October 22, 2013

IconOrange is the New Black versus Wentworth Prison: which is the best lesbian prison drama?

You wait years for a new lesbian prison drama, and then two show up at once. Orange is the New Black is currently on Netflix, and Wentworth Prison is coming to its finale soon on Channel 5 in the UK. But which show is top dog?

Set in the USA, Orange is the New Black follows the story of a nice middle class 30-something who gets sent down for 12 months for helping out her drug-dealing exgirlfriend.

Wentworth Prison is a remake of 80s Australian drama Prisoner Cell Block H. It follows the story of Bea, who’s in prison for trying to kill her rapist husband.

So which is best? There’s only one way to find out: FIGHT!

(warning: some spoilers and vaguely rude pictures coming up)

Hottest character

If you’re after a perfectly arched eyebrow from a remorseless drug baron, Orange Is The New Black’s Alex is your girl.

If violent, sex-mad girls in vests are more your thing, it’ll be Wentworth Prison’s Franky. Either way, if you ever go to prison and want to make friends with the local hottie, bring eyeliner.

Winner: draw


Best supporting cast

Once you get past Wentworth’s main characters, it’s hard to remember people’s names and it becomes ‘the one who’s usually nice but gets racist when drunk’ or ‘the one who had the kid at the start and looks sad all the time now’.

Orange is the New Black feels like it’s got a cast of around 100 well-thought-out individuals. Taystee, Poussey, Pennsatucky, Daya, Miss Claudette, Nicky, Morello – to name a few – they all feel like real people.

Winner: Orange is the New Black


Meanest top dog

Orange is The New Black has Red, a tough Russian who controls the kitchen and can withhold food from people she doesn’t like.

Wentworth Prison’s Jacs is a monster who burns hands in industrial steamers, cuts chests with blades, uses boiling water as a weapon and has people beaten to a bloody pulp. And she’s very fussy about how she likes a cup of tea.

Winner: Wentworth Prison


Most hateable screw

Wentworth’s prison officers are mostly decent ordinary people, even if a couple of them do questionable things, like take death-defying quantities of drugs.

Orange is the New Black’s prison officers are cartoon villains. It’s a close-call between the lesbian-fearing slimeball and the sexpest moustached slimeball for who to hate the most.

Winner: Orange is the New Black


Raciest sex scene

Golly, where to start. Well, actually the start is where to start – within minutes of beginning the series, Orange is the New Black has a shower-sex-flashback and an almost acrobatic display of standing-up-cunninglingus.

Within minutes of Wentworth’s series start we see Franky casually having a chat with Bea over her shoulder, while her hands are busy with, uh, someone else.

Winner: draw


Most realistic

Having never been to prison myself, it’s hard to say. But it’s worth pointing out that apparently CCTV doesn’t exist in prisons in the USA or Australia. No wonder there’s so much drama all the time.

Winner: draw


Most LGBT actors

Orange is the New Black has one trans actor – Laverne Cox, who plays Sophia; one openly lesbian actor – Lea DeLaria, who plays Big Boo; and one openly lesbian director – Jodie Foster. It’s also got Natasha Lyonne, who is straight, but played main character Megan in But I’m a Cheerleader.

Wentworth Prison has zilch.

Winner: Orange is the New Black


Best prison stereotype

Crazy Eyes is your quintessential prison mad dog – at the start you’re not sure if she’s harmless or incredibly dangerous, but you won’t want to get too close to find out.

Boomer is Franky’s bodyguard, a job she does by mostly by stepping in front of assailants and letting them bounce off her enormous bosom.

Winner: Wentworth Prison


Best lesbian stereotype

Oh Franky. With your famous temper, tendency towards aggression, and love of sex in inappropriate locations, we can’t say we’re surprised that you ended up in prison.

But wait a minute… this is a different Franky! Despite the sulky pout, the heavy eyeliner and the penchant for toned-arm-revealing vests, this isn’t Frankie from Lip Service. Who knew lesbians on TV were so predictable! (Oh wait, we did.)

Winner: Wentworth Prison


Most likely to make you want to go to prison

Orange is the New Black looks like a place to make friends with loads of fun new people.

Wentworth looks like a place to die.

Winner: Orange is the New Black



Who’s the winner? The viewers, of course. Women’s prisons make great TV: danger, drama and lesbians. It’s like going out on your local gay scene but without the hangover in the morning.

Orange is the New Black is funny where Wentworth is gritty, but they’re both great dramas in their own right and well worth watching.

And if we’re talking about women’s prison dramas then an honorable mention has to go to the UK’s Bad Girls, which ran for eight years and introduced many a young lesbian to the idea that prison might not be so bad after all. Get practicing with that shiv!

Season 1 of Orange is the New Black is currently available to view on Netflix. Season 1 of Wentworth Prison is currently showing on Channel 5 in the UK, with the season finale on Wednesday 30th October 2013. Both shows have confirmed that they will return for second seasons in 2014.

4 Responses to Orange is the New Black versus Wentworth Prison: which is the best lesbian prison drama?

  1. Claire M says:

    I still love bad girls but wentworth is turning out to be better than expected! Love top dog jacks! Frankie and vera are easy on the eye! Cant wait to see OINB. Still not sure I’d lasft mins in prison despite all of my tv education! Better crutch some jellies… starmix alright?

  2. Jo says:

    I love both these shows! Too right the viewers are the winners! I was late to Orange is the New Black. Are there any other shows like this that I might have missed?

    • Hayley Garrod says:

      I enjoy both shows but am totally addicted to Orange Is the New Black, if I had to choose between the two then OITNB would win hands down. It’s easily the best prison show i’ve seen since Bad Girls, which was amazing in itself

  3. amelia says:

    haha, so glad you picked up on these two, they have dramatically brightened up my summer and autumn viewing!

Milly Shaw


Pussy Riot video

Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were jailed for two years on 17 August 2012 for “hooliganism”. This video features their latest song and images of the band and their supporters. It was created by The Guardian.

August 17, 2012