Orange Is the New Black is a TV series from Netflix based on the book of the same name. Loosely based on the memoirs of Piper Kerman, the series follows her incarceration in a female prison.Starting as a 30-something yuppie, Piper has a degree from a prestigious college, a cushy job making artisanal soaps, and a faithful fiance. However, her past comes back to haunt her when her ex-girlfriend, Alex, goes to prison and Piper is named as an accomplice in her crimes. Piper must then trade her New York City life for a stay in Litchfield Federal Correctional Institution with a motley crew of cons, each with her own story.First running for 13 episodes from July 2013, the series was met with generally positive praise and has since been renewed for a second season in 2014.
Orange is the New Black provides examples of the following tropes:
Subverted by Crazy-Eyes, who pursues Piper. Piper is terrified that Crazy-Eyes will force herself on her or become violent if she rejects her. While Crazy-Eyes does have emotional problems, she turns out to be much more mature that Piper thought, and the two form a bit of a friendship for a while.
Piper accuses Healy of having a crush on her and using his power to try to control her to fit his fantasy impression of her.
Absurdly Youthful Mother: Aleida (mother of Daya, who has to be about 17 or 18 if she's in jail, not juvie) is played by the 33 year old Elizabeth Rodriguez.
Red's also declared "a mother figure" outright by one of the cons in the first episode. Voyager was known for trying a bit too hard to make Janeway a maternal figure for the crew.
In an early episode, Maria Dizzia's character Polly includes the secret ingredient of blueberries in her soap, which is one of the things that makes Piper so excited about going into business. This may be a subtle allusion to Dizzia's character Dolores on Louie, who has a penchant for blueberries.
Alex and Piper are called into Healy's office after Pennsatucky trapped Alex in the laundry dryer; Healy's only concern is whether they've been using the dryer for lascivious purposes. Alex responds, "I'm more of a dishwasher kind of gal, sir." This is an allusion to Donna Pinciotti, the character Laura Prepon played on That '70's Show, who mentioned being aroused by dishwashers.
The scene with Larry masturbating is also a homage to American Pie, Jason Biggs's breakout role.
The reference to the "webcam incident" and the penis-shaving.
Nicky refers to Gina as "Squirrel." This could be a reference to Abigail Savage's role as Bunny.
"I have been felt up... stalked... and called Taylor Swift."
"I could tell you that I'm going to make you my prison bitch. I could tell you that I'm going to make you my house mouse. That I will have sex with you even if we don't have an emotional connection."
Artifact Title: Only new inmates still being processed wear orange uniforms. Most of the population wears beige, and Piper gets beige clothes of her own as early as the second episode.
As the Good Book Says: Pennsatucky uses the Bible many times, most dangerously to justify her attempts to kill Chapman.
Beauty Inversion: Many of the women in the show are noticeably less attractive than they are in real life, particularly Pennsatucky.
The actress playing Yoga Jones appears to have little or no makeup, making her look tired and prematurely aged. Her character's secretly crippled by guilt, and probably the only woman present who feels she deserves everything Litchfield throws at her.
Bechdel Test: The cast is almost entirely women, so it passes easily.
Becoming the Mask: Pensatucky is heavily implied to have been a nihilist before being treated as a hero by religious fanatics for shooting a nurse at an abortion clinic.
Belief Makes You Stupid: Played with, with Pennsatucky and her followers. However, the nun, who is in Litchfield for chaining herself to a nuclear test site, is treated with great respect.
At the beginning of Season 1, Piper is being starved out by Red. At the end of Season 1 Red is being starved out by the new head cook.
Episode 1 opens and closes on the same scene of Piper being pulled out of the shower by Taystee.
Butch Lesbian: Boo, by her own admission. She even has a forearm tattoo that helpfully reads, "BUTCH."
Call Back: Cesar repeats Red's "he's not an eggplant, he's retarded!" joke in episode 5. Nicky does it again in episode 13.
Career Building Blunder: Red trusts Nicky after finding out she snitched to Pornstache because she knows Nicky will feel guilty and want to make amends.
Cast Full of Gay: While it's hard to be absolutely certain how many of the characters are actually gay or bisexual or if they're just settling with what's available, there is an overwhelming amount of lesbian sexcapades going on in the show.
The Cast Show Off: The Christmas pageant was an excuse to show off all the talents the actresses had. Including the normally silent Norma.
Chekhov's Gun: The missing screwdriver, which frequently disappears and reappears due to its offensive uses. It turns out to be a Red Herring both times, however, as Big Boo steals it simply to masturbate with the handle, and Piper drops it before she can use it.
Character Focus: Every episode, for the most part, focuses on a new character to flesh out.
Christianity Is Catholic: Averted. There is a nun, but when Chapman prays at the insistence of Pennsatucky, she prays to Jesus specifically. The nun remarks she might have thrown the virgin in for good measure.
Crisis of Faith: Pennsatucky has one after Chapman and Alex get the inmates to pretend Pennsatucky has faith-healing powers, then pulls the rug out from under her.
Deggans Rule: A good portion of the cast is minorities, and the show is not about race.
Desk Jockey: Caputo calls out Figueroa for being completely out of touch with the actual workings of the prison.
Dirty Cop: Everyone working in the prison is corrupt to some extent, and if they do treat an inmates like human beings, they are explicitly ordered by higher ups to start treating them more like animals. Even the best of the guards are shown to be apathetic or incompetent.
Joe Caputo: Christ, even Mendez said it was uncalled for, and that guy lives to throw people in the box.
Everything Is Racist: The prison is divided into cliques along racial lines. People generally refer to the cliques as "tribes" and insist that it's not racist. The "tribes" will compete with each other and make disparaging comments about each other, but there is plenty of friendly interaction between groups as well.
Evil All Along: Healy is originally portrayed as kind, fatherly and sympathetic. This ends very soon after Piper stands up to him, and he is quickly exposed as one of the biggest Jerkasses in the cast.
The NPR host and show are pretty clear Expies of Ira Glass and This American Life.
Morello's accent and endlessly planning a wedding with Jerkass "Christopher" recalls Adrianna from The Sopranos.
Face-Heel Turn: Healy's first interview with Piper is very cordial, and he seems like a nice guy who will try to make her sentence as easy as possible. However, he's eventually revealed to be quite a pathetic and vindictive man.
Fade to Black: Played with. The end of each episode fades to orange before going black for the credits. Because, well, Orange Is the New Black.
Fee Fi Faux Pas: Piper complains about the prison food to a nice woman who just gave her a free yogurt cup. This woman is Red, who is in charge of the prison kitchen. Things get worse.
Flashback Echo: Pretty common. Most notably is Piper's flashback juice cleanse in "Tit Punch" mirroring Red's starving her out.
Larry describing his groceries to Piper. Quickly subverted when he tries to turn it into phone sex and Piper shoots him down.
Played for a bit of comedy when the inmates react to common donuts with orgasmic pleasure.
Foreshadowing: In the last episode of the first season, Piper asks her fellow inmates how she should deal with Pennsatucky, and Black Cindy laughingly suggests what Pennsatucky really needs is new teeth. The episode ends with Piper brutally pummeling Pennsatucky's face, knocking her teeth out.
Granola Girl: Yoga Jones. Piper too was this, considering she was obsessed with being environmentally conscious, trying out vegan diets, and trying to get a soap-making company started.
Groin Attack: Chapman, on the advice of some of the other inmates, pulls this on Pensatucky when they fight.
Healing Hands: Subverted. Alex convinces Pennsatucky that she has faith healing powers. Needless to say, she doesn't.
Heel-Face Turn: Red is introduced as a vindictive petty tyrant who starves Piper for an unintentional insult. Later episodes flesh her out as a stern but caring matriarch.
Hellhole Prison: Inmates have a pretty decent amount of freedom to socialize, and not all the guards exploit their power to the extent that Mendez and Healy do. Psych, on the other hand... Though for the most part if there is any sort of problem or conflict, the employees of the prison will either be completely inactive and apathetic at best, if not actively hostile.
Red: Black girls hear about a chicken, of course this will happen.
Chapman: Why? Because all black people love chicken?
Red: Don't be racist. Because they're all on heroin. Somebody's been telling them there's heroin in the chicken.
Later, from that same exchange
Red: Those Spanish probably won't even eat [the chicken], just cut her throat and drink her blood, or something else superstitious. All I wanted was to eat the chicken that is smarter than other chickens and to absorb its power. And make a nice Kiev.
I Gave My Word: Subverted with Healy and his promise to reopen the track.
Insecurity System: The prison seems to have no video cameras anywhere. A tremendous amount of the plot hinges on this.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Caputo, who is a total asshole when he isn't acting neutral when Healy won't and being totally infatuated with new officer Fischer. He even ends up buying flowers for Fischer right before he meets her boyfriend.
Kick the Dog: Mendez, Mendez, Mendez. His ruining of Red's kitchen whenever she defies him (pissing in the Thanksgiving gravy might be the most egregious example) and leaving Tricia in the closet as she overdosed and faking her suicide to cover up his actions are only some of his worst.
Laser-Guided Karma: After denying food to Piper after she disrespects her, Red suffers the same fate in the finale when Gloria takes over the kitchen, denying Red food over her revenge attempts.
List of Transgressions: Tricia keeps a list of every item she's ever stolen, with the intention of paying for all of her thefts.
Mood Dissonance: Gets used a lot, with the show often switching from comedy to tragedy very quickly. This trope is especially pronounced in the very last scene of the last episode of season one: Everyone except Chapman is having a great time at the Christmas pageant, inmates and guards all together. Even Doggett, who gets to perform in the pageant, is happy. Chapman meanwhile, is totally alone and friendless, and goes outside in the snow, where Doggett follows her to kill her. The switch from the warmth and happiness of the pageant to Chapman fighting for her life alone in the cold winter darkness is very jarring, and very effective.
Mood Whiplash: Bora Bora Bora contrasts Alex's hilarious trolling of Pennsatucky with Tricia's gut-wrenching life story.
Never Trust a Trailer: Advertisements for the show only shows sassy one-liners from the characters to make it seem more like a standard comedy series like Gossip Girl or Desperate Housewives, with her lesbian affair mentioned as though it were just a silly joke.
No Bisexuals: Played with. While the word bisexual is rarely, if ever, mentioned in the series. Only "straight" and "lesbian" seem to be mentioned by inmates as options. But Piper repeatedly mentions that she isn't straight and she isn't entirely lesbian, and likes attractive people. And her brother calls Larry out on trying to force Piper's identity into a specific label anyways.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Piper admits to her part in getting Pennsatucky shipped to Psych and accepts punishment to get her sent back. In thanks, Pennsatucky demands that Piper get saved or face retribution.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When Pennsatucky tries to kill Piper in the season finale, Piper snaps and knocks her down, before smashing her face until she knocks out her rotten teeth.
"And the penguin says, "He's not an eggplant, he's retarded!"
"You lost me at the umbrellas."
Pet the Dog: Mendez generally comes off as a sexist, petty, corrupt bully, but his attitude towards the lesbian and transsexual women in the prison is oddly comparably progressive, in that he finds them hot rather than revolting, and his head-over-heels love for Daya is both pathetic and adorable.
Playing Gertrude: Aleida is played by a 32 year old actress who mother to Daya who is in early twenties. Although given the kind of life she's led it's not impossible to think Aleida was a very young mother but 12, 13 is a bit of a stretch
Subverted, as sex between inmates seen on the show is consensual. Discussed during "Bora Bora Bora" when the guards and inmates giving the tour pretend it's common, and also when Alex plays with Pennsatucky's fears of this.
On the other hand, Mendez routinely trades drugs for sex, and attempts to pressure Sophia into this in exchange for hormones when the doctors cut her prescription off. Morello is terrified of him for this exact reason, and Diaz takes advantage of the popular opinion of Mendez to seduce him and then claim he raped her to cover up her pregnancy.
Punny Name: Red's nickname fits her dyed red hair as well as the fact that she's Russian.
Rape and Switch: Invoked when Vause threatens to do this to Pennsatucky. An interesting example, because it implies that a woman would become gay after being raped by another woman. Note that nothing of the sort ever actually happens; Vause only threatens Pennsatucky with this. It's worth noting this is only a threat from Pennsatucky's perspective. Alex likely doesn't believe it's a threat, but she expects that Pennsatucky would consider it to be a threat to her heterosexuality.
Almost every time Piper is on the phone, the same woman is on the phone next to her sobbing. To the point where the sobbing woman starts offering Piper tissues if she starts crying.
The Eggplant Joke is repeated several times by different characters over the course of the show.
Scare 'Em Straight: Invoked in "Bora Bora Bora" where the inmates try to show how horrible prison is to convince a number of delinquents to give up crime. It proves very effective on most of them, but the girl in the wheelchair is unimpressed. Piper then tells her a few home truths, mainly once when in prison you will be forced to realize "how weak you really are".
Piper: It's the truth that will make you her bitch.
Self Restraint: Taystee gets herself shipped back to Litchfield shortly after her release because she prefers prison life to the outside world.
Shiksa Goddess: Larry's father accuses Piper of being this for Larry, saying that his love for her is a result of her natural blonde hair being "exotic" for him.
Title Drop: Pretty much every episode's is either completely dropped or at least referenced.
Unusual Euphemism: Chapman lists several threats she might use to scare Dina, the last of which, riffing on a Pablo Neruda quotation, is "I'm going to do to you what the Spring does to cherry trees, but in a prison way."
Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Loosely based on the memoir of the same name by Piper Kerman, on whom Piper Chapman is based. Some lines of dialogue are lifted directly from the book, but no characters save for Piper and Larry have the same names as they do in the book. In Real Life, Piper and Larry never went through any public relationship turmoil as a result of her stay in prison. Her family was also very supportive and loving during her time leading up to, in, and after her stay in prison, quite unlike the snooty WASPs Piper's family is depicted as in the series. Piper's drug-dealing ex, called "Nora" in the book, was not housed in the same minimum-security prison as her, though they did see each other while in a Chicago prison for the trial of their drug kingpins.
What Happened to the Mouse?: As of season 1, Red's flashbacks never actually get to the part where she's arrested for any crimes. We don't find out what she did to get caught, how long her sentence is, or what happened to her husband.
Pennsatucky delivers a fairly epic one to Piper in episode 12, when she points out that by Gaslighting her, Piper (and Alex, although Pennsatucky chooses to put all the blame on Piper) pretty much completely destroyed her life, and very nearly destroyed the faith in God that was getting her through prison.
Piper gets a few of these, with a few memorable ones coming from Suzanne/Crazy Eyes, Larry, and Alex.
Norma delivers one to Red, despite the fact she doesn't talk.
White Female Lead: Showrunner Jenji Kohan reveals in an NPR interview that Piper is an example of this.
Jenji Kohan: In a lot of ways Piper was my Trojan Horse. You're not going to go into a network and sell a show on really fascinating tales of black women, and Latina women, and old women and criminals. But if you take this white girl, this sort of fish out of water, and you follow her in, you can then expand your world and tell all of those other stories. But it's a hard sell to just go in and try to sell those stories initially. The girl next door, the cool blonde, is a very easy access point, and it's relatable for a lot of audiences and a lot of networks looking for a certain demographic. It's useful.