How real is Orange Is The New Black?

Netflix’s Orange is the New Black is the kind of show that uses its plot, character, and themes to express race, class, sexuality, gender and more. Netflix’s short series Orange is the New Black portrays these themes based on the current society. In addition to revealing societal norms, these themes also reveal many uncomfortable truths. This show reveals that many women become prisoners, despite the fact that many people are not aware of this. It is a fictional show but it exposes prison life’s realities.

Orange The New Black is a show that shows the dynamic within this prison. Orange The New Black does a good job of showing how the prison works. The show has a majority of female characters with some males in supporting roles. The story revolves around Piper’s imprisonment. Piper comes from an upper-class background.

Young white woman sentenced to prison for degenerate past actions. The show focuses on Piper’s interactions with her fellow inmates and how she copes with the prison environment. Smith, the analyst of the series, called this viewpoint “white gaze” (Smith). Smith claims that the show portrays everything through a white upper-class person. For example, a viewer could notice the differences in the way the African American culture is spoken or how stereotypically African Americans look. In one scene, all the inmates are black and have crazy hairstyles. This “white-gaze” mentality is understandable, as Piper is the lead character in the show and it is her journey that is being shown.

Orange is the New Black is Netflix’s original series. However, it is very effective in bringing to light the everyday realities of our lives. The series revealed that non-whites are more likely to be in prison than whites. One study showed that only 7.5 percent (of whites) born between 1969-1999 are sentenced to prison. Even after high-school, blacks still have a higher chance than whites of receiving a prison sentence (Schanzenbach). Even though the characters were created by the producer to represent a fictional situation, the information shows that the producer believed that more African Americans are incarcerated in reality than whites.

The gender of the inmates, and the fact that both men and women are incarcerated, is also highlighted. The average number of women in prison across the country is 5.7%. The survey compared women to men inmates and found that out of 11,397 prisoners, 2,255 were female (Huey Dye). Comparing female and male prisoner characteristics, the 2,255 women surveyed were mostly older, more often black, divorced or widowed and separated. The show did a good job of presenting the idea that most women in prison are African Americans. The show features characters like “Crazy Eyes,” Taystee Washington, Poussey Maxwell, and Eliqua, who are all African American and single. It is easy to conclude that they have only a high-school education.

In the show, the women often break the rules. Red is a character who, as a member of the White cast, illegally finds out how to get contraband into a facility. Inmates will buy it from her. Vee is also an inmate who brings contraband into the facility. In reality, a survey revealed that 41 percent (or more) of female inmates were found guilty for breaking prison rules. The black inmates produce drugs and hide them in the storage area as the series progresses.

Orange is the New Black does an excellent job of integrating a chain command. Vee is a character that embodies this command system very well. Vee, a character from the series, looks after her fellow African American inmates. The benefits were expressed in terms of protection from other prisoners and special treatment. In order to get these special treatments, the inmates had to earn Vee’s trust. In a conversation with a guard in a female prison, he said that the prison system is often more family-like for women. There will usually be one “Mom”, with the rest being daughters, or similar. As in male prisons, families are found in female prisons” (Narcaviage). Piper initially wants nothing to do with the other inmates and only wants to serve her time. However, after some time she begins to realize that she will need their help to stay safe. “A significant amount of time will be spent by inmates proving their worth to the hierarchy in order to join a family or group” (Narcaviage). Orange Is The New Black does a good job of presenting the concept of family, particularly to the African American population.

The prison system is interconnected with the family, which means that a separate social structure is happening within the prison walls. There are flashbacks in the series or when Piper gets her prison pass, it shows how she functions within the society. Although she has some differences from her prison life, the inside of the prison is quite similar. Within the prison, for example, there are products that can be exchanged. It is like a currency. The prison also has normal society-related things like the family system. He stated in the interview that the former guard was a prisoner.

“Although they are incarcerated, the society continues as it would be if these prisoners were free. Money still goes from hand-to-hand, and the same rules apply to everyone, even if it is not the same kind of sex. “Penitentiary is like a small society inside a larger society.” (Narcaviage).

The series is a good representation of everything Mr. Narcaviage had to say. The characters in the series are able to represent everything that Mr. Narcaviage said.

Orange is the New Black isn’t a Netflix original series but the events in the real world are very similar. It is statistically proved that there are racial differences in prisons, as well as educational differences and illegal contraband trafficking. All in all, this show is not just a rip-off of reality but a very accurate representation.


  • kaydenmarsh

    I am Kayden Marsh, 34yo educational blogger and school teacher. I am a mother of two young children, and I love spending time with them and learning new things. I also enjoy writing about education and children's issues, and I hope to continue doing so for the rest of my life.

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