Sunday 12 April 2020

Nerd Church - Watching 'Orange Is The New Black' In Lockdown

(Warning: this post discusses Coronavirus/Covid 19, and prison, and references drugs and death.)

You know all those shows that you just don't get around to for whatever reason? 

Orange Is The New Black was one of those for me.

'Watching 'Orange Is The New Black' in Lockdown' with an orange background, and black stripes down the left-hand side

So what better series to start when we can't go out, than one where they can't either, y'know? 

The UK is in Lockdown - we can only go out for specific reasons, which does currently include 1hr exercise, provided we practice social distancing, so we're better off than some.

I can't stress enough how important it is to stay home, dearest nerdlets. 

(This section is Covid-y, so if you already have enough common sense to stay the f**k at home, feel free to skip ahead. If you think I'm over-reacting, this section's for you.)

It doesn't matter if you don't mind if you get Covid 19 - 

although that's not the smartest excuse, it is one that I've heard a lot

- even if you don't have symptoms AT ALL, you can still spread it to other people. 

Those people may not be so lucky as you. And those people, in turn, can spread it to others. That's how viruses work.

This puts people - emergency workers, disabled people, elderly people, and able-bodied young people who just happen to get hit hard (it can happen to anyone,) - at risk.

Stay. Home.

If you're not familiar with OITNB, the basic premise is that Piper Chapman - nice blonde White girl from a good family - goes to prison to serve her time for a past offence.

Cos miss Piper has something of a past - previously unknown to fiancee, Larry. Her ex-girlfriend, Alex, was part of an international drug cartel.

And Piper handled some money or something - the exact details are only revealed a little at a time, so Piper's involvement is a little vague at best to me at the moment.

So I'm well into the first series, but I'm aware that there's like... seven series - so no spoilers please!

Daya (Orange Is the New Black): Eh... No spoilers.
Via Giphy

I think that what's most impressive to me at the moment is the way this series takes its time to unfold.

Most series hit you hard quick, y'know? Cos they wanna prove their worth and keep you watching.

This series knows you're gonna keep watching.

This series doesn't feel the need to prove itself to you. So it allows itself to develop: slowly, and, sometimes, surprisingly.

Characters you dislike at the beginning become more sympathetic by their present actions and slowly-revealed backstory.

On the other hand, characters who seemed relatively likeable to begin with slowly reveal themselves to be jerks (looking at you, Healy.)

Generally speaking, we've got a whole load of diverse and complex rep. here, too. 

We have very human characters who are LGBTQ+, disabled, People of Colour... people are people here, which is awesome.

Obviously, though, there are problematic aspects - it's a series set in prison, problematic-ness is gonna happen.

A lot of it is ethical - these characters don't act like perfect, upstanding, members of society.

But there's other issues too.

In particular - and this might change but this is where I am at this point in my viewing - the Bi+/Pan+ erasure surrounding Piper.

Whenever Piper's sexuality is discussed, it's narrowed down to either Gay or Straight. 

Despite a few half-hearted attempts by Piper to vaguely introduce the notion that sexuality is more complex than that, she usually gets cut off, talked over, etc. - and then we're back to Gay or Straight.

I'm hoping that this is one of those 'slowly revealed' aspects but... I've seen enough Queer characters be glossed over in media to know there's a possibility that this won't be developed more than it is now.

Still, there's seven series and a girl can hope!

This show doesn't hide from the heavy stuff - it's a prison, people do bad sh**, and people have been through bad sh** now and in the past.

This needs a generic Content Warning, tbh. If you can think of it. it's probably in here somewhere along the way.

Don't get me wrong - it's not really gratuitous, and rarely brutal. But it's often explicit, and the darkness does not often get swept out of shot - dead bodies and drugs are things that can and do happen here.

So why am I watching a show about being in prison when I'm in Lockdown?

Taylor Schilling (who plays Piper in OITNB): Guys, it's gonna be ok, and we're gonna get through this together.
Via Giphy

Well firstly, my house, I'm pleased to say, is a lot nicer than prison. Just putting that out there!

I guess it's a little like a (much) milder version of all those people who are watching things like Contagion and other pandemic-related films, and reading pandemic-related books and stuff.*

It's a way for our peculiar hooman brains to process the utter bizarre-ness of the situation we've found ourselves in, and regain some sense of control - if only of ourselves.

*Fair warning: the linked article gets kinda panic-attacky and quite 'the end is nigh'-ish in the closing few paragraphs.

But I'm not about to go as all-in exposure therapy as watching Contagion et al., I've had enough Anxiety lately, thanks - so I guess OITNB is my compromise.

Not that I ever consider anything 'escapism' as such (although a lot of people enjoy and use escapism as a coping mechanism, and that's fine by me; you do you,) I relate too much to... every character ever... for that.

As I said in my post about Brigsby Bear (argh I love that film!):

'We may think we’re ‘escaping,’ but we’re actually facing the world inside us.' 

(Hippie upbringing, FTW!)

The odd existence Piper faces in prison - restrictions on activities, inability to leave, not being able to see your loved ones whenever you want, the commodity value of toilet paper, etc. - is not dissimilar to the one we face in Lockdown.

Again, I'm not trying to say that Lockdown is exactly like prison - of course it's effing not!

What I'm saying is - there are similarities. And where there are similarities, there can be opportunities to process.

...or maybe just enjoy the surprisingly numerous amount of pretty Queer girls going at it like rabbits *shrugs* that works too. 😎

(Side note: I also love the way each episode fades-to-orange at the end!)

Are you an Orange Is The New Black fan? (No spoilers, please!)
What've you been watching while you have to stay home?
Are you one of those people watching things like Contagion?
Talk to me! 😀💬

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  1. I am certainly not one of those people who are watching Contagion, but hey, people should do whatever helps them cope! I have mostly been watching light hearted sitcoms. But, I’ve also been into the reality show Love is Blind. It’s absolutely ridiculous but so entertaining!

    1. Totally with you with Contagion! I've heard people talking about Love is Blind - the sum conclusion is that it's v. v. ridiculous! Enjoy :)

  2. We've dived into Mad Men for the first time. About 8 episodes in and really enjoying it!

    1. Never seen that - I know loads of people love it though!

  3. Great post! I've never watched OITNB but I'm tempted to having read your post.
    I'm currently watching Drag Race from the very beginning - I'm at the end of season 4!

    1. Let me know what you think if you end up giving it a shot! I tend to watch like 3 eps of Drag Race in a row, and then not watch it for like... 3 months! I have no idea why. <3

  4. Tell me what you think if/when you watch! What's Instant Hotel? Haven't heard of that one! <3


Comments? I love comments! Talk to me nerdlets!