Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, then chances are you will have heard about the Netflix original Orange Is The New Black. OITNB follows the story of Piper Chapman, a privileged young woman who finds herself thrown into the deep end when she is arrested for drug smuggling, and her struggles to make friends – and foes – during her stay at the Litchfield penitentiary.
With a total of 8 Primetime Emmy nominations under its belt, it’s safe to say that OITNB has received floods of critical acclaim- but perhaps the greatest appreciation for the show stems from the largely female fan base. Featuring a stellar cast of strong women, the show sticks a metaphorical middle finger up to industry executives who tried to claim that there isn’t space for women in the media. But why has OITNB struck such a prominent chord with women around the world?
It may be difficult to grasp the concept of women feeling liberated by a show about female offenders, but OITNB’s innovative take on the representation of women, and ultimately what makes a person truly beautiful, is undeniably refreshing. We live in a world where we are being inescapably bombarded by unrealistic ideals of beauty: billboards where women are dressed in unnecessarily provocative outfits, adverts that are constantly reinforcing the idea that we must be beautiful and should never be happy with our appearance. What OITNB does so masterfully is present a delinquent group of women, who would typically be looked upon as the scum of society, and gives the viewing audience the opportunity to see past the criminal label and embrace the beautiful human being that lies underneath.
Each character develops as the series progresses; we gain an in depth insight into their criminal past, but perhaps more importantly we witness why they committed such actions. On the surface it may appear to be difficult to relate to such characters, but as we delve into their personal circumstances and come to learn who they are, a bond begins to form between audience and character. Everyone we ever meet has made mistakes, some worse than others. None of these individuals in OITNB are perfect in any way, shape or form, but ironically that makes them perfect characters. Women have been yearning for a realistic and relatable representation in the industry for years, and it’s no wonder that the cast, crew and characters themselves have been embraced with open arms by people across the world.
Ultimately, Orange Is The New Black teaches us that we all make mistakes, but these mistakes don’t define us.
Words by Sophie Mace