3 seasons, how realistic is OITNB?
Orange is The New Black (OITNB) recently hit our screens again with Season 3, and after watching it all within a few days, I am left with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I enjoy the intricate ideas that magnify the ideas of a minority (e.g.meth-headed hillbilly’s) to their global following. I also like the way each character has their own story, so we get to see 2 layers to everyone (see Chang – you think she’s some tom-boy, wrinkly weirdo, but her backstory makes for a nice contrast). And more than anything, I like Crazy Eyes – the character itself isn’t half bad, but the actor Uzo Aduba, is the Lionel Messi of this show. She’s amazing.
But, I can’t help but wonder if this shit is realistic or not. You don’t have to be a prison expert to at least recognise the all-smiles prison lifestyle they all seem to lead. It’s an interesting show, but put bluntly, some areas lack a sense of realism. So then, seeing as none of my bad b*tches are incarcerated, I couldn’t secure any real life interviews. So I had a look online for a few interviews with ex-prisoners/guards/experts, who pick apart various bits, discussing what’s real, and what’s complete bullshit. I summarised some of the key points below, with links, so you can read more if you want.
Before you read them, it’s also worth noting that the shows creator, Piper Kerman, designed the show to partially reflect her one year experience in a women’s prison, so it’s not like any old clown wrote this. That also suggests the blurring of realism and fantasy in OITNB may be deliberate, but you can make your own conclusions on that.
(Click each hyperlink to read more)
– The most up-to-date realism review. Definitely worth the full read, so no summaries here
– When Piper fucks up Doggett (end of season 1) – you wouldn’t be allowed outside without any officers around. In fact, where did Dogett even get that bit of wood from? You don’t get to pick branches from trees either!
– Girls meet up in the church all the time do lesbian stuff, even during the Sunday service
– This isn’t Ramsey’s Kitchens Nightmare. No prison kitchen is that decorated, and no prison would reward inmates so much time around knifes and deep fat fryers
– If the flashbacks are to be realistic, they should be cut to about 8 seconds. There’s not always an exciting story behind every crime. Sometimes let your loved ones leaves drugs at yours, then 10 mins later you’re looking at 10 years
– It’s believable that Piper, a white, rich blonde girl, would only get 15 months for running dope money, but the inmates interviewed were inside with girls who handled say 1 or 2 eights of weed, and got 10 years
– OTINB = entertaining, but not realistic.
– Usually, you eat your food fast, then fuck off, not pick your seat and gossip for a while while you eat in the Cafeteria
– Red is way too powerful to be considered realistic
– Lesbian sex in the toilets is definitely a thing
– The separation of mothers from their children is way too neglected (see the section about ‘write-outs’)
– Female prison is something of a sisterhood, which OITNB seemingly neglects
– The difficulties seeing your family is very real, which contrasts all the research showing close family ties in prison help someone to not re-offend
– Taystee re-returning to prison was again very real and accurate – what other option did she really have? No job, no family, no employment prospects…
– The mother-daughter relationship (Vee/Red) is again a reality in many female prisons
With all things considered, the one weak point about OITNB is that some elements are too hard to believe, but hey, it could be worse. It’s still a show worthy of the hype it’s recieving. How realistic is it that one man that Michael Schofield (Prison Break) breaks free from the worlds most make-belief prison (Sona), to then dive under buildings to find computer chips, with his brother, Lincoln Burrows, aka show the same emotional state for every scene, with whom he shares the trait of poor performance in a lead role? I’ve still seen Prison Break 3 times over, so realism isn’t the be and end all in a good TV show. Then again, what do I know?
Overall, OITNB is worth your time.
Don’t agree? Tell me your opinion in the comments below.
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