August 3, 2013

IconOrange is the New Black: A Bandwagon Worth Jumping On

The Lovely Ladies of Orange is the New Black

Unless you were out of the country last month (like I was) you have inevitably heard (and most likely watched) the new Netflix series Orange is the New Black. I can’t remember the last time a new series has sparked so much instant fandom or the last time a show had everybody talking from my 30 year old co-worker to my teenage niece to my 50 something client. After so many people exclaimed, “What?? You haven’t watched it yet!? You must. You have to. Tonight. Do it!” I overcame my aversion to joining the trendy masses and sat down and watched the show.

So, here I am, telling you to give in to the newest phenomenon that “everybody’s talking about”. This is not Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, though it can be quite titillating, because it is actually good. The creator, Jenji Kohan, is the woman behind Showtimes’ Weeds (it ran for eight seasons, people) and is no slouch in the Emmy department. The show is based on the memoir of the same name, written by Piper Kerman, who is also a contributing writer to the series. It is based on her experience in prison after she pled guilty to money laundering and drug trafficking, a crime she committed in her past life while hopelessly in love with a drug-dealing lesbian. The show portrays her as an upstanding successful citizen of New York who has to break it to her boyfriend that not only did she get involved in a drug smuggling operation, but yes, she used to be a lesbian.

The opening song is a catchy new tune by Regina Spektor. And did I see Jodie Foster’s name in the credits? Yes, I did, as she directed one of the episodes. In fact, she directed one of my favorite episodes, “Lesbian Request Denied”, that highlights transgender actress Laverne Cox and her backstory. Is actress Laura Prepon smoking hot as the guilty, bespectacled ex-girlfriend? So hot, even if she glares and stares and plays with her glasses more than she actually appears to use them.

Clearly, by now, the case has been made. But if all of the aforementioned evidence is not enough to persuade you, then let me remind you that there are very few popular television shows that portray lesbians, transgender characters (played by a real life transgender), realistic looking lesbians, butch lesbians, imprisoned lesbians, and emotionally layered lesbians. And of course there is a smattering of heterosexuals, and “straight” women dabbling in ladies while in prison, male guards and a range of supporting characters, but the variety and realistic portrayal of lesbians is not to be overlooked. Don’t get me wrong, I loved The L Word and Lip Service as much as the next gal, but isn’t it refreshing to see some lesbians that don’t look like they just finished up a photo shoot?

The writing is great, with intricate story lines weaved in, the acting is excellent, and the sex scenes are fun and sexy and certainly better than what we would see on just regular television. You can watch all 13 episodes on Netflix Instant Watch now, and Season Two is in the works, which means you have time to jump on the bandwagon.

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Maria Burnham

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