the 70’s

    3. Lisa, except for the “Ice” part, they could have set it in 1970’s Los Altos Hills and it would have rung totally true for me. I feel a blog post coming on…

    4. The Ice Storm – I never saw it as a WASP-portrait but a suburbian story. I love that movie! It transports lots of atmosphere and such a great cast! *sigh*

    5. Flo, that article is interesting, especially because the author thinks that ALL the other characters (except the Jewish ones) are portrayed with such nuance. After binge-watching 6 episodes yesterday, I can attest: this is untrue. As Lisa suggests above, most of the characters are stereotypes. The WASPs, the Jews, the black women, even the “good cop/bad cop” correction officers.

      I am still really enjoying the show. But many of the characters are definitely “types”.

      Now I’m curious to read Piper Kerman’s memoir, to see if she describes people with a little more subtlety.

    6. I’m a little late to post here, but I think that Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan”, “Barcelona”, and “Last Days of Disco” do a very good job of representing High WASP life.

      I still haven’t seen his “Damsels in Distress” and am putting it on my list right now.

  9. Forget Wasp I want to be an Empress!

    OK, did you know that this was series was actually taken from a memoir??? Yes. I just read abouy it in my high brow journal, Entertainment Weekly.

    Next you all must watch Ray Donovan on ShowTime. It’s a cross between Scandal and the Sopranos and tell me you don’t fall for bad boy Liev Schreiber.

  10. I am busy watching coronation-ceremonies on European TV, almost on a weekly basis, no time left for other entertaining programmes. ;-)

  11. Lisa I love, love House of Cards! Mostly because I think Kevin Spacey is an amazing actor.

    2013 Designer Series and Giveaway!

  12. Thanks so much for giving us a heads up about “Orange is the New Black.” I have only seen one episode, but will no doubt binge tomorrow. Although I see the stereotypes, it does not prevent the show from being fun to watch.

  13. No Netflix here (but HBO and Showtime and 800+ other options), so sadly missing out for now. But I did download the book which the series is based on, and I’m enjoying it very much so far.

  14. I tried to watch it on Netflix, but before that can happen, Silverlight must be downloaded. For some reason, I cannot download Silverlight. A bit frustrated here. Is anyone else having that problem?

  15. I would not have censored the comments, that’s the best part of reading people’s blogs. That’s what I like about today’s online world where people say what they mean not what they think people would like to hear.

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