This month in Between the Lines Book Club, we are reading Orange is the New Black, a memoir by Piper Kernan. Orange is the New Black received critical and popular acclaim when it was released, but it’s best known for being the basis of a TV show that runs on Netflix. The Netflix show of the same name is very loosely based on Piper’s experiences, and as the seasons have progressed, the plot focus has shifted away from Piper (although she remains a major character, and more to the other inmates.
One thing the show does well is address the overwhelming racial imbalance in the prison system. Women of color, particularly Black and Latina women, are far more likely to imprisoned than White women, and the show’s cast reflects this. The show also deals with genre and sexuality, and has made huge stars of transgender actress Laverne Cox and two time Emmy Winner Uzo Aruba. It deals with mental illness, with abuse with and without the prison system, and with drug addiction. Above all, it focuses on social ties between women of different religions, backgrounds, ages, body types, and ethnicities. While the show is a hard-hitting drama, it also has a lot of humor. In fact, the first season was listed as a comedy in the 2014 Emmys (later seasons are listed as Drama).
Here’s a trailer from season one. Note that it is not safe for work due to copious swearing.
So how close is the show to the book? Well, of course the farther the show runs, the further from the book it gets, as it develops characters other than Piper. Here’s a Buzzfeed list of ways the first season is similar to and different from the book:
So far the show has won the following Emmys:
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Uzo Aruba)
Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series (Jennifer Euston)
Outstanding Single Picture Editing for a Comedy Series
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Uzo Aruba)
This clip shows some of Uzo Aruba’s stand out moments – it is not safe for work in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY (language, sex, urine..) but it’s both very funny and very sad, and shows how much depth the actress brings to what could otherwise be a just a one note comedic part, and that’s pretty characteristic of the other actresses’ as well.
So, if you are a fan of the show, hop on the comments and tell us about it. What do you like or dislike the show? If you watch the show and you’ve read the book, how do they compare?