On Friday, June 6, highly anticipated Netflix original Orange is the New Black returns to the tube to captivate lesbian audiences once again with a second season that is sure to leave us anxiously awaiting the third. The plot line follows the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a well-to-do girl-next-door whose poor relationship choices lead her straight to the slammer. But what some viewers may not know, is that this comical social commentary is actually based on the real life drama of Piper Kerman, female memoirist who published a book on her own experience in a women’s prison.
With motifs that many of us can relate to—like the ex who just won’t go away and the frenemy you always knew you couldn’t trust—Orange is the New Black provides a breath of fresh air from the stale, overly dramatized stereotypes of lesbian relationships and archetypes. While humorous characters like Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba) play up on prison perceptions and life behind bars, the show is not without its fair share of meaningful social commentary.
Almost every viewer can feel a pang of sympathy for Piper Chapman. She, along with every other woman in the show, lives in a man’s world. Tackling the theme of race relations and segregation, racial lines are still just as boldly drawn in the prison cell as they are in real life, with many of the prisoners finding comfort and camaraderie from women within similar socioeconomic backgrounds. We are all plagued by fanatical Christian activists like Pennsatucky, whose name and character plays upon the beliefs of those who straddle the geographic and moral lines drawn on the Pennsylvania-Kentucky borders. While Pennsylvania has banned marriage inequity, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear still argues that Kentucky’s ban on gay marriage helps ensure the human race. He obviously missed the season finale.
Perhaps what we most appreciate about this comedy-drama is the genuineness with which it represents our sexual and social diversity. Transgender characters like Sophia (Laverne Cox) reflects the reality that many transgender people battle with the inability to fund much-needed procedures. Sophia, who turns to crime to afford her surgery, is denied accurate medical treatment for a time while in prison, an undoubted nod to the reform that our medical companies need to undergo in order to support our transgendered community members. Even Piper’s toxic relationship with ex-girlfriend Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) portrays the intensity and passion with which old flames are felt.
While season one focused primarily on the internal struggle and evolution of Piper Chapman, writers of season two have promised to provide more backstory of other inmates that audiences have fallen for. Ultimately, the quest to face oneself and the repercussion of our decisions often leaves us changed, evolved, and a shell of our former selves, as is the case for Piper Chapman and many of her fellow inmates.
While no one can quite promise where the second season will take us, one thing is for sure: our new favorite television series has already been renewed for a third season, so we won’t be left hanging for long.