What have I learnt so far from ‘Orange is the new Black’?

I began watching this series (Orange is the new Black) a couple of weeks ago and am now on the 3rd season. Before I move on with further episodes, there are a few thoughts that I wish to put together for you and for my future self. The story of this show revolves around a prison and its women inmates. The protagonist is a 30 something woman, belonging to an elite class of society, and is convicted for illegal drug distribution. That said, I don’t remember ever having watched a movie or a series that tells stories of a myriad of characters, so vividly, realistically and beautifully.

For me, the most beautiful thing about the show is that while the central theme is around crimes and criminals, it showcases a world that we have always been so unaware of, it goes deep into the making of different personalities, with each of them exhibiting unique subtleties.  

There is humour, there is sorrow, there is regret, there is love.

Here are a few perspectives that I want to share –

Do we or can we ever change, or at best, do we just become more aware and accepting of our true selves, with time and experiences? This particular thought has occupied a lot of my mindspace and the question just gets more intense with every passing episode.

This woman who has spent most of her life living in a mansion, with access to education and comfort, who considers herself kind and reasonable, seems to have never felt like herself, up until prison happened to her. She discovers parts of her that she never came to terms with before.

This other character, who is a drug addict and who has a history of getting her friends in trouble because of her addiction and giving preference to heroine over all her relationships, redeems herself for a good amount of time at prison, only until she finds herself trapped in the same dilemma again.

There is this scene where she is caught with drugs at the prison and she is being sent to another facility for her choices and actions. One of the prisoners quips (something along the lines of), “You have been here, what can go worse anywhere else.”, to which she says, “I don’t know. I am quite resourceful.” It seems she is afraid of herself, of how she knows she can again find herself in the same situation as many other times before, between choosing drugs and life and she is afraid of making a choice. Then, there are people who join certain groups and engage in illegal activities only to be feel accepted and acknowledged.

There is no judge and there are no judgements. It’s an equally hard-hitting dialogue for me. One of the prisoners, an extremely twisted and volatile character, makes this statement. This feels so vague and yet so real. There are prisoners who have committed crimes inadvertently, like accidentally killing a child while hunting an animal, selling a fake drug to someone who later commits suicide; women who have been cornered for their sexual preferences. Then there are women who have consciously committed heinous crimes, murdering people who they perceived to have disrespected their feelings, who manipulated people to take undue and unfair advantage.

In the same prison, there is a guard who engages in sexual harassment, who sells illegal drugs to inmates and who is the reason of an inmate’s death, the woman in charge is a moron who doesn’t care about people, a counselor who seems nice in the beginning but is not aware of his own destructive and vindictive personality, a Correctional Officer who is an opportunist and a drug dealer himself.

Actions have consequences. But where is the line between good and bad, right and wrong, black and white, fair and unfair, moral and immoral.

Who are the culprits and who are the gatekeepers?

Where is the judge and where is the judgement?

There is so much more that I can go on and on about. But there is only so much that we can put on paper. So, until next time, I am ending this here with a few learnings from the show that will stay with me for a long time –

that nothing is permanent, pain or pleasure, you just have to keep lapping and life adjusts;

that love causes the maximum pain and still is the most effective healer;

that sin is always bigger than the sinner;

that courage is in sticking to your morals in the hardest times.

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