It’s the last week of June and that means I get to write a review and pretend it’s part of my weekly series!
This month we are heading back into television land to talk about Orange is the New Black and why it inspires me as a writer and as a person.
First off, if your aren’t familiar with the show, it is a primarily female cast helmed by Jenji Kohan of Weeds fame. It follows a woman’s experiences in going to a minimum security prison and the trials she faces as she comes to grip with a world she’s never known.
That’s the backdrop.
It is an excellent show for a couple of reasons, but the one that really matters is that it’s about a whole slew of women who are not tragically flawed for the sake of drama or television. They are flawed because they done fucked up or got fucked up and now they’re living the consequences of their and others’ mistakes.
The women are not beautiful actresses made to look pretty despite being in prison. They are real, they are people, and the stories told through and about them are heartbreaking, warming, tragic, beautiful, fucking real.
In a golden age of television where men still rule the landscape, Orange/Black defies the expectations and does its own thing. It writes the most compelling, human characters TV has seen in a long time. Women aren’t treated like objects to be objectified, admired, used, and protected. They just are what they are. And men are not typecast as miserable piles of excrement as the case often ends up in female-centric media.
Orange/Black is not perfect. It invents as much drama as it lets unfold and the show suffers when the writers try to dramatize and make “plots” for things to happen.
Despite that, I think it is proving to the world that women can be people in TV. Women can be stars of their own stories.
I hate that this is a thing we have to applaud and rally behind, but it is and until it is so commonplace that remarking on it is unusual I will keep on championing these kinds of excellent shows, this kind of inspiring media.
Women are not plot points or rewards, and I think about that every time I sit down to write.
So get out there and write people, not characters, be they men or women. And always remember to write the hell on.