The amount of Netflix I can consume in a single sitting seems to straddle a very delicate line between remarkable and clinical. However, my binge-watching did lead me to my newest conquest, the Netflix original television series “Orange is the New Black.” This show, depicting the lives of inmates occupying a women’s federal prison, has been all the buzz lately, and I finally fell victim to the epidemic.
First off, the show is absolutely brilliant. It has the perfect combination of wit, character development, and intrigue that keeps viewers frantically reaching for the “next” button to begin another episode.
Interestingly, you would be hard pressed to find a character on this show that can fit nicely into a template that the entertainment industry has created for females. Sophia, for example, is a transgender ex-firefighter who regularly displays courage while defending herself against guards and fellow inmates.
In every episode, more layers of the characters are revealed, thereby creating multidimensional people which viewers can easily identify and sympathize with.
When programs such as “Orange” have a platform that has the potential to reach such a substantial audience, it is the duty of directors and producers to advocate change.
The amount of influence mass media has on our culture is astounding, and if shows are in a position to promote a progressive social agenda and chose not to, they are doing a great disservice.
Along with many other issues, television, and this show in particular, have the capability to bring the continuous inequality between men and women in the United States to the forefront of the viewer’s minds.
Can a single television show alter the way our society regards women over night? Probably not — but it can get people to discuss the issue. From discourses such as these, transformation can occur.
“Orange” is exceptional at humanizing women. It’s refreshing to have a show that highlights the complexity of life instead of having women play into certain molds based on factors such as their age, race or economic standing.
I’m not saying that Jenji Kohan, the creator of both “Orange” and the hit-series “Weeds”, is completely revolutionary in having a female-centered television program. In the past decade various women have emerged as leaders in the entertainment world, the names of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling and Lena Dunham being at the forefront.
Although it pains me to say anything critical against my idol Ms. Fey, during the seven glorious seasons that 30 Rock was on the air, the emotional depth of Liz Lemon was not even remotely explored at the intensity of the main characters of Orange is the New Black.
While it may be unappealing to some to view such forthright content, it is imperative for women’s issues to be exposed on a larger scale than they currently are.
Of course there are male characters throughout the show, but their roles are usually limited to furthering a female inmate's story. In Orange is the New Black the women are without a gallant knight swooping in and saving them from the perils of the world, demonstrating what is actually the case in life.
“Orange is the New Black” is definitely a step in the right direction by breaking many well-worn TV stereotypes. If more networks can create shows with the same candidness regarding women, our entertainment industry will be reformed for the better.