Love is Not the New Black

If you talked to me anytime in the last month, you probably know how excited I was for Netflix to release season 2 of their original series, Orange is the New Black. I became obsessed with the prison drama after my roommates introduced me to it last fall. I don’t know what exactly drew me in. Maybe it was the humor in the show, the stories, or the fact that I am very similar to the main character, Piper. Either way, I was sneaking around, watching new episodes alone because I couldn’t wait to watch them with my roommates.

Orange is the New Black revolves around Piper Chapman, a white, middle-class professional whose life turns upside down when she gets sent to prison for transporting drug money, a crime she committed a decade earlier. The show follows Piper as she learns to survive as a prison anomaly. It also highlights the backstories of the other prisoners, giving faces to society’s forgotten members.

With my undying love of Piper (who basically is me if I went to prison, down to the Taylor Swift comparisons), it only made sense that I would read the memoir of the same title written by the real Piper, Piper Kerman.

Reading the memoir put a new perspective on the show for me. The memoir, while wildly entertaining, is less focused on the humor in prison and more focused on the flaws in the system. It took me by surprise several times with its gruesome tales of mistreatment in the prison system and I developed a great deal of respect for Kerman for choosing to share her story about such a dark time in her life.

However, if I was the real Piper, I would not be pleased with the way Orange is the New Black is going, namely due to its increasing focus on love triangles. I get it, I really do. Everyone loves love and everyone loves the drama and high emotions that come with it on TV. The newest season of Orange is the New Black went above and beyond though when it came to this.

The first season of Orange is the New Black focused on several basic romances: Piper and her fiancé, Larry, Piper and her fellow inmate/ex-girlfriend, Alex, and inmate Daya’s illicit love affair with a prison guard, John Bennett. Sure, there were prison flings here and there. For the most part, the story focused on the prisoners and their stories.

This season however, went all over the place. The previous season’s romances were still there, but inflated. Suddenly, we’re getting a storyline about Larry’s relationship with Piper’s best friend, Polly, and one about the prison warden’s marriage.

I’m sorry, but I do not care. I really don’t need to see a scene with Larry and Polly hooking up. I’m not interested in the fact that the warden’s husband is cheating on her with a man. While these are all interesting storylines, I couldn’t help but wonder where they fit in with a show about prison and thought they’d be better suited elsewhere, perhaps on Days of Our Lives.

The most thought-provoking moment of the new season for me, was not seeing Polly leave her husband for Larry. It was when I saw the backstory of one of my favorite characters, known as Morello. Throughout the first season, Morello tells everyone she has a fiancé waiting for her outside of prison named Christopher. Her story shows flashbacks to her meeting and falling for him. However, the flashbacks also eventually reveal that Christopher is not Morello’s lover, but the object of her dangerous obsession and this obsession is what landed her in prison. This episode included a scene where Morello, a driver for the prison, sneaks off in her van to Christopher’s house and breaks in. She goes through his house, going through his and his fiancee’s things with sorrow and jealousy.

Clearly, Morello’s time in prison did nothing to remedy her of this fixation. So why put her in prison in the first place, I wondered.

These sort of questions are what the show should be inspiring in its viewers. When Piper Kerman wrote her memoir, she did so in order to shed light on what really goes on in women’s prison. In fact, since being released from her incarceration, Kerman has become an advocate for prison reform.

I understand that the series is not trying to replicate the memoir. However, for awhile, they were doing an excellent job of shedding light on what goes on in prison, even with some entertaining exaggerations. Even with the new season, I felt like I learned more about the perils of prison.

But with all intents and messages aside, I really hated the love triangles. This is a show about prison. I want to see more about Piper. I want to learn about the other ladies in prison and what they did to land themselves there. I don’t want to see Piper deciding if she should settle for Larry or being with her former lesbian lover. You’re in prison, girl! There are bigger fish to fry.

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