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The show is a fascinating character drama. It's very interesting to unravel the backstories of the individual characters and see how they develop. I also think it provides a nuanced look at the prison system, because it doesn't just acknowledge the problems, but how difficult the problems are to solve. With that said, it surprises me how bad the show can be when it comes to characterization.
Healy went from being a Reasonable Authority Figure to being a complete bastard, with pretty much no transition in between. If his initial personality was meant to be fake, then I don't think that came across well at all. I also don't think homophobia alone explains his actions in the first season finale. With regards to Larry, his character would've been much better if not for a certain action at the beginning at the show that makes it difficult to sympathize with him. Some people hate the love triangle because they don't find it interesting, I hate it because I can't root for either Alex or Larry, and it feels like Piper would be the loser no matter who she ended up with.
I think the show can border on Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy. Naturally you don't expect a prison drama to be a fun romp, but it feels like every victory the characters achieve is eventually snatched away. No matter how little the characters want, even if it's something that doesn't affect the overall plot, the writers seem determined to go the wangsty route every single time. It can sometimes feel like they're trying too hard to be dark.
It's a show that's definitely worth your time. But when it stumbles, it stumbles hard.
It's rare to see a series with an all-female cast that isn't about fashion or whichever shallow shit women are supposed to be interested in. Orange is the New Black is one of these series where women are allowed to be something else than an empty love symbol or an "obligatory vagina" to even out the penis ratio... mostly because there's no significant male character in the setting, and that's kinda sad.
Is the show good? Quite so. Is it funny? Yes. Is it refreshing? In a way, yes. Is it pandering? Alas, yes it is, in pretty much the same way The L Word was. Is it realistic? Definitely not.
This is a Dramedy. And while there are interesting elements and slightly realistic ones along with the funnier ones, the series takes place in a minimum security prison, which translates to the violence element being anecdotic from the setting. Therefore, the atmosphere is a bit too light and fluffy to evoke an actual prison and not a low-grade sorority/women's shelter. However, the show seems to be aiming for a much darker tone starting season 2 so there's a chance to see something more akin to real life prison violence.
But all in all, it's pretty enjoyable. You'll just have to go past the obligatory fanservice, the lack of realism and the sometimes shoehorned script.
Say what you will about Orange is The New Black. Say that it's very obvious lesbian fanservice, say that it's shallow, and say that it doesn't show the prison setting nearly seriously enough.
You could also say that it has female characters not as objects, and being in an all-female prison, where most of our characters are only of one gender, their gender becomes surprisingly unimportant, and every character is very well developed and fleshed out.
Except Vee. Fuck Vee.
It has women as people, is incredibly funny, and most of the fanservice vaults straight into fan disservice, considering the circumstances. Except Laura Prepon dominating a pretty blonde girl, which is every man's fantasy. Even the gay men. Laura Prepon has that power.
A brilliant series that deserves its acclaim.
Too often, stories focused on women are focused purely on the fact that they are women and their "unique" "womanly" concerns, whatever the hell those are. An endless parade of Harlequin and Lifetime. But Oit NB gives us a variety of women, with concerns from the universal to the highly personal. It's a show that has respect for its characters, because it allows them to have flaws and even the worst of them are still shown as people, not caricatures.
When I talk about wanting strong female characters, I'm not talking about characters who are stong females. I'm talking about females who are strong characters. This show has that in spades. And its success, among women and men both, shows that you can treat women as people, not just women, and still have success.
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