Orange is the New Holy Crap This Is Amazing!

I spent a chunk of last night and all my morning lie-in-bed time trying to compose my recommendation for Netflix’s Orange is the New Black. I finally gave up because the more enthusiastic I am about something, the more I lose any ability for persuasive language and just want to pound my ‘this is fucking awesome’ into other people’s skulls.

Language. What’s up with that? Where’s my telepathic rail gun?

So I just want to say… Orange is the New Black. Fucking amazing. Ignore the horrible trailers. They are horrible. The actual show is brilliant in so many ways that it renders me as incoherent as if I was trying to describe all the elephant parts at once. It tackles race, class, gender, and queer issues. It explores over a dozen complicated character arcs and interweaves them brilliantly.

At its core, it breaks down the false categories of criminal and not-criminal in a way that effectively critiques our entire notion of criminality (in kind of a Black Helicopters way that doesn’t flinch from looking at how terrible and inevitable and yet internally-logical the process of criminalization is. Blythe could totally write for this show). At one point late in the season, one of the (newer) guards tells an inmate that the only difference between them is that the inmate got caught. Nobody in the show is entirely horrible, and nobody in the show is entirely noble. the show manages to lay bare the flaws in our current system of incarceration in a way that doesn’t come across as just liberal hand-wringing.

But most importantly, the show manages to do something I don’t think I’ve ever seen a major media product pull off (or even attempt), and I think a large part of the success of the characters and the critique comes down to this: it uses a female gaze.

Only one of the actresses fits the Hollywood standard (the main character, which is a deliberate choice that I’ll get to in a moment). The rest are all shapes, all sizes, all ages. And because of the way they are stripped down and put in the same khaki-and-grey shapeless clothes, the audience is forced to look at them as subjects rather than objects. We follow these characters through (pretty complex) arcs, and by just a few episodes in, every one of them is sexy as fuck because we’re invited to encounter them as compelling, fully-rounded subjects rather than as objects that fail to meet the standards of the male gaze.

Watching this show was like my first time at WisCon.

The only hard point I had in watching this show was the main character. For several episodes, I felt like they failed with her, that she was the result of some studio exec’s opinion that we needed a pretty, blonde white woman to serve as our entry into the world of the show.

I was wrong. Stick with her. Her character arc is such a surprise, and so worth it by the time you get to the end of the first season.

So… yeah. That’s my spoiler-free, probably completely unpersuasive pitch for why everyone needs to watch this show, and why it should win all the Emmys ever handed out, and why it can teach us all a lot about writing complex, compelling characters.

Cheers!

Alyc

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11 thoughts on “Orange is the New Holy Crap This Is Amazing!

  1. I say go for it. 😉 Once that Pan kid is out of the way, the Lost Boys can finally grow up and turn into the hotties they’re destined to be…

    Er..did I say that out loud? *evil grin* While you’re at it, can you get rid of Wendy too?

    • As has been discussed in detail before, Roberts is all ninja. The pirate thing is just a clever guise to get closer to his prey.

      Hook, on the other hand, is all pirate. Nothing ninjastic about him, yet he somehow manages to pull off piratical with a suave sophistication worthy of the best ninja.

      Yeah, he’s my kind of pirate. *Sigh*

      Stupid Peter Pan.

      • That’s right, I forgot about the Roberts thing. (Must have been Ninja mind tricks.)

        Eh. I don’t see the Hook thing. But then again, the closest I’ve ever come to swooning over a Pirate was Angelina Jolie in Hackers 🙂

  2. Good form, Kitsune, good form. Why, if a ninja were to bring me the Pan alive, I’d make them my first mate. I might even let a particularly ravishing ninja such as yourself assist me in gutting the boy like the codfish he is.

    And while this Isaacs fellow spent many an evening studying my mannerisms on board my ship, I assure you, my lady, that he reflects but a pale shadow of my charm. I suggest you fool one of those miserable pixies into flying you here to Neverland and experience the real Hook.

    Your devoted servant,
    Jas. Hook, Captain

    • Woot!!!

      Uh, I mean, appropriately kitsune-esque enigmatic smile.

      Why Captain, I would have been more…discreet in my admiration had I known you had feelers out for a ninja who might be interested in taking on such a commission. And you may be assured that the thought of being your mate, first or otherwise, is a wonderful enough thing to think on that getting to Neverland should be no difficulty at all. Shall we discuss this more fully this evening over dinner? As you are so fond of codfish, perhaps sushi?

    • Indeed… Indeed…
      I must say Kitsune, a ravishing ninja like yourself would most likely enjoy her stay with such a fine fellow as Jas. Hook.

      May I implore you good Sir that if the lady does come over to your crew for a stay if I might be able to implore an invitation to meet her? I’ll bring a fine dinner of vennison and well aged wine. I can sail my crew to Neverland and we can meet to the East of Skull Rock or anywhere else that you may find acceptable. Of course, that is, around the coast of the Indian Camp. They gave me such a dastardly hard go of it last I was there…

      For such a visit, I might even help you with the Pan should you have need of it. Not so concerned with the boy as I am that wonderful and delicious Tinkerbell. I’ve heard that were the boy goes she is not far behind? They say also that with the proper magics, she can grow full size…

      I await word,
      Captain Rackham
      Captain of the Otherworld Ship, The Black Eagle

    • And by the way, Captain…

      I think I may have found the Pan for you. At least, it would be a decent place to start.

      Don’t worry, we’re brothers o’ the sea and I would never dare suggest anything like a finder’s fee or anything…

      Go here.

      http://www.pixyland.org/peterpan/

      Good hunting,
      Captain Black Sam Rackham

  3. Shameless Plug

    See out and find The Lost. It’s a collection of four comics set in the Pan-canon with a bit of a twist…

    You can’t grow old if you’re a vampire. 🙂

  4. Captain Hook and protection (From Devon)

    I have a feeling he would ignore requests for a “Fish skin” and instead would perform the coat hangar abortion himself when the time comes. He’s gotta be pretty accurate with that hook of his.

  5. There will be much oozing and gushing about Slytherins of all stripes.
    *headdesk*

    Hubby and I will be there but probably closer to 7:30. 🙂 YAY for the Potter Salon! ‘Tis fun.

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