On Second Thought, I Won’t Go to Prison
Having now finished the second season of Netflix hit “Orange Is the New Black” (which I didn’t intend to watch so fast; I wanted to spread it out, but one minute I was starting and the next I was complaining about how I thought there were 16 episodes, not 13, and I couldn’t believe we were already at the end), I’ve realized I need to recant an earlier position.
I now feel, quite strongly, that despite my former claims that I would not only enjoy minimum security women’s prison but quite possibly flourish, I would not in fact do neither should I find myself locked up in the fictional Litchfield or any of its real world analogs.
And, by the way, should you encounter someone who thinks they’d do well there after watching the second season, run the other way. That person is a psychopath.
For the uninitiated, “Orange is the New Black” is a fictional show loosely based on the book of the same name written by Piper Kerman, a Connecticut blond who spent a year in a minimum security correctional facility after being busted for running drugs. The first season — a surprise runaway hit — followed the adventures of Kerman’s wide-eyed alter ego Piper Chapman as she grew, evolved and adjusted to life behind bars.
Along the way we met a dynamic cast, each of whom was lovable and flawed and surprisingly unique. And though the show was heavy at times, you could watch episode after episode without needing to take a break to digest. Unlike, say, “Mad Men,” which is an amazing show but so dense it requires a little breathing room, “OI- TNB” functions more like a soap opera in that you pretty much just want to know what happens next and a sitcom in that you fall in love with the characters and just want to spend more time with them.
Somewhere in season one, I began to realize that although it wasn’t the show’s intention, prison life not only didn’t look so bad but also sort of looked enjoyable.
Sure there were obvious considerable downsides, but there was something about the sense of camaraderie and closeness that was appealing. It was not unlike when I fell in love with “The Facts of Life” as a child and begged my parents, unsuccessfully, to send me away to girls boarding school. Litchfield is just grown up Eastland, and maybe I’ve always yearned to be part of a close knit group of women.
But season two quickly reminded viewers — or at least this viewer — just how awful, unpleasant and dangerous prison life can be by introducing a comic book-style villain. She turned the culture into something a little less like Eastland and more like Oz. The second season was just as watchable, but I preferred the character ambiguity of the first season as opposed to the growing sense that Satan incarnate had joined the cast.
The irony is that the introduction of a character that at times strained credulity allowed the show to offer a more realistic depiction of the horrors of prison life.
And on a personal note, I guess my backup plan no longer involves even minimal incarceration. !
HEAR MORE FROM ALISON ROSEN on her podcast, “Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend” or on the immensely popular “Adam Carolla Show” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @alisonrosen or visit her website at www.alisonrosen.com.
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