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Orange is the New Black
July 15, 2013 10:28 AM   Subscribe

New Netflix original series "Orange is the New Black", based on a memoir by Piper Kerman about her year in a women's prison, and created by Jenji Kohan of Weeds, has been garnering heaps of critical praise. Plus, it's super gay. Of the show's "naïve yuppie" lead character, Jenji Kohan says "I don't think I could have sold a show about black and Latina and old women in prison, you know? But if I had the girl-next-door coming in as my fish out of water, I can draw a certain audience in through her that can identify with her, and then I can tell all of these stories once she's in, once we've signed onto this journey. She's just a great entry point for a lot of people."
posted by showbiz_liz (183 comments total) 53 users marked this as a favorite

 
I seen about half of this so far and I am really enjoying it. I hated Weeds and had a particular distaste for Jenji Kohen, but she has done a great job here. It is really refreshing to see a TV show that focuses primarily on women of many different backgrounds.
posted by Falconetti at 10:32 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife and I have been moving through this a couple of episodes at a time, and while it's not perfect, I do like it quite a bit. It took me a while in the pilot to get past all of the previous associations I had with some of the cast- "OMG, what's Dagny Taggart doing in prison with Captain Janeway?!?"

Speaking of which, I never really liked Mulgrew on Voyager, but I think she's pretty awesome here.
posted by COBRA! at 10:34 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


COBRA! - Yah, I'm realized amazed by the realization that, given decent material, Kathryn Mulgrew can do amazing work. Which actually shouldn't surprise me at all - I mean, Star Trek is a major and prestigious franchise; even getting short-listed for a major role on a show probably means you've got serious chops. But we saw that *so* rarely on Voyager ...
posted by Mr. Excellent at 10:39 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I hadn't heard about this at all; thanks!
posted by mediareport at 10:50 AM on July 15, 2013


I watched most of the first episode, and was struck by that same old problem with Weeds that is unintentionally summed up pretty nicely by Jenji Kohan herself in that quote up at the top there: The central character is white, and just about everyone who isn't is a criminal.

Plus the same old gratuitous nudity. Like three seconds into the first episode, it's all Laura Prepon's tits for no goddamned reason. Except, I'm guessing, as an unnecessary bid to get straight guys to watch a show with a female protagonist.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:51 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


The central character is white, and . . . is a criminal.

FTFY.

I haven't watched this yet, but at least one of the pull quotes from the trailer was the main character coming to the realization (and explaining to someone who implied that she was "better" than the other inmates) that she was as much of a criminal low-life* as anyone else in there.

*the implication of the whole show being of course that just because you're a criminal doesn't mean that you're a low-life.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:56 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Piper Kerman did a monologue on The Moth a few weeks ago.
posted by fuse theorem at 10:58 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Right, sparklemotion, but there are also lots of white characters who aren't criminals.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:58 AM on July 15, 2013


Instead, prison is a place where people are forced to learn about themselves and others. It's the setting of nuanced social interactions and is composed of a wide network of complicated relationships. Sometimes, as evidenced by one of Piper's roommates whose mother is also an inmate, prison is also where families reunite to work out their issues.

I haven't watched this yet - it's on my List - but this passage? Does not make me want to watch it (I still will, I swear). Prison is just like college, (except with bars and guards and no freedom) and it's a learning experience that everyone should look forward to and want to have!

I mean, if you do your time and come out with some insights, that's great and more power to you. But trying to sell imprisonment as this valuable learning experience makes me want to throw up.
posted by rtha at 10:58 AM on July 15, 2013 [26 favorites]


We've watched the first 5 episodes so far and I'm sold. I agree with the gratuitous nudity part, whatev., but Laverne Cox's character is awesome and full of pain and depth. She's amazing. I can't imagine how playing out the role wouldn't be difficult for her.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kohan addresses that point, Sys Rq, in this interview linked at the bottom of the "super gay" link:

HitFix: When you're crafting characters like this, is there a balance that you need to strike between "OK, we want these actresses you've never seen before to have great exposure," but then also the reality of, "OK, but they *are* playing prison inmates, criminals." You don't want to employ them just to go down certain stereotypical paths, so how do you find the right and necessary balance?

Jenji Kohan: Right. Well, it all comes from character. You start with character. You don't start with, you know, "Black Inmate #3." You say, "This is this person. This what she likes. This what she did. This is why. This is what she has for breakfast." And you craft characters. You don't throw lines at Black Actress #3. You know who she is, so she becomes an individual and person and fully fleshed out human being.


Her thoughts on Netflix's "dump it all at once" distribution are interesting, too.
posted by mediareport at 10:59 AM on July 15, 2013


I saw an ad for this show last night, I think, while watching The Killing. It looked...interesting, I suppose. Not being a Netflix subscriber, I'll all-but definitely not see it, but kudos to Netflix for continuing the original programming. Based on the descriptions of the show above, it sounds suspiciously like an alternative story arc from Weeds, where Nancy ends up doing long time in prison.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:01 AM on July 15, 2013


This show made me realize that Jason Biggs and Trent Reznor are slowly morphing into the same person as they age.
posted by jason_steakums at 11:03 AM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


This show is fantastic! It is better than House of Cards (which I loved), infinitely better than Hemlock Grove (which I hated), and maybe even better than Arrested Development s4 (I said *maybe*.)

I hadn't read anything about this show, but I hated the title, I thought the premise was cheesy, and although I'm a fan of Weeds, it so was amazingly uneven, I had little hope for this show being much of anything. Let me say again: it's fantastic.

The way the back-stories unfold, the brilliant performances, the pacing, the writing, it all got me hooked right off the first episode.

Kate Mulgrew, Natasha Lyonne, Uzo Aduba, Taryn Manning (who is she? where has she been? dear god, she's remarkable), Laverne Cox (her performance made me cry), so, so many others.

Really, this show, more than any other, proves that Netflix is truly a new creative force in television.
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:05 AM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


Wait, wait, wait. Kate Mulgrew? I'm in.
posted by Mooseli at 11:09 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


there are also lots of white characters who aren't criminals.

And there are also lots of white characters who are.

Besides the criminals, it is not unrealistic to me that a white lady's family and fiance are also white. And complaining about Kate Mulgrew being cast in anything is just lame, so which non-criminal characters should have been race-swapped to fulfill the quota?
posted by sparklemotion at 11:11 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched the first three episodes, and have for the most part enjoyed it. Kate Mulgrew is great, if damn near unrecognizable. And rtha, I haven't noticed the show to be particularly pushing a "growing and sharing" message, at least not so far.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:13 AM on July 15, 2013


On comparing the first episode to the rest of the series, June Thomas from Slate says what I'd say more smartly (which is par for the course -- and also she's seen it all):

Perhaps because even a show produced on the Netflix model, in which the entire series is made available on release day, has to convey a lot of exposition in the first episode, the pilot, in which Piper prepares for her incarceration, is the most clichéd and the least engaging. (Perhaps by way of compensation, the first 15 minutes contain pretty much all the bare flesh that’s on display in the entire 13 episodes.)

As for the other characters in the other episodes:

Thanks to liberal use of flashbacks, we come to understand how they came to be behind bars—though we don’t necessarily pity or even sympathize with them.

I'm glad this is good at all; Weeds was entertaining at its best but it was always, despite Mary Louise Parker's performances, just that for me -- an Entourage-like half hour to kill time watching premium cable for people who can't tolerate douche bros -- and never as 'quality' as others thought it was. But I always felt like Jenji Kohan was capable of something because there were so many great moments that didn't add up to a better whole.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:17 AM on July 15, 2013


Facts about the Over-Incarceration of Women in the US:
Black women represent 30% of all incarcerated women in the U.S, although they represent 13% of the female population generally

Hispanic women represent 16% of incarcerated women, although they make up only 11% of all women in the U.S.
The Sentencing Project Overview:
In 2010, black women were incarcerated at nearly 3 times the rate of white women (133 versus 47 per 100,000). Hispanic women were incarcerated at 1.6 times the rate of white women (77 versus 47 per 100,000).
I haven't seen this show yet but I don't have a lot of faith in Kohan's handling of race. There were gross stereotypes galore in Weeds (loud, lipsmacking black women, thuggish black men, Mexican kingpins, hypersexualized Asian women/massage parlors, etc). She also wrote the DEA like they were all good-at-heart, honest antagonists and not major contributors to the enormous increase in the prison population in the US and all of its ensuing racial bias. I remember Weeds being the kind of show that characterized the War on Drugs as being synonymous with legalization where the legalization was less about these horrifying institutional problems and more about surbabanite anxiety over securing a supplier. This isn't to say that this show can't more nuanced but it would have to be a magnitude moreso to stop from being stupidly offensive at times.
posted by dubusadus at 11:20 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I actually went to college with Piper Kerman. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet (although the book got lots of press in alumnae circles) but when I heard what had happened to her it struck me that she was precisely the kind of person who would make stupid choices and think at the time that she could get away with it.

Kate Mulgrew, like many Star Trek captains, has a great speaking voice I could just close my eyes and listen to.
posted by ambrosia at 11:20 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


From what I saw of Weeds (the first couple of seasons) and what friends told me about later seasons, Jenji Kohan's writing always came across to me as being kinda racist. Kinda really racist.

I'm not terribly hopeful about this show.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:22 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Damn, that AV Club review is quite the gush. As is this from a jaded Hollywood Reporter critic, who tosses out "astounded," "enormous potential," "incredibly impressive" and similar stuff. More than one critic notes the way Kohan broadens out the perspective, so the show isn't just "mainstream white lady meets colored folk":

Another element of what makes Orange successful in its execution is that after dropping Piper into the prison...Kohan slowly shifts away from Piper’s perspective and starts to tell the backstories of the women who are in there. That part is a particularly neat trick because it adds much more nuance than just having Piper face various “types” in her 15-month term.

I get some folks' hesitance about the race issues (and agree that Weeds was over-rated and arguably offensive) but there does seem to be critical consensus from most of the sites whose criticism I care about that Orange does indeed handle its story an order of magnitude more thoughtfully. Maybe all those critics are missing something but I'll go ahead and let my hopes rise for this one (it's another good sign that Netflix ordered a second season before the first even got to critics). Thanks again for the post, showbiz_liz.
posted by mediareport at 11:37 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't watched this yet - it's on my List - but this passage? Does not make me want to watch it (I still will, I swear). Prison is just like college, (except with bars and guards and no freedom) and it's a learning experience that everyone should look forward to and want to have!

I mean, if you do your time and come out with some insights, that's great and more power to you. But trying to sell imprisonment as this valuable learning experience makes me want to throw up.


The whole premise for this show just seems bizarre to me.

Maybe it's awesome - I don't watch a lot of TV, so while I know about Weeds and so on, I am not especially familiar with all this stuff. But:

1. Everyone I know who has dealt with the prison system (including a couple people who have been in prison) has been hugely abused and it's been super shitty and violent and corrupt. If the show does not address this reality, it is going to be straight-up exploitative. Like, you know how hard it is to call your family from prison? You know how much rape and abuse goes on, sometimes among prisoners and often from guards and administrators? How can you possibly handle that for an amusing television show in any way that is faintly realistic?

2. Most trans women in prison are not in the female population. They're in solitary or with the male population. I know this due to some peripheral involvement with a support project for a trans woman of color. It's cool that they have a trans actress playing a trans woman, and I can see why they would want to show her among other women, but people have to understand that this is not the norm. And are they going to have a plot point where the incredibly shitty, transphobic and violent prison administration withholds her hormones, makes her take out her weave and forbids her any female gender expression? Because that is what fucking happens.

3. How is it that these women - who are in prison - obviously have so much access to expensive and complex beauty treatments? I know that women in prison do actually spend a lot of time on appearance (partly because prison is boring) but this is not typical. Presenting a prettied-up version of women who are actually suffering in our country's new plantation system seems like it could be really, incredibly fucked-up to me.

4. Plus, the normalization of prison. I mean, in a sense, prison is "just one of those things that happen" for a lot of people in this society - most of the people who go to prison aren't any worse than anybody else, just unluckier or more marginalized. But prison as a site for an upmarket TV series? I feel like there's this creeping normalization of surveillance and imprisonment - not "normalization" for the people who actually have to experience them, but normalization for the people who don't but might have some political traction to change things. "Oh, prison is just where you go to get your head right when you've done something wrong, meet a diverse cast of characters and learn something about yourself...." like it's some kind of spiritual retreat instead of a site of intense racism and violence.

Are they going to have a plot where one of the women gives birth in chains and has her baby taken away? Or a plot where one of the women has undiagnosed cancer for months and months and then dies because she's dismissed as a malingerer and denied care? And if they do, will they just gussy up those experiences into some kind of faux-tragedy that really belongs on, like, LA Law or something?

I don't know. Again, maybe this is a great show that will mobilize people against the prison industrial complex.

But the prison system is terrible. Setting a show there carries the same moral responsibility as setting a show on a slave plantation, in a sweatshop, in the gulag.
posted by Frowner at 11:37 AM on July 15, 2013 [60 favorites]


It's still weird to discuss a show that is released all in one fell swoop like this.

Is it okay to discuss specific episodes, for those of us who have seen the whole thing?

Should we just be sure to note that spoilers might be included in posts?

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on some of the characters and plot developments.

And just a weird question: does anyone know if that is Taryn Manning's real voice?

Will try super hard not to over-post in this thread today!!!!
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:38 AM on July 15, 2013


The easy thing to do, MoxieProxy, is simply put

*SPOILER*

at the top of any comment that has spoilers.
posted by mediareport at 11:40 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


trying to sell imprisonment as this valuable learning experience makes me want to throw up.

No one wants to believe their suffering is meaningless, so lots of times you see people who've gone through some shitty thing convince themselves it was actually the best thing to happen to them. It's what we've got to do sometimes to keep our heads together and make it out of bed in the morning, but unfortunately it sometimes leads to the next generation being subjected to those same shitty things all over again, because 'it did me a world of good' to have, say, gone to an abusive boarding school, or barely survived a war, or gone to prison.
posted by echo target at 11:43 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I finished binge watching it last night. It's very good. It's a lot better than weeds. It's also nice to get a good female anti-hero, or at least someone deeply flawed - someone outside the Tony Soprano box we've been stuck in for over a decade.

And folks, watch the damn show before you throw it under the bus. Right out of the gate this is already turning into the same kind of uncomfortable message policing and grief Lena Dunham was and is getting for Girls.
posted by MillMan at 11:44 AM on July 15, 2013 [25 favorites]


I saw the first episode and pretty much hated it. I hate the tone of it, which is exemplified by the title. It's a cartoon, so maybe people who like that sort of show will like it. Sort of like a Sex In The City (which I hated) type of cartoon. It's very "women's" [whatever]; the tone is like the tone of certain "women's" blogs who talk about women being bitchy and we don't care, dammit! Or better, who talk about "Moms" (not mothers) being Cranky and We Don't Care, Dammit!

A breezy tone that thinks it's being Real and is being anything but. There is a darkness missing here, that is needed to produce the comedy aspect in any sort of credible way. See RECTIFY for a show that does prison differently (brilliantly).

Some hated features: stereotypes (the self-involved Jewish mother with The Accent and the Chinese take-out -- really? in 2013, REALLY??); the absurdly, incredibly naive Alice-in-Wonderland protagonist; the gratuitous sex on the part of a bunch of women who are just too pretty (agree that that's there to get men to watch); the neverending cultural references to give us the frisson of familiarity; the dopily-awkwardly way we are given information; the lame attempts to be cool; and finding humor in a situation that is really and truly tragic, in the Wrong Way (whitewashed (literally))(i.e., this show is for an Outsider demographic (i.e., the demographic of the protagonist, not the other people in prison with her). (Note: I have worked with too many people who have actually been in prison to buy this sort of crap.)

But then I hate Arrested Development too, so never mind.
posted by DMelanogaster at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hemlock Grove felt like a failed WB tv show

This felt like a failed lifetime show + gratuitious nudity (episode 4 was beyond hilariously bad, if they continue like that may be I'll stick around for the comedic hijinks)
posted by matimer at 11:50 AM on July 15, 2013


She also wrote the DEA like they were all good-at-heart, honest antagonists...

What?! Did you miss the entire Peter Scottson plotline???
posted by Jacqueline at 11:58 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Everything DMelanogaster said, plus I hated the poor direction, scenes that go on and on and on long after we've gotten the point and all the drama has been milked out of it, really bad pacing, poor editing, clumsy point-making, implausible forced interactions, many cartoonish characters - BAD GUY SEE BLACK HAT, GOOD GUY SEE WHITE HAT, and on and on and on. I watched several episodes, because I'm curious to see what Netflix original programming amounts to, and there were a few laugh lines, but it kept getting worse.

I gave up with the stupid chicken episode - that was a low bottom of the barrel... not a single redeeming thing about it one could hang one's attention on. Stupid premise, implausible stuff happening with characters who were depicted one way and then do things inconsistent with their characters, boooooring, boooring, booooring. Enough. I'm not watching more.

House of Cards was much better, though as it went on, the deterioration is setting in. Also, somewhat spoiled if you've seen the BBC original.

I wish Netflix the best, but it's been a shaky start so far.
posted by VikingSword at 11:59 AM on July 15, 2013


No one wants to believe their suffering is meaningless, so lots of times you see people who've gone through some shitty thing convince themselves it was actually the best thing to happen to them. It's what we've got to do sometimes to keep our heads together and make it out of bed in the morning, but unfortunately it sometimes leads to the next generation being subjected to those same shitty things all over again, because 'it did me a world of good' to have, say, gone to an abusive boarding school, or barely survived a war, or gone to prison.

Sure, I get this. But it's not what I got from the piece I quoted.

I think a TV show that handled this aspect of imprisonment and how the ex-prisoner deals with the experience afterwards really well was the now-canceled-only-lasted-two-seasons Life.
posted by rtha at 11:59 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay, was the nudity really that frequent and gratuitous? I'm a gay man, I will admit right upfront that I didn't notice an overt amount of nudity, but my POV might just not register it.

I can't in any way defend the show against charges that it doesn't realistically reflect prison life for women. But as a TV show, as a narrative, as a story, as a collection of performances illustrating a fictional experience, I enjoyed it a great deal.

I'm somewhat sort-of fairly new to metafilter, and I look forward to the day when I can come into a thread just to say how much i hate something and to side-ways insult those who disagree with me. That'll be fun, I bet.
posted by MoxieProxy at 12:00 PM on July 15, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm somewhat sort-of fairly new to metafilter, and I look forward to the day when I can come into a thread just to say how much i hate something and to side-ways insult those who disagree with me. That'll be fun, I bet.

You just did that about MetaFilter, so, um, congratulations?
posted by Sys Rq at 12:04 PM on July 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


(I'm not seeing the sideways insults, MoxieProxy, except for the usual "your taste is diametrically opposed to mine in this matter thus you are implicitly attacking my personhood" stuff that I know I tend to feel too much in this kind of discussion. I like the critical perspective from other commenters here; it helps me calibrate my own taste, the commenters, the universe, etc. To me, the idea of a TV show that has a rich almost-all-female cast is such a huge selling point in the vast wasteland of male-dominated leads that I can't wait to give it a try.)
posted by mediareport at 12:13 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


OK, one decent thing about the show - a lot of the acting is pretty good. Not exceptionally brilliant, but very competent - unlike almost everything else, from writing to directing to editing. Too bad these actors were given such poor material to waste their gifts on, especially the non-white ones who get so few opportunities at all. Where is the next Wire? C'mon, Netflix, you can do it - raise the bar!... what is the point of being another me-too producer? want to stand out and gather loyal viewership, be something better.
posted by VikingSword at 12:13 PM on July 15, 2013


And are they going to have a plot point where the incredibly shitty, transphobic and violent prison administration withholds her hormones

Yup.

I can't speak to a lot of your other points, and share some of your concerns, Frowner, but a few episodes in I feel like the show's making a game attempt to show at least a reality of prison, if not the worst of all possible realities.

I'm hoping that as I continue watching, all of the "hey, it doesn't really seem that bad" elements will be lessened as the novelty for the gateway character wears off. The characters and setting, from the perspective of a small-town white privileged Canadian with zero exposure to the inner workings of U.S. women's prisons, feels real to me.

If nothing else, I'm getting a solid dose of reinforcement that the people in prison are generally just less fortunate (in both the socio-economic and "lucky" senses) than the people that aren't in it. I think it may help a lot of people realize that "convict" shouldn't carry the stigma it does, and I see this as a net good. But I understand and appreciate your reasons for disagreeing.
posted by Shepherd at 12:15 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


First, the show is set in a prison and it does not grapple seriously with the actual issues facing women in prison. It is not dark enough, and doesn't show the depth of the abuse that women suffer behind bars. I will not accept anything other than unflinching, socially conscious verisimilitude in my streaming TV offerings.

Second, sure it depicts a sympathetic, realistic and fully realized trans woman, played by a trans actor, but I don't believe, on the basis of my no research whatsoever, that a post op trans woman would be placed in a women's prison, so even though it's cool to have a great trans character on this show, I hate that they have a great trans character on this show.

Third, the show depicts a population of largely minority prisoners in a facility run by white men. Elsewhere I have decried again and again that whites predominantly run a prison system that predominantly houses minorities, but this is streaming TV, not a documentary. I don't want verisimilitude, I want a socially conscious mix of races in all positions.

Fourth, and finally, sometimes there is humor on the show, and I don't care for humor. My world is a vale of tears.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 12:22 PM on July 15, 2013 [101 favorites]


And are they going to have a plot point where the incredibly shitty, transphobic and violent prison administration withholds her hormones...

Yeah, they do and, so far, it is a pretty important, multi-episode story arc. There are aspects of this show that are uncomfortable and unrealistic, but it is pretty great to be able to see a trans character played by an actual trans woman whose charachter is given important and depth and complexity.
posted by Falconetti at 12:24 PM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


I *liked* Weeds and I'm looking forward to watching this show. Please don't hurt me.
posted by jillithd at 12:26 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


So yeah, uh, some people actually do live next door to Black and Latina women.
posted by threeants at 12:26 PM on July 15, 2013


But then I hate Arrested Development too, so never mind.

Well, your perspective on that might be illuminating here. Do you mind explaining like you just did with this show so I can get where you're coming from?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:38 PM on July 15, 2013


As long as the opening song isn't the most grating, yelping travesty ever recorded, it's better than Weeds.
posted by michaelh at 12:39 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


As long as the opening song isn't the most grating, yelping travesty ever recorded, it's better than Weeds.

Let's not get crazy. Malvina Reynolds was awesome.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:43 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


But prison as a site for an upmarket TV series? I feel like there's this creeping normalization of surveillance and imprisonment - not "normalization" for the people who actually have to experience them, but normalization for the people who don't but might have some political traction to change things. "Oh, prison is just where you go to get your head right when you've done something wrong, meet a diverse cast of characters and learn something about yourself...." like it's some kind of spiritual retreat instead of a site of intense racism and violence.

*spoilers*

To me the show comes off as a comedy more than a drama and given the subject matter that's an automatic turnoff for some and I think the source of some of the comments here.

One of the primary plotlines of the first season is how Piper and her fiance do conceptualize jail similar to the way one does a spiritual retreat ("I want my time in there to be meaningful") and how that privileged clueless view gets stripped from her and replaced with the nasty reality inside. By the end of season one it's clear to Piper that she could easily be killed inside and end up in jail for a lot longer than her original sentence. It doesn't depict jail as good in any way, even if the actual reality of jail in the US is even worse.
posted by MillMan at 12:48 PM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


*spoilers*

How can you possibly handle that for an amusing television show in any way that is faintly realistic?

It is a drama, not a comedy or a satire.

And are they going to have a plot point where the incredibly shitty, transphobic and violent prison administration withholds her hormones,

Yes.

Are they going to have a plot where one of the women gives birth in chains and has her baby taken away?

Yes. Maybe you should watch the show. It's pretty great.
posted by Bistle at 12:48 PM on July 15, 2013 [22 favorites]


First, the show is set in a prison and it does not grapple seriously with the actual issues facing women in prison. It is not dark enough, and doesn't show the depth of the abuse that women suffer behind bars. I will not accept anything other than unflinching, socially conscious verisimilitude in my streaming TV offerings.

I would argue that there's a categorical difference between a show set in a prison and a show set at - for example - a college, a convenience store, maybe even a military barracks. All those places have some pretty grim aspects, and terrible things happen in all of them - but they're not predominantly terrible. And what's more, often people who have average lived experience with a college, working a retail job or even being in the military are likely to be part of the creative team working on the show, or otherwise closely connected to them.

I'm not demanding that all television everywhere be nothing but a grim reflection of the worst possible outcomes. I'm just saying that in this case, given what prisons are and how they operate in our society, it ill-suits rich, comfortable and privileged people to make money and fame by portraying them for the amusement of the comfortable classes. (And your comment about what you demand in streaming entertainment really speaks to my point - you're talking about how you are entitled to be entertained by a spicy mixture of lightly transgressive sex and violence wrapped up in a redemptive package...and that it's totally okay to create such a story on the backs, basically, of some people who have it just incredibly tough. I mean, my great aunt really was a fifties and sixties woman copywriter and had quite a time, but I have no beef with Mad Men.)
posted by Frowner at 12:49 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Serious question: has the marketing for this show been focusing on the sex and nudity? Because I haven't seen any marketing that even hints at it (but I haven't seen much marketing for the show).

If the point of all the sex and nudity is to get male audiences to watch the show, shouldn't the marketing be playing it up more?

Also: I want to watch this show because I've heard it is a good show. I didn't even know about the nudity and such until this thread.
posted by asnider at 1:06 PM on July 15, 2013


Forwner, if the litmus test for you is that a comedic drama set in prison must accurately portray the horrors of US incarceration to a certain degree of specificity, then you definitely won't be interested in this show, even though the show does directly and thematically address the basic gist of your cirtique of the US prison system (the show is not a light-hearted romp). I think if you actually saw the show or learned a bit more about it, your critque would soften or at least be more accurate (some of events you have preemptively lamented are unlikely to be part of this show are actually meaningful plot points), although you may very well still not want the show to exist on principle since it is set in a prison. I do have some problems with the show's portrayal of race and gender, but I am very happy to see a fully-realized and sympathetic trans character being played by an actual trans woman (and portrayed well too, she is a good actor).
posted by Falconetti at 1:13 PM on July 15, 2013 [12 favorites]


except for the usual "your taste is diametrically opposed to mine in this matter thus you are implicitly attacking my personhood" stuff that I know I tend to feel too much in this kind of discussion

Guilty. I see it, and retract my snark.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:14 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know what other show was totally over the line? Hogan's Heroes! Can you imagine the chutzpah of setting a comedy in a Nazi concentration camp? The nerve! The disrespect! I'm so glad that thing never went anywhere. Also the guy who played Hogan was a total pervert.
posted by localroger at 1:17 PM on July 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Actually now that you mention Hogan's Heroes, I'm thinking M*A*S*H is a good point of reference for this show.
posted by jason_steakums at 1:20 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Without getting too much into the "boy inmates do it this way and girl inmates do it this way, amirite?" derail, how does this show compare to Oz? Apples and oranges?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 1:23 PM on July 15, 2013


I'm not demanding that all television everywhere be nothing but a grim reflection of the worst possible outcomes. I'm just saying that in this case, given what prisons are and how they operate in our society, it ill-suits rich, comfortable and privileged people to make money and fame by portraying them for the amusement of the comfortable classes.
I'm not sure what you're asking for here. Do you want the actors involved in this project to have direct experience with the penal system in order to accurately depict it? Is there something particular about their performances that is inaccurate or poorly researched?
posted by deathpanels at 1:28 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love Mad Men, but I have much more beef with its implicit reinforcement of the mindsets it intends to lampoon than I do with Orange is the New Black. Yes, the genre of this show is fundamentally comedic, in that people learn and grow instead of merely suffering and fighting. But that arguable non-realism aside, it's got the largest cast of well-imagined, well-acted female characters I've seen a long time, and is deeply concerned with all the issues of race, class, gender, and justice that prison shows inevitably raise. I'm only on episode 3, but my guess is the white girl at the center will increasingly be seen as the macguffin, as Kohan more or less admits in that interview. The writing is still a little bit precious, but I'm sympathetic to her claims (again, in the interview) that life is not just pure negative drama, even in prison, and this is part of the theme of the show (so far): it's not an implicit justification of the horrific prison system to have characters/inmates looking to gain what they can from an unjust experience. And something similar goes for the sex and nudity -- even in prison, it's not all rape. And saying so doesn't make you an apologist, though of course I imagine she errors on the side of making things more positive than they are. This show isn't Oz. Or, it's a feminist Oz. There were two foundation stones to the new wave of great TV -- Oz, and Sex and the City. The latter of course went horribly downhill in the final seasons and movies, but there was still something revolutionary about it when if first began. This show maybe adds a dash of that back into Oz. And given that no one ever agrees on what feminism is or should be, no one is going to agree that this alternative take on prison is the right way to revisit the issue. But I have high hopes for the ensemble to build and grow in seriousness (even with the comedic still in place), particularly as it grows in later seasons. If that happens, this good show really has the potential to become a great show.
posted by chortly at 1:28 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Without getting too much into the "boy inmates do it this way and girl inmates do it this way, amirite?" derail, how does this show compare to Oz? Apples and oranges?

Actually, I think the most crucial difference among many is that this show takes place in a minimum security prison, and Oz was in a maximum security prison. Big difference.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:29 PM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


how does this show compare to Oz?

In the first episode, the warden (or whatever) says, "This isn't Oz." And he's right. (At least in relation to the show; the reality of an actual women's prison is probably a little different.). I think he might have preceded that with a comparison to Mean Girls, which, again: Yep.

Now two episodes in, and I'm finding it to be a pretty enjoyable show, to be honest. Problematic, yes, but enjoyable. (The M*A*S*H comparison is pretty apt in that regard.)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:30 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have not yet watched this show, but I'm quite curious about it; thanks for posting this.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:31 PM on July 15, 2013


I binge-watched the whole thing this weekend.

I really enjoyed it.

It isn't perfect (chicken episode, I'm looking at you). But it was good.

I knew the show was different when the screwdriver went missing from shop class. The whole episode I was waiting for someone to get shanked. What happened instead was, um, surprising.

This show does something that is, I think, incredibly hard to pull off in these cynical times -- this show is sweet. It is a show about kindness and reconciliation and co-operation. People do bad things, sure, and there are bad people (like Pornstache, truly one of the most loathsome individuals ever to grace the small screen). But the show is focused on these women and their choices at a much more granular level -- it backgrounds the bureaucracy and machinery of institutionalization and focuses instead the characters trapped within it.

I'm not sure how to take the critiques from people who want this show to be something it's not - it isn't a grim documentary it isn't Oz For Women, it's a drama-comedy. It doesn't make light of these women's misfortune. As someone who has been (briefly) behind bars, it rang true to me -- the writers spent some time talking to people who'd actually been in the system.

The shocking fact of the matter is this: 80% of being incarcerated isn't terrible, unremitting, relentless horror -- it's just BORING. It really IS high school without the classes to distract from the gossip. There is NOTHING to do but talk about other people, and little things fester and build and then boom you're fighting some asshole over a game of gin rummy and you're not even sure why. This show does a good job of picking up on that pettiness.

Another shocking fact is that A LOT of the people you meet behind bars CONFORM TO STEREOTYPE. Meth-addled rednecks with jacked-up grills and Jesus fixations. Loud black thugs who can't walk down a hallway without delivering a dozen intricately choreographed handshakes. Mexican bangers with neck tattoos and ridiculous haircuts. THOSE PEOPLE ARE REALLY THERE.

And I LOVED the way Orange Is The New Black handles this. Piper goes in, all her worst fears are almost immediately confirmed, and then, over time, people start to turn from stereotype to real person. Tastee. Big Boo. Crazy Eyes! What a GREAT CHARACTER. What a fine performance. The way the show dealt with her I found funny and touching, and a little tragic.

So I get why people might not like the show. But I found it charming. And honest about issues of race and class that's hard to get across. It isn't perfect. But it's very, very good.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:31 PM on July 15, 2013 [68 favorites]


how does this show compare to Oz?

In Oz, a missing screwdriver would find itself plunged repeatedly into someone's neck. Here a missing screwdriving has a whole other purpose.
posted by cazoo at 1:33 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seriously, apart from the first shower scene in the first episode I'd say the sex scenes in this show are the least male gazey I've ever seen on TV. And they are awesome.

Also the inclusion of actual butch-presenting women as main characters who are not androgynous-sexy or weirdly 'other' feels pretty groundbreaking to me.

The premise is less about prison than it is about having these totally disparate groups of people thrown together in a situation that's no fun for any of them (to put it mildly). I'm not sure what other situation would present that in a believable manner. It's pretty interesting, and for me, starved as I am for interesting female protagonists in pop culture, this show is like rain during a long drought.
posted by freya_lamb at 1:42 PM on July 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


I noticed this show on Netflix and was a bit surprised to see a female-centric TV show. Seems reactions are mixed, but BitterOldPunk sold me. I'll give it a try.

Anyway, I liked Weeds. Kevin Nealon became a waste, but I liked the rest of it. It was a little too predictable, but I thought the last episode was great, and I enjoy the few lead women who are allowed to behave irresponsibly.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:12 PM on July 15, 2013


A lot of folks seem to have a lot of opinions about this show without even having watched it, or having only watched very little of it, which I find sort of odd.

There actually isn't, on the whole, all that much sex and/or nudity - and outside of the very first scene of the whole series, I really wouldn't call any of it gratuitous.

I think it's actually a pretty great show that deals fairly well with the issues of prison and especially women's prisons. Without having it be a documentary about how fucked up prison is, which it isn't, because, uh, it's a television show which means its fiction and isn't bound by some moral imperative to lay out only the grim facts, it manages to reflect what seems to me a relatively balanced view of prison life while maintaining the requisite level of entertainment.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I had pretty low hopes for the show going in and was really pleasantly surprised, but I've found it pretty good (much better than Weeds, which really lost me after about the first half season). I recommend it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:28 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I gave up on Weeds a few years ago. That said, we just finished Orange is the New Black last night (obviously we enjoyed it--I recommended it to my mom and stepfather; they both work in Corrections).

I'm reading Piper Kerman's memoir of the same title right now and although it's a bit 'oh aren't I a nice liberal WASP who understands', it's definitely readable and is giving some additional insight into the show.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:30 PM on July 15, 2013


I have not seen this show or, indeed, experienced fiction, but let me address some of my concerns:
posted by shakespeherian at 2:36 PM on July 15, 2013 [35 favorites]


I gave up on Weeds a few years ago.

Yeah, it got bad.

But then it got better!

And then it got bad again.

And then it got somewhat better!
posted by MoxieProxy at 2:44 PM on July 15, 2013


I didn't like Kevin Nealon's character and I got sick and tired of the way Nancy was treating El Andy, so I had to stop watching. And I read the synopses of the episodes I didn't watch--I didn't miss much.



I'm glad they've already renewed Orange is the New Black, although the release all of them at one time thing means it's going to be a LONG DAMN WAIT until there are new episodes.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:47 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kevin Nealon's character was in a completely different show, one that I wouldn't want to watch, that was occasionally plunked down into Weeds. Of all the characters to leave in Agrestic, he's the one they kept around?

And I think, overall, despite some interesting developments, the Ren Mar episodes were the weakest. It's after move on (I don't want to give too much away) that the show gets interesting again. Then falls into some very familiar (read: tired) issues, before then sort of bouncing back in a different way. I found the finale of Weeds satisfying -- not brilliant, not groundbreaking, but satisfying.

All that said: Orange is the New Black doesn't feel like Weeds to me at all.
posted by MoxieProxy at 2:57 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I stopped following Weeds the season after Agrestic burned down. I tried to tune back in, but every episode was Mary-Louise Parker doing the doe-eyed blinky-blinky and causing various unsavory men's pants to fall off and wallets open. I do like how the show asked the viewer to sympathizing with an essentially repulsive human being -- Nancy Botwin is a horrible toxic person, so why do I keep rooting for her? Am I THAT swayed by a pretty face and a line of patter? But that wore off quickly, Kevin Nealon grated, the Botwin kids could all drown in a lake as far as I was concerned, and Andy is just going to be Besotted and Whimsical Yet Holding Things Together so meh. When it's all up on Netflix I'll watch the last season for closure, I guess.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:59 PM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


I didn't like Kevin Nealon's character and I got sick and tired of the way Nancy was treating El Andy, so I had to stop watching.

SPOOOOOILERS

I wonder if one could make the case that Andy was the show's protagonist? Andy was the (adult) character who showed actual character growth. The climax of the series was Andy finally growing up enough to tell Nancy he'd had enough and to leave to make an actual life for himself.
posted by Justinian at 3:37 PM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]


You know what other show was totally over the line? Hogan's Heroes! Can you imagine the chutzpah of setting a comedy in a Nazi concentration camp? The nerve! The disrespect! I'm so glad that thing never went anywhere. Also the guy who played Hogan was a total pervert.

I am SO GLAD you posted this! After finishing the episode last night, Hogan's Heroes is exactly what I thought of. And, even as a child, I had no interest in Hogan's Heroes. Not because it was set in a Nazi concentration camp, but because it was STUPID. And that's pretty much how I felt watching the first episode of Orange is the New Black.

The other show I thought of -- movie, not TV -- is The Producers. Which is, obviously, another comedy about Nazis. Except that one is briilliant.

Somebody up there ((likes me)? woops wrong genre) suggested I say why I didn't like Arrested Development either, and that got me thinking about how we think about why we don't like certain things and the difference between why we think we don't like things vs. the elements that play into why we don't like things that we're perhaps less aware of. Certainly you could say, "But we can only talk about what we're aware of, so what are you talking about?" and yeah, that's a good point.

But it made me think about how I find it really hard to describe WHY I prefer some shows to other shows. And how, when I'm at a loss, I can say, for example, "that show is terrible because it's making light of prison when we all know that prison is horrible" -- that is a morally upstanding reason not to like the show. But actually the truth is that I Don't KNOW exactly why I was so offended by this show.

Many people I know hate Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is one of my favorite shows and also could be characterized as a cartoon. My god, I complained about the Jewish mother stereotype is O.I.T.N.B., but I love Susie Essman's Jewish shrewish character. How can that be? To me Susie Greene (the character's name) is real, although she is totally not real, whereas the schtick that Jewish mother character was doing was not real and offended me (not in an anti-semitic way but in an anti-facile-writing way).

Oh! maybe that's it. I thought the writing in O.I.T.N.B. was pretty awful. Like 50's sitcom awful. Like, they just weren't trying hard enough. Not enough nuance. Just too easy.

I also said I hated Sex and the City, but I love GIRLS. (And I am a 62-year-old woman! and I love GIRLS.) GIRLS is real to me. Real doesn't mean that those people really exist, or that those things really happened, or even could happen. I don't even really know what "real" means in an artistic context. I have a feeling that if I read some books about this sort of thing I would acquire a better vocabulary about it.

Or maybe listen to some of those Zizek YouTube videos that seem to be all over the place. He always seems to "get" something about these subjects that seems spot-on to me, that I couldn't think of by myself.

Shit. Now I want Zizek (misspelled, probably) to write something about this show.

Oh, one more note: A movie directed by Lina Wertmuller about life in a concentration camp with Giancarlo Giannini called Seven Beauties was around several decades ago. People loved that movie. I despised it. I can't say exactly what's going on here but I know my feelings were similar about that movie. I wanted to say I hated it for the same reason Bruno Bettelheim, who wrote a long piece in The New Yorker about how he hated it, hated it: basically, he said that you're not supposed to make funny movies about concentration camps because they weren't funny. He also said that there was a verisimilitude problem -- the movie showed Giancarlo Giannini escaping death by being amusing, and Bettelheim said that there was virtually no chance that would have worked. But really I think that Bettelheim just couldn't get behind a farce about concentration camps. He was offended. (the fact that had been in one didn't help)

Well I'm not offended by Hogan's Heroes because of the concentration camp thing; I was offended (even as a little kid!) because it was so dopey. It's not that. It's something about Bad Art Leonard Pinth Garnell; that I can't elaborate on, but I feel it in my marrow.
posted by DMelanogaster at 3:53 PM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Kevin Nealon's character was in a completely different show, one that I wouldn't want to watch, that was occasionally plunked down into Weeds. Of all the characters to leave in Agrestic, he's the one they kept around?

In the DVD commentary to the final episode, Jenji Kohan admits to a temptation to float a series based on Doug and the little cult he's running at that point. She did Orange is the New Black instead.

Doug isn't the only Agrestic character to hang around; Celia keeps coming around through season 5, after which she forms her own network. Since Elizabeth Perkins quit the series the assumption is that Celia went on to get shot up in the drug war, as Nancy only narrowly avoided herself.

Dean also hangs around, figuring prominently in the final episode.

One thing about Weeds is that, like the weather in New Orleans, if you didn't like it all you had to do was wait a bit. After the incredible reinvention of season 4 it became a bit of a roller coaster, flat at times but exploring a much wider landscape than anyone would have suspected it ever would at the end of season 3. That was genius, and if it didn't always work that's because things done for the first time generally don't always work.
posted by localroger at 4:23 PM on July 15, 2013


I sure hope that more people who haven't watched the show come by to explain to those of us who have how terrible it is.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:24 PM on July 15, 2013 [16 favorites]


Watched the whole season due to Netflix auto starting episodes for me, and me not being able to look away. Loved it but didn't catch on that it was based on a memoir....guess that rules out my theory that it will go all Breaking Bad style...and the flashback scene I was expecting where Alex and Piper are eating chicken at a Los Pollos Hermanos.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 9:07 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched most of the first episode, and was struck by that same old problem with Weeds that is unintentionally summed up pretty nicely by Jenji Kohan herself in that quote up at the top there: The central character is white, and just about everyone who isn't is a criminal.

What? It's hard to believe you actually watched Weeds. The main character, both her sons, Kevin Nealon's character, the main character's friend, her husband, their two daughters, the brother in law, the DEA agent the main character has a relationship with, his partner, the younger son's cop mentors- all white, all criminals.
posted by spaltavian at 6:01 AM on July 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


I sure hope that more people who haven't watched the show come by to explain to those of us who have how terrible it is.

The only thing worse than dealing with somebody who decides they hate something passionately, sight unseen, is dealing with somebody who decides they hate something passionately sight unseen and then decide to watch it so they can prove their own prejudices correct, in exhaustive, agonizing detail, in a one-sided hellbent grudge match to win the entire Internet.
posted by Shepherd at 6:11 AM on July 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Because of this thread, I watched the pilot last night, and enjoyed it well enough; I'm looking forward to seeing the rest, as it seems like a lot of the pilot was devoted to setting up expectations that would then get subverted later on. I certainly think it has the potential to be thoughtful and humanizing and compassionate.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:56 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I watched the pilot yesterday, too, while doing some necessary but dull cut-and-paste work stuff. I liked it okay, and will watch some more episodes. It felt a little too...cute? Pat? Something like that. But pilots are almost always such a mixed bag (when they're not outright terrible) and I am more than willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt.
posted by rtha at 8:02 AM on July 16, 2013


I just binged until 8 AM because the only thing that stopped me from watching the episodes in one continuous stream was a brief DNS problem that kept me off the web completely.

Verdict: there are some hokey notes, some soapy notes, some goofy notes, and one WTF episode that, while funny enough here and there, felt like a dumb twist on some smart characters. But that misstep is relatively early, and everything picks up from there.

Overall, this is a really, really good show. I have to give it credit for developing a large number of characters, even though by the end of episode 13, you still know the full back stories of only a fraction of the characters, while others have been extensively set up and will surely be expanded next year. I need to see more of Suzanne, for example, who is a lot more complex than she seems in the first couple of episodes.

Greg Nog, rtha: the opening episode is definitely all about setting things up, and the early focus on an entitled white couple and what first appears to be a set of cardboard supporting characters does get better. (No spoilers, but one scene in the final episode is a smart callback to a scene in the first episode that is richer for what we now know about all the characters.)
posted by maudlin at 8:44 AM on July 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


I watched all of the episodes in a couple of days. I like that Netflix puts their series up whole, no waiting. A lot of Jenji Kohan's writing quirks I noticed watching Weeds showed up in this show. I liked that as the show went on, we get back stories for a lot of the characters, I found this rather engaging. The characters and the ways they interact were engaging. And I enjoyed the representation of different gender presentations. I'll keep watching if there's a second season.
posted by backwords at 12:02 PM on July 16, 2013


I haven't watched it yet, but I'm suddenly much more interested in doing so now that I know Lea Delaria is dyking it up in this show. Perhaps over the weekend.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:36 AM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


Watched episodes two and three last night, and to respond to one aspect of Frowner's bad comment above, this:

And are they going to have a plot point where the incredibly shitty, transphobic and violent prison administration withholds her hormones

is the main plot of episode 3, which is one of the most sympathetic portrayals of a trans* character I've ever seen on TV.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:16 AM on July 17, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you're going to watch it at all, make sure you watch at least two episodes, or three. Because, as Greg Nog suspected, the first ep is a little exposition-heavy and it's the next few episodes that really set the tone.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:51 AM on July 17, 2013


I enjoyed the show, and I believe it will convince more people that (1) fewer people in the U.S. should be imprisoned and (2) the U.S. prison system should be reformed. Although the prison shown isn't that violent (it is a minimum security women's prison in the federal system), you get a sense of the pointlessness of most incarceration.

I'm joining the chorus of people suggesting that you watch at least 2-3 episodes.
posted by Area Man at 12:02 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are so many things in Frowner's comment above that are answered and dealt with in the first few episodes of the show, so many instances where we were assured they'd never manage anything approaching verisimilitude because they'd never dare show X, only for them to immediately and promptly depict X, exactly as challenged, that the whole thing nearly ends up like trolling, like one of the show's own producers sent this meatball in low and slow, just so the show could hit it over the fence.

I don't actually believe that for a second, it's just hilarious coincidence, but still... wow. A comparison of this screed to the actual show should appear in their press packet, because DAMN.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:56 PM on July 17, 2013 [13 favorites]


I don't actually believe that for a second, it's just hilarious coincidence, but still... wow. A comparison of this screed to the actual show should appear in their press packet, because DAMN.

Well, actually, when I was going home yesterday I realized that I had kind of done what we all hate when others do it - jumping in early in the thread with a lot of unsubstantiated stuff - and I recognize that I should not have done it. Prison issues are a somewhat personal thing for me, and it is hard for me to separate out the injustices, exploitation and smug media coverage that I've seen in the course of personal and activist stuff from everything else. So yes, I should not have jumped in as I did, and I apologize for that.

And actually, I just came back into the thread because I happened across a really, really glowing review from Tom and Lorenzo (not that their politics are flawless but still) which is right here.

I was particularly struck by this paragraph:

But digging down even further, it’s clear to us that the strength of the tale isn’t that it’s universal and isn’t even that it’s women-specific, but that it tells the stories of the types of women who don’t get their stories told in our culture: black women, Hispanic women, fat women, butch women, bi women, old women, immigrant women, uneducated women – and even a trans woman’s story. When the season is done, you will be astonished at the vast range of women you’ve been exposed to and if you reflect on it, will probably be a little depressed that such stories are so rare in our culture.

...but mostly because once the list of women who "don't get their stories told", I was immediately struck by how basically they are saying we need a prison drama to tell the stories of virtually every single kind of woman who is not white, thin, young, straight, rich and educated.
posted by Frowner at 2:01 PM on July 17, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's cool that they have a trans actress playing a trans woman, and I can see why they would want to show her among other women, but people have to understand that this is not the norm.

Piper Kerman, the author of the memoir upon which the show is based, was in prison with a transwoman. That's why that character is on the show; it isn't because of some mistaken belief on someone's part about where most transwomen are imprisoned. I suppose the showrunner could have eliminated that character from the show on the theory that she was an anomaly, but I think that would have been a real loss.
posted by Area Man at 2:27 PM on July 17, 2013 [8 favorites]


Speaking of Netflix and streaming: Why Is Netflix Secretly Cropping Movies?

The Tumblr What Netflix Does is drawing attention to the company’s practice of showing wider-screen movies — films shot in the “Scope” formats, in the neighborhood of 2.39:1 instead of the standard widescreen ratio of 16:9....Netflix has quietly, without any notation or indication of alteration, been doing stuff like this...

It is, at its essence, the same thing as “pan and scanning,” but they’re not telling you that they’re doing it — and most viewers, without the obvious visual cue of black bars on the side of their TV, have no idea. This may sound like nitpicking, but these are issues that matter for those who care about movies....if Netflix is going to insist on doing so, they should at least have the courtesy to tell us they’re monkeying with their merchandise.

posted by mediareport at 3:59 PM on July 17, 2013


Doesn't Netflix just upload whatever the studios give them as-is?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:55 PM on July 17, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why is Netflix secretly cropping movies?

It's no secret if you know your monitor. All widescreen monitors are 16:9. It's the new 4:3. So if you know a movie was shot in 2.39:1, which is more like 21.5:9, and your full-screen display isn't letterboxed, it's been cropped. Duh.

People bought wide screen TV's so they wouldn't have to see letterboxed movies. Letterboxing a 2.39:1 movie to 16:9 reduces the height of your display 25%, effectively turning your 45 inch TV into a 32 incher with wings. The 25% of the movie removed by cropping is 12% at each edge, which is much less likely to be important than the 40% lost when cropping to 4:3.
posted by localroger at 5:56 PM on July 17, 2013


On review: The blogger starts off with customer outrage at letterboxing. Did I say DUH?
posted by localroger at 6:00 PM on July 17, 2013


Doesn't Netflix just upload whatever the studios give them as-is?

I find it hard to believe that the studio that produced There Will Be Blood has permission from the director to crop films for Netflix without noting they're doing so. Maybe they don't require it, maybe the directors are on board, who knows? The point is, I'd like to know.

localroger, I don't understand your point. The article describes the process you note, and points out that audiences have grown beyond their initical outrage at letterboxing to accept that it's closer to the director's vision and generally ok. Can you clarify what you think is "duh"-worthy in the idea that Netflix should be telling customers when streaming movies have been cropped?
posted by mediareport at 7:13 PM on July 17, 2013


Gizmodo has asked studios and Netflix to comment, so maybe we'll get some clarification about where the cropping is originating and what the rationale is.
posted by mediareport at 7:47 PM on July 17, 2013


mediareport, there are two things people hate. Some hate letterboxing. Some hate cropping. The studios are basically caught in the crosshairs between these two groups.

With 4:3 displays it basically isn't possible to show a movie "right" without letterboxing. So in that sphere letterboxing won, and one result is that a lot of people who were otherwise perfectly happy with their old 4:3 displays bought widescreens so their movie would be more than 3 inches high. It was worth doing because yeah, the discrepancy between cinemax and 4:3 when cropped is pretty much yuck.

But with 16:9 displays the loss from cropping is much less egregious, while the loss from letterboxing wider formats is almost as bad as ever. So it makes sense for the studios to crop or pan-scan as appropriate to accomodate what is basically the default widescreen home format.

What is duh-worthy is that, if you own a 16:9 monitor and you're watching a film that isn't obviously letterboxed, if it was filmed wider it has been cropped. DUH. But the format difference is much less than with 4:3 displays and the poutrage over losing 12% each edge probably does not edge out the furor over losing 25% vertical height the way that losing nearly half the horizontal movie managed to justify losing half the height of the CRT as far as most people are concerned.
posted by localroger at 8:03 PM on July 17, 2013


They should be mentioning it at the start of the movie. I get why they don't want to, but they should.
posted by mediareport at 8:36 PM on July 17, 2013


And thanks for the explanations, localroger, but again, that was fairly clear in the Flavorwire post, too. I get why it's happening, I just didn't get why it's such a "DUH" to bring it up and ask questions about it.
posted by mediareport at 8:40 PM on July 17, 2013


Netflix has released a statement saying it does not crop movies to fit computer screens, but sometimes gets cropped versions from studios and uses them in its library by mistake:

“We do not crop. We want to offer the best picture and provide the original aspect ratio of any title on Netflix,” Netflix director of corporate communications told VentureBeat. “However, unfortunately our quality controls sometimes fail and we end up offering the wrong version of a title. When we discover this error, we replace that title as soon as possible.”
posted by mediareport at 7:41 AM on July 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I enjoyed the show, and I believe it will convince more people that (1) fewer people in the U.S. should be imprisoned and (2) the U.S. prison system should be reformed."

I don't think it will make much of a difference. If anything, I feel that people will get a very, very wrong idea about prison. This is just about the nicest prison there is — federal, minimum security, women's.

Yes, it's still pretty shitty, in ways that the show point out (nothing constructive or otherwise rehabilitative, for many inmates getting released is worse than staying inside, the awfulness of solitary confinement) and in ways that are briefly mentioned but mostly not emphasized (the exploitative and profit-gouging commissary and payphone system, which Kerman discusses elsewhere, poor to almost nonexistent health care).

But for, I don't know, maybe half the population of the US, what's bad about prison is what they like about it. The US sentiment is all about the punitive aspect, not the rehabilitative aspect. And for that group, this is going to look pretty soft. If anything, they'll ask why the women are in nice, little cubicle-like areas and not cells with bars, and so on.

I mean, I think this probably presents the reality of this particular and unusual prison environment pretty accurately. But it's not like most county jails or state prisons or medium- or maximum-security federal prisons. It's not representative of the lives of 95% of the people who are in jail or prison, unfortunately.

Anyway, I just watched the 13th episode and I like the show quite a bit. It's not perfect. The negative hype here (and elsewhere) about the chicken episode ended up causing me not to hate it as much as I would have — I enjoyed it okay when I watched it. Later, though, it seems pretty bad in hindsight. But otherwise I thought the season kept to a surprising even level of quality. The first episode was a bit rocky, as people above have written, but it's mostly because of the problems unique to a pilot episode.

I just read the TVWoP forums on the show and it's interesting to see some of the debate about Larry and the rest of the people outside the prison. People seem to hate Larry and think both their families and the friends to all be entitled jerks. When I was watching, I kept thinking that AskMe would be very harsh with Piper. She broke the law, she didn't tell Larry about her past, she's responsible for all this stuff happening in their lives. All those people have to deal with the fallout of her bad decisions. I'm not sure that any of them have any real reasons to be sympathetic to her at all.

Of course, I think that AskMe is pretty damn judgmental and unforgiving. I think those judgments are technically correct, but ... cold. And, with regard to Larry anyway, he made the decision to stick with Piper and in that sense he has a responsibility to take her life inside seriously in a way that he's not. I think everyone else can be forgiven for not wanting to think about it. Maybe not Piper's parents. But Larry's parents and Piper's friends and maybe even her brother — it's not their job to vicariously also be in prison. Larry, though ... I think he's in denial. He's not really doing the emotional work that he needs to do for this relationship to survive this. Piper's learned that this isn't anything like a year on a sabbatical to learn a life lesson. I don't think that Larry understands that, or is even willing to understand that.

I think that Piper is not very self-aware and somewhat codependent, but I don't think she's a "narcissist", not technically and not really in the pop sense, either. I think that Alex is arguably narcissistic, maybe even in the technical sense. She's manipulative and selfish. She's not a monster, though. I accept her explanation for why she named Piper in her statement. Partly vindictive, partly pragmatic, partly not a big deal because it'd been so long. That rings true and that mix seems more human than villainous. Even so, I think that she's not terribly trustworthy. So I didn't really find Alex's argument to Larry convincing, or the repeat of that argument to Piper. They're kind of codependent and screwed-up together, at most; it's not really Piper that's the one with all the problems.

Anyway, I find Piper interesting. I identify with her, unfortunately. I say "unfortunately" because she is well-intended but often too self-involved and she makes some bad mistakes because she's not totally honest with herself about her motivations even while she believes that she's self-aware. She hurts other people when that's the last thing that she wants to do. I find this portrayal realistic because usually well-intentioned people in drama are giving a pass. In narrative fiction, intention is everything. In real life, intention is only of minor importance. Piper is complicated and confounded when things don't go the way she thinks that they ought to. She's slowly learning important things about herself, but she forgets them. She's surprisingly like a real person. She's not always likeable, but what's unlikeable about her isn't pleasantly unlikeable. She disappoints us. The show isn't giving us what we want. That's good.

It signals this with how it deals with Boo early on. And with the screwdriver. And I thought this again with Red at the end of the season. There's a way that the kitchen plot regarding Red traditionally goes and the show isn't giving us that plot. It's also doing something interesting with Crazy Eyes. Or for that matter, giving us anything sympathetic whatsoever about Pornstache, as little as it is. And Healey certainly didn't go the direction it seemed like he'd go at the beginning, though they gave us lots of hints.

The bad is the guard and pregnancy plot. That's just bad. Both those characters and the plot itself seem formulaic in some ways to me. That they exist to check off some boxes on a form.

All that said, what it comes down to for me is what's mentioned up-thread. I kept thinking while watching the show that this is a show with almost nothing but women, and mostly women of color and of non-movie-and-television-land looks. Sophia is excellent. Boo is excellent. Not unlike with Girls, I feel like I'm seeing on television things that I'm not used to seeing on television but should have been. For that, I'm willing to forgive a lot of flaws.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:41 PM on July 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm watching the show right now (I have things to do, Netflix), and I'm really enjoying it, in no small part because of the diverse female cast. That diversity is both ethnic and character-based. With so many shows only including a few female roles, mostly based on a few broad character types, there's no small value in giving a variety of actresses - many of whom are not white and/or young - exposure and employment.
posted by bibliowench at 10:13 AM on July 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, Bioware? If Flemeth shows up in the next Dragon Age, can she have a Russian accent?
posted by bibliowench at 10:14 AM on July 20, 2013


if you own a 16:9 monitor and you're watching a film that isn't obviously letterboxed, if it was filmed wider it has been cropped.

Pedant alert: Not all feature films are shot in 2.35:1. If you're watching Netflix, and the image fills your screen, it might be cropped, or it might just be a movie shot in 16.9:1 aspect ratio.

FWIW on my computer screen, everything seems to be letterboxed as it should be. Old school TV gets letterboxing at the sides of the screen to preserve the 4:3 ratio. Recent TV gets no letterboxing because it's shot at a 16.9:1 ratio. Big popcorn blockbusters get slight letterboxing at the top and bottom of the screen, because they're shot at 2.35:1. Regular non-epic movies seem to go either way, possibly 16.9:1 or possibly 2.35:1, depending. Doctor Zhivago looks like an ant farm.
posted by Sara C. at 12:04 AM on July 21, 2013


More on topic, frankly, I'm enjoying OITNB and am happy that it's not some kind of hokey Uncle Tom's Cabin for the prison industrial complex. That sort of thing is what I watch Frontline for.
posted by Sara C. at 12:05 AM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was worth watching. Lots of problematic elements, lots of good elements. It was what it was. I could have done without suzanne in places, and there were race issues, but as I said, it was more a mixed bag rather than something over the top poor. Also, there were some good dialog moments and some illuminating points added in that many would never stop to think about because they wouldn't care even though there are a hell of a lot of people incarcerated.

But anyway, since the whole motif here is to draw you in and get you to experience more, I really hope people read the truth-out link from the post. The show is so-so. Kerman herself - I give her a lot of thanks for what she said in that piece.

I mean of course if a non-white woman came out of prison for the same thing she wouldn't get the spotlight of a book deal, entertainment weekly and abc and everybody else coming to her to elevate her into the heavens. Nobody would care.

That said, I do feel like Kerman acknowledges her good fortune and she's using the pedestal to spread the gospel that these women are people just like you and they are facing a steep hill and a majorly slanted system. She's taking the eyeballs focused on her and though she does bask a bit in the spotlight, refocusing those eyeballs onto these corrupt and unjust systems that exist within the American system of incarceration. You read some of her statements and you might as well just be saying "Metafilter's own":
"For many folks who enter the prison system, they are people who have been sent to our worst schools, they've received the worst health care, they are not well prepared for the legitimate economy, and this incredibly expensive system does nothing to address those facts. I take responsibility for my own actions,…but the idea that personal responsibility is something that will solve the problems that we are currently using prisons to try to solve is ludicrous. I mean, it's a systemic problem. It's not an issue of personal responsibility."
posted by cashman at 5:32 PM on July 21, 2013


I have to say, Capital P Problems aside, I was pretty much sold on the whole series by Kate Mulgrew in her pre-prison back story. The fact that one actress can play "put upon working class wife", "awkward kid spurned by the mean girls", "tit puncher", "mafia witness", AND Red, all in the space of 50 minutes, is fucking phenomenal. I had no idea she was this talented of an actor.

I'll also say that, more interesting to me than Piper's prison story is the way that the show acts as a proxy for the kind of story about New York that we'll never otherwise get. Maybe it's easier for me to see because I worked in the film industry in New York and recognize all the locations, but in a way this show is almost the anti "How I Met Your Mother". All those people of color, and queer people, and immigrants, and transpeople, and old people you don't see on network sitcoms, because instead we're following around the Pipers of the world? For a show that doesn't really take place in New York, this is the most New York any TV show has ever been. Well, since maybe Welcome Back Kotter, at least. The especially interesting contrast is that all those people become richer characters as we learn their backstories, while Piper is the most stereotypical New York City White Girl ever. Her back story turns her a little more into a cartoon the more we learn (oh, man, her line of fucking twee soaps...), whereas everyone else's back story reveals their humanity more and more with every bite we get.

Well, maybe not Pornstache. Though I haven't seen the whole show yet.
posted by Sara C. at 7:32 PM on July 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just finished watching the season. Man, considering where it started and where it went is nothing short of astonishing.

Consider the fallout from Larry's radio spot. He's playing to the audience and all the stereotypes, even as we see the actual people reeling from having their personal lives so carelessly revealed and knowing exactly how it looks to the world.

The cast is simply astounding. The only "problem" is that there's so much talent among them and you don't see all of it in every episode.

To whoever was asking about Taryn Manning (Tucky, the extremely religious one), she was in 8 mile and Hustle and Flow, among other things.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:34 PM on July 21, 2013


Also, my favorite moment was meeting Suzane's (Crazy Eyes) parents. That was brilliant.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:36 PM on July 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm curious as I actually watch the series what Frowner meant upthread by

"so much access to expensive and complex beauty treatments"?

When I first read her comment, I had only seen the first episode. So I figured there must be future scenes involving characters getting botox or chemical peels or something. But I haven't come across that yet. And all the depictions of inmates' beauty rituals that are depicted seem extremely pedestrian, even makeshift. Someone makes lipstick with kool aid powder and vaseline. Someone does eyebrows with sewing thread from the commissary.

Sophia, the resident hairdresser/beauty treatment administerer, seems to have access to a lot of stuff (clippers for shaving hair and other tools, cocoa butter, probably chemical straighteners), but there's also discussion of the whole underground economy of the prison community, including conversations between Sophia and Red about where Red draws the line on what she's willing to bring onto the black market.

I don't mean to pile on at all, I'm just curious if there's something I missed about the way female beauty is portrayed on the show. I mean, I assume there'd be more track marks and bad skin IRL, and that the emphasis on body hair removal would be much less. But I've never been in prison, so who the fuck knows?
posted by Sara C. at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


So I figured there must be future scenes involving characters getting botox or chemical peels or something.

It' just Sophia's hairdresser business. Kate Mulgrew's character also gets some personal pampering but it's over the sinks in the prison bathroom and not exactly luxury.
posted by MillMan at 5:16 PM on July 22, 2013


Red's personal pampering is a perk of power. Sophia's shop is run by barder. While there creative licenses taken in the, it gets the feel of prison down to its non prison audience: it sucks, but mostly it's regulated way of living, rife with boredom and subject to danger at times. But mostly it's just people trying to get by.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:23 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also really caught me that, all that power aside, she's still getting shaved with one of those awful single-blade disposables. Assuming Red has things a little easier than the average inmate, I don't know that any of the characters we're seeing have access to "expensive beauty treatments".

One of my favorite indicators of prison status, so far, is what the characters' cubicles look like. Red and Miss Claudette have crocheted coverlets, handmade personal items, and homey touches like newspapers and mood lighting, because they have the power to get these things.
posted by Sara C. at 8:55 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guess who is doing 3 months right now in the same prison piper was? Lauryn Hill.

Lauryn Hill
#64600-050
FCI DANBURY
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
ROUTE 37
DANBURY, CT 06811

Let's see Lauryn come out of there and see what happens then. This could get a lot more interesting.
posted by cashman at 11:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, so I've been wondering what is it that Aleida Diaz wants her daughter Dayanara to do to her eyebrows with sewing thread?
posted by moody cow at 3:11 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do the opening credits show all of the inmates in the show?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:29 AM on July 24, 2013


moody cow: threading
posted by Vibrissa at 6:29 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Brandon, I thought so at first, and I really want that to be the case (especially some of the background actors we don't really get to know), but after careful observation I think it isn't.
posted by Sara C. at 2:09 PM on July 24, 2013


(I think the main cast would be hinky about being so close up and so un-made-up, and I think having non-principals do it would fuck with their deals.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:11 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm on episode 8 and can I say how much I love the Natasha Lyonne character? Nicky! All her big hair and teenage mannerisms and sardonic monotone and sulking around like she's Sam freakin Spade. I feel like I've met her a few times. I heart Nicky.
posted by The Whelk at 9:17 PM on July 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


One of the things that most fascinates me about the show is how all the women are very much like women you've met, in your everyday non-criminal life.

I mean, not you specifically, The Whelk, but the general person-knowing you.
posted by Sara C. at 10:46 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Via the official Orange Is The New Black twitter account (@OITNB), production has begun on season 2. Sorry, don't know how to link tweets.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 PM on July 29, 2013


Yay!

(Sara, you click the little time stamp at the upper right corner of any tweet to launch it as a standalone page, then use that URL.)
posted by maudlin at 7:18 AM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


The wife and I are arguing over Red's backstory is finished and if so, what she's in jail for.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:14 PM on July 30, 2013



I'll also say that, more interesting to me than Piper's prison story is the way that the show acts as a proxy for the kind of story about New York that we'll never otherwise get. Maybe it's easier for me to see because I worked in the film industry in New York and recognize all the locations, but in a way this show is almost the anti "How I Met Your Mother". All those people of color, and queer people, and immigrants, and transpeople, and old people you don't see on network sitcoms, because instead we're following around the Pipers of the world? For a show that doesn't really take place in New York, this is the most New York any TV show has ever been.


OH GOD TOTALLY. This is THE NYC metro area show. All the characters- all the background flashback details-all the Larry's Stuff current places, this totally feels like the place. Like I'm 90% sure Red walked past my dentist's office and Watson was in the stairway of a building I lived in.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The wife and I are arguing over Red's backstory is finished and if so, what she's in jail for."

I assumed that they don't want to exhaust all the backstories too quickly. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I thought that we've not actually seen anyone's actual criminal offense. Well, except for Tricia Miller's, who dies.

Anyway, my assumption was that it was the stuff that the mob was storing in their store.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:15 PM on July 30, 2013


My assumption about Red is, after she becomes one of the Mafia dons, the problem is, well how many women are there in that role within the Russian mob? You can say, "Oh, was it Sergei or Vlad? I don't know, all these guys, who can really say?" But for someone like her? She'd be fingered in a minute. And because of her position as a relative outsider (and again remember that her whole narrative is insider/outsider stuff), it would be easy for the men to turn on her.

So my assumption is that the men got Witness Protection, and she got jail.

Did we see Tricia's actual crime? When she stole the necklace from the store, the owners were like "I dunno? Whatever?" Besides which, even if the cops took it upon themselves, that would be petty larceny. You'd get 30 days in the county jail (AKA Riker's), if even that, not an actual sentence at a federal prison. My assumption about Tricia is that she later got picked up on a sweep of the park totally unrelated to the shoplifting thing, probably on drug charges.
posted by Sara C. at 11:24 PM on July 30, 2013


I assumed that they don't want to exhaust all the backstories too quickly. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but I thought that we've not actually seen anyone's actual criminal offense.

No, we saw Ms. Claudette's (murder of housecleaning client, due to his abuse of one of her charges), Pennsatucky (murder of the abortion clinic nurse), Yoga Jones (accidentally killing a kid) Sophia's (credit card fraud) and Janae (robbery (she was the track star)). On and Alex for drug related charges.

I don't think we know what sent Tricia to jail, as she doesn't have the neck (gang?) tattoo yet.

Anyway, Red's story and crime is fascinating because it's going places I didn't think it would. First she because part of the power circle, then fell down the ladder and now climbing back on different track.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:28 PM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think she has the neck tattoo in some of her later backstory scenes, where she's transitioned from cute happy go lucky street kid to junky (and maybe prostitute?).

I don't know about gang tattoos, but from what we know of her backstory I can't see her having been in a gang. Being a junky in Thompkins Square Park isn't really a "gang" type of thing.

It's clear from her age and some things she says in her flashbacks that not much time has passed from her flashbacks to the present day. She runs into her old friend, who is now working in a restaurant and has a home, and brags about having turned 18. In the present day, Nicky says something about her being only 19.
posted by Sara C. at 6:43 PM on July 31, 2013


Right now the show has been amazingly on target about NYC Metro area attitudes, slang, locations, types of characters and back stories and tensions and dynamics but in all my years of shopping at Fairway(s) I have never seen a white cashier.
posted by The Whelk at 7:25 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


On and Alex for drug related charges.

We didn't actually see the arrest scene or even know how she got caught do we? Personally I'm interested in how / why / if she really did rat out Piper.
posted by MillMan at 8:00 PM on July 31, 2013


Yeah, I was confused about that, too. Actually that whole bit where the white female guard does her a favor because she sees that Piper is "like her" was a little facile. I kept thinking that white girl guard must actually hate Piper and have it in for her, but she was just being fake (like a white girl). And so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop on that.
posted by Sara C. at 8:05 PM on July 31, 2013


I just thought it was a clumsy bit of characterization.

Besides if it was the Co-Op it would've been a lot funnier.
posted by The Whelk at 8:07 PM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


how / why / if she really did rat out Piper

You haven't finished watching yet, have you?
posted by Sara C. at 8:14 PM on July 31, 2013


My assumption about Red is, after she becomes one of the Mafia dons, the problem is, well how many women are there in that role within the Russian mob? You can say, "Oh, was it Sergei or Vlad? I don't know, all these guys, who can really say?" But for someone like her? She'd be fingered in a minute. And because of her position as a relative outsider (and again remember that her whole narrative is insider/outsider stuff), it would be easy for the men to turn on her.

So my assumption is that the men got Witness Protection, and she got jail.


I don't think that can be it. Aren't those guys running the produce business that got the government contract to serve the prisons? Giving them that idea was how she got in with them in the first place. She's still in with them, right, because smuggling? And it seems like the government would maybe stop doing business with known mobsters.

I'm guessing it's her jealous, emasculated husband or one of the mobsters' jealous wives that gets her in trouble.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:25 PM on July 31, 2013


Oh wait, duh it just hit me.

The big government contract they got was to supply prisons with produce.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 PM on July 31, 2013 [3 favorites]


You haven't finished watching yet, have you?

I have, but I have a really bad memory, and I can't find any episode by episode reviews because no one does them for these netflix shows.
posted by MillMan at 9:50 PM on July 31, 2013


SPOILER ALERT

It turns out that Alex really did rat out Piper.
posted by Sara C. at 10:03 PM on July 31, 2013


I can't find any episode by episode reviews because no one does them for these netflix shows.

TWOP is up to episode 9.
posted by polymath at 10:04 PM on July 31, 2013


I cancelled streaming a few months ago for never adding any new movies I actually wanted to watch but y'all forced me to renew. I'm a couple episodes in now and it's pretty darn good!
posted by Justinian at 10:28 PM on July 31, 2013


YAY THIS THREAD IS ACTIVE AGAIN

I love this show. I love how uncomfortable it makes me at times; I'm a middle class American white woman between the ages of 18 and 45, nothing in media is designed to make me uncomfortable. (Except The Boondocks, which I also loved.) I love the diversity of the cast, I love that we have such beautifully realized and complex characters of so many different racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds. I love that there is a trans character played by a trans actor, and that her crime was credit card fraud, not prostitution. I love how explicitly they make it clear that prison, even minimum security lady prison, sucks horrifyingly, and that the reason why it sucks is because you have no power, none, only the favors that allies are willing to grant you, and that managing those shifting alliances is a full time job. I love Red and I love Alex and I love Nicky and I love Dayna and I love Poussey ("Accent adroit bitch!") and I love Taystee and hell, I love them all.

There are problematic aspects to the show as well, but I feel like this is a case where the perfect is the enemy of the good, and at least we HAVE all these women's stories. So many people I want to learn more about. I'm on episode 11 but have spoiled myself for the rest of the series because I was unable to sleep wondering what the hell was going to happen to Doggett.
posted by KathrynT at 12:20 PM on August 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah I find it really difficult to binge watch this show cause each episode is such a emotional ordeal. My empathic relays get all burnt out.
posted by The Whelk at 3:47 PM on August 3, 2013


The final, very intense scene of the series was slightly marred by me yelling out "For fuck sake's Tucky she's not a vampire."
posted by The Whelk at 7:43 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few of the castmembers and actual Piper (Kerman) were on Melissa Harris Perry's show this morning.
posted by cashman at 1:38 PM on August 4, 2013


Taking bets that Piper smashed out what little remained of Tucky's teeth and now the state has to pay for dentures.

She will of course, think this is a sign she's on the right path by God.
posted by The Whelk at 3:52 PM on August 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


By the way, here's the mug of the real Alex Vause. Court papers confirming the name here. The similarity to Laura Prepon isn't exactly striking...
posted by Bravocharlie at 1:02 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


"By the way, here's the mug of the real Alex Vause. Court papers confirming the name here. The similarity to Laura Prepon isn't exactly striking..."

In her book, Piper Kerman names her lover/accomplice as "Nora Jansen". Is there a reason to believe that the "Caroline Wolters" named in the appellate decision is that person other than the fact that Wolters's role matches that of "Jansen's"? Has Kerman said that "Nora Jansen" was a pseudonym?

In any case, as mentioned previously in this thread, Kerman describes "Nora" in her book as much more butch than the character of "Alex Vause". I've mixed feelings about this — given the rest of the show and its casting, it's more excusable as necessary concession to a wider appeal of the show.

Even so, casting Laura Prepon gives the show the awful "male gaze-y" attribute that it otherwise lacks for so hoary a trope as a women's prison. I mean, to be sure there are many couples like Piper and Alex, and Prepon is convincing as mildly femme to my inexpert eye, so it's not as if it's unrealistic. But it's both realistic and (probably) more comfortable to the straight audience, not to mention a departure from how Kerman describes "Nora".
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:03 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The final, very intense scene of the series was slightly marred by me yelling out "For fuck sake's Tucky she's not a vampire."

Alex would probably disagree.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:53 AM on August 6, 2013


[Folks, totally fine to link to stuff elsewhere but when you bring people's names over here from court documents you're getting into dicier territory. Please be mindful of that.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:02 AM on August 6, 2013


I mean, to be sure there are many couples like Piper and Alex, and Prepon is convincing as mildly femme to my inexpert eye, so it's not as if it's unrealistic.

One of the first things that rung really true for me, on the show, was the Alex character. She reminds me so much of someone I know from lesbian circles in New York that it's almost eerie.

Would I have liked to see a slightly more butch actress in the role? Maybe? I don't know? I mean, there are plenty of butch women on the show, and I don't know that it's important for social justice reasons that this particular woman have a particular style of gender expression. She doesn't come off as not believably lesbian, or anything.

I also think there are certain realities of casting that you face when you make a show like this. Like, we need an actress who is mysterious, sexy, obviously immediately attractive, and in a certain age range. She probably needs to be a contrasting physical type from Piper and have a distinctive look from other women on the show. We also need to cast X number of "name" actors to get people to tune in. It needs to be someone who is willing to travel to New York for six months in order to make the show. It needs to be someone who is actually interested in playing a somewhat controversial/difficult role.

I think my criticism is more with how they styled Laura Prepon, not necessarily that they cast her. I think they could have gone more butch with the look of the character, for sure.
posted by Sara C. at 8:54 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


My thoughts about the casting bring up something I hadn't entirely realized before:

All the "name" actors are famous from the 90's.

Do you guys think there's a rhyme and reason to this, or is it just that teen actors from the 90's are the right age now, and Kate Mulgrew happened to be available and it's totally a coincidence that she's also 90's pop cultural figure?

Like, is there some kind of diabolical marketing angle to casting a bunch of people that folks who are about 30 have nostalgia for?
posted by Sara C. at 8:57 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have binged and seen all but the last three episodes. I really, really wnat to know more of Suzanne's story - her "acting" during the Scared Straight episode was fantastic and I kind of wonder after showing her as a crazy peeing on the floor lady if they will reveal she is in for insider trading or some other white-collar crime.

Also, more Poussey would be fab.
posted by pointystick at 9:22 AM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I just don't know what to make of Suzanne at all, and I'm very curious how all these pieces of her personality fit together.
posted by Sara C. at 9:53 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ny Mag's Vulture blog has a lot of interviews with the cast under it's Orange Is The New Black tag Here's the one with Uzo Aduba
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The character of Suzanne is one of the most fascinating and interesting on the show. I would love to see the actress who does Suzanne in a Shakespeare play.

Question about Sophia, the transgender character: did her son turn her in? As she's being lead away, he's seen sitting on the stairs, holding her wallet of presumably fake credit cards, which she seemed to be using to buy him things. So maybe he was holding it a symbol of love?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:00 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


My takeaway was that he had something to do with her getting caught. He seems young to have "turned her in", but he definitely could have found the cards, put two and two together, and said something to his mom or some other authority figure. It could have even happened in innocence -- "Mom, why does [Sophia]* have these cards in her wallet with all these other names on them?"

I didn't see his behavior there as a gesture of love, but of fear/tension. Or maybe even guilt.

In other Sophia news, I read recently that her twin brother stood in for her in the pre-transition shots. Which makes so much sense. I was really confused how they could have magically had her go "back" for just a few scenes in one episode.

*Did they say what Sophia's son called her, post-transition?
posted by Sara C. at 10:20 AM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Huh! I just assumed they found a decent enough male lookalike. What a casting coup.
posted by The Whelk at 10:28 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, those scenes were one of my few HOWD THEY DO THAT moments, technically speaking, in almost any TV, ever.
posted by Sara C. at 10:32 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


For those interested in transgender characters, Hit & Miss turned out to be pretty good series that touched on various issues. It's on Netflix.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:34 AM on August 6, 2013


Brandon, my roomie and I were wondering about the wallet scene. Did the kid turn her in? Did he misuse the cards? Or was it to indicate the card fraud was to buy things for him? I'm not sure but I wondered too.
posted by pointystick at 11:06 AM on August 6, 2013


No, we saw Ms. Claudette's (murder of housecleaning client, due to his abuse of one of her charges),

Are you sure that is what she is in jail for? There are many hints that she strongly opposed having her case re-opened. I assume that she is in for something related to the human trafficing, and is worried about being connected to the murder.

Like Red's story unfolding, there are a lot of false leads shown for what they are as the stories are revealed.



But I can't stand that they made the trans character in jail for something related to their surgery (credit card fraud to pay for it,) thus bringing it to the forefront of their conscious time and time again. Such lazy writing, and a cheap plot device. The writers just wanted an excuse to agonize over her transition non-stop.
posted by Theta States at 12:30 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did the kid turn her in?

That seemed to be the implication, yeah. The preceding scenes make it pretty clear that the kid is having none of that two moms business.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:44 PM on August 6, 2013


"The big government contract they got was to supply prisons with produce."

Bingo. Did you notice that in both the shop and the prison they used Neptune as their distributor?
posted by iamkimiam at 2:49 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are you sure that is what she is in jail for?

We did see her stepping over a body the body of a man who had been abusing one of her charges, and not being the least bit surprised or disturbed about the body, so I'm gonna stick with yes, until the show says otherwise.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:35 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that scene shows that she killed him, but not necessarily that she was convicted of murder. This is a minimum security prison: while Yoga Jones is in for (manslaughter?), I think that murder one would get you into maximum security.
posted by maudlin at 3:56 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sometimes older inmates with clean track records are transferred to Min security, that being said, I don't think she got caught for the murder- I think she got hit with human trafficking (" slave trade shit") and never contessed her case because she felt like ...well I did kill a guy, I probobly deserve this.

I mean, she could hardly claim self-defense? Like if she did go down for the murder, how could she appeal/re-open it?
posted by The Whelk at 4:01 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh, good points. She probably did kill him, but yeah it's not clear that's what she convicted for. I tend to doubt it was human trafficking as it looked like a legit operation. Maybe she took a dive for one of her charges? Intriguing...
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Spoilers

I finally finished the first season - like The Whelk, I found the show too emotionally exhausting to watch all at once - and I'm surprised at how little I care about Piper anymore. She might have added years to her sentence, but she and Larry and her horrid, snotty little friend, they are by far the least interesting part of the show for me. I'm heartbroken instead about Miss Claudette and Red (what the hell, Red!). Piper at least operates as if she has a future. Miss Claudette and Taystee show us characters who have to live without hope.

I have to wonder what Kerman and her husband (especially Larry) think about their fictional counterparts being so unlikable. Given that the real Larry wasn't even close to the fucknugget on the show, and Kerman wasn't as flaky and clueless, at least according to her book, I wonder what kinds of conversations she had with Jenji Kohan about her portrayal.
posted by bibliowench at 8:12 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I actually like Piper's snotty little friend cause she's not boring, unlike Larry, who's just a putz.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I tend to doubt it was human trafficking as it looked like a legit operation.

Eeeeehhhhhh-"paying off your parent's debt", dormitories, being brought there by your Not!Relative when you don't speak the language, I'm pretty sure this isn't a 100% compliant with the law organization from what we've seen. The maid service seems like a legit company but how they get said maids seems super sketchy/mobbed up.
posted by The Whelk at 9:56 PM on August 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


That being said I'm VERY INTERESTED in finding out how exactly Red got in there. Like I'm pretty sure she took the fall for someone so the rest of the gang could walk free but we don't know. (also, while Red has the air of an old-timer, she's not like Claudette where we see her, out of prison in flashbacks as a younger person. Which makes me think her crime happened relatively recently compared to the level of seniority and respect she commands, probably cause she rose through the kitchen ranks quickly because she's Red and that's what she does).
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


My money is on her husband. He did not look happy to be relegated to Khalva-fetching duty. I wouldn't put it past him to either rat her out, or to convince the Russian Mafia coffee group to make her take the fall for the rest of them. I'm sure he'd be glad to get her literally locked away in the kitchen where he believes she belongs, especially if she's going to be the one being served by making him the once doing the serving.

I love how each backstory proves so much more than the crime, but the also reasons they did, or couldn't avoid doing whatever they did. The flashbacks are very economical and, in the case of Miss Claudette's, inconclusive (as the crime that got her incarcerated.) What we often get instead are insights into their behavior in prison: Janae's felt contempt for the authority figures, since she let down her previous mentors. Sophia found a job that was traditional woman's role in the beauty parlor while using the same skills she's had to learn during her own transition. Here, her sexuality is not selfish like the stolen credit cards, but something she can share with everyone. Pennsatucky is given a new identity that lifts her above the typical meth head, and enables her to feel special (much like Piper did . . . hmm) and use her chosen status as an excuse any bad behavior. Red lusted after some social status, and when she couldn't get it through the wives, she went to the men, and it might have been there that she learned how to manage an organization.

So these women aren't defined by the crimes they did but the circumstances that lead them to that crime in the first place, and these circumstances are much more nuanced than the crimes themselves. You don't often hear characters on the show defining their fellow inmates for what they did - we didn't even know Pennsatukcy murdered a nurse until we got her flashback, and the show subverted her rage and made the result a crime of anger that only later because a righteous cause. We see so many stories that have little to do with greed or drugs or anger. It doesn't excuse what they did, of course, but it gives them an unique identity that lead to these crimes, and so they come in as more than a robber or drug addict or drug addict or - hey, another drug addict.

On a separate note (I want to talk about this show so damn badly) why are there only white lesbians so far, Crazy Eyes aside? Would the combination of woman of color and graphic sapp hism be too much for your "Urban Stories" listening audience? Or is this really a pattern in prison?
posted by bibliowench at 12:15 AM on August 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's an interesting observation about the black/white lesbian ratio.

Technically, I believe we don't know about Poussey's sexual orientation; then again, that doesn't really matter if she's not put in any sexual/romantic situations, or we don't get to see her assert herself as not straight. I have to say though, I love her friendship with Taystee. And even though I crave lesbian visibility, I'm also starved for positive, realistic and Bechdel-test-passing depictions of female friendships on TV (never mind movies).
posted by moody cow at 1:24 AM on August 7, 2013


Eeeeehhhhhh-"paying off your parent's debt", dormitories, being brought there by your Not!Relative when you don't speak the language, I'm pretty sure this isn't a 100% compliant with the law organization from what we've seen.

Oh damn, forgot about those statements. The fallout and public humiliation from a human trafficking charge may indeed why she didn't want her case reviewed.

Interesting that they didn't show her at the review hearing or anything. Since she attacked a guard, I was assuming her story was over and done with, but maybe not.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:21 AM on August 7, 2013


Just finished watching this yesterday. I have so many thoughts.

Why are there only white lesbians so far, Crazy Eyes aside?

Does Sophia not count as a lesbian? It also seems like maybe there is something going on with the two Hispanic ones with the eyeliner?

The fallout and public humiliation from a human trafficking charge may indeed why [Miss Claudette] didn't want her case reviewed.

The impression I got is that she didn't want to get out if she had nothing to leave for. When Baptiste was available again, she jumped at the hope of getting out.

Overall, I liked the show, though I don't know that I'm pining for a second season.

I thought it was interesting that the show went so far to show the inmates as human, but for the most part the guards/administration were ridiculous caricatures -- the exceptions being the two newbies, maybe a sign of changes to come?

SPOILERS
I was also disappointed by the final scene -- Piper's turn to the dark side seemed so predictable and cliche. I assume 'Tucky will get new teeth out of the deal, which will be easier on the viewers next season, at least.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:10 AM on August 7, 2013


Technically, I believe we don't know about Poussey's sexual orientation; then again, that doesn't really matter if she's not put in any sexual/romantic situations, or we don't get to see her assert herself as not straight. I have to say though, I love her friendship with Taystee.

I wonder what the combo Taystee Poussey is indicative of.
posted by Bravocharlie at 11:33 AM on August 7, 2013


It also seems like maybe there is something going on with the two Hispanic ones with the eyeliner?

Re this and the Tastey/Poussey mashup, my guess is that we see more lesbianism among white inmates because the prison is so segregated along racial lines. Because the protagonist is white, we know more about the inner workings of the white clique. And a lot of the lesbianism going on isn't O HAI IM ALWAYS A LESBIAN 100% -- with the notable exceptions of Alex, Nicky, Suzanne, and Big Boo -- but women making do because they want physical touch in their lives.

That said, I would LOVE an excuse to throw Marga Gomez into the Litch for Season 2.
posted by Sara C. at 12:14 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


npr: Laverne Cox: Transgender Actress On The Challenges Of Her 'New Black' Role

Also it got pointed out that her Laverne's twin brother played her in her flashback scenes. I first mistyped that as "win brother", but they both pretty much apply.
posted by cashman at 10:31 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


my guess is that we see more lesbianism among white inmates because the prison is so segregated along racial lines

That's my guess. With the supporting cast I think they have to go through the racial identity and backstory plots before there is room in the plot for that level of everyday life experience. And there's only so much plot they can cram into an hour with such a large cast.

posted by MillMan at 7:11 PM on August 10, 2013


Pablo Schreiber: "I'm the most hated guy on Twitter right now."
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:00 PM on August 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy crap. Dr. Zira's link just made me hold up a finger in front of Mendez's pornstache and realize that he is Nick Sobotka.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:26 AM on August 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


From upthread, I don't think we've seen the crime that Janae is in for. Like was noted for Trish, you don't get federal prison for robbing a dry cleaners. Also, she came in at the same time as Piper, and she's much older than the flashback-Janae.
posted by donajo at 9:17 PM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Janae also seemed to kind of know the drill when she came in with Piper. Cynicism in the bus, laughing during "orientation".

Young Janae looks and acts so much like my baby sister (who, thankfully, graduated med school instead of pursuing a life of crime) that my heart breaks for her in the flashback scenes.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:11 AM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, did anyone else notice that in episode three, "Lesbian Request Denied", they used the extremely excellent tUnE-yArDs track, Gangsta as Piper was making her way to her new bunk with Claudette? And that it was a humorously appropriate choice except that the snippet that they used didn't include any of the lyrics that made it relevant?

I've introduced the show to my 67-year-old mother, who loves it, and we're making our way through the episodes. We stopped at four, before the chicken episode, and I'm not thrilled about watching it again. I really enjoyed the show when I watched it last week(ish), but I'm finding that it's not as enjoyable on a re-watch as some other shows I really like, such as Game of Thrones and The Americans. I'm a bit surprised at that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:47 AM on August 15, 2013


I watched an episode a second time (my wife was catching up with me) and noticed the same thing. I'm just going to wait for next season and not do any sort of re-watch.

Am I the only person who didn't mind the Chicken episode?
posted by Area Man at 4:56 AM on August 15, 2013


Nope, I thought it was fantastic!
posted by iamkimiam at 5:28 AM on August 15, 2013


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