A few days ago my dad joked that I have an addictive personality, and I didn’t really understand what he meant. But I’ve started to realise… I’m writing this whilst watching an interview with the Orange is the New Black cast that’s over an hour long. And I watched interviews yesterday, and the day before. And just FYI, they seem like the best cast, I want to be friends with them all!! So yes, when I like something I go at it full-throttle. And Orange is one of those things!
OITNB, created by genius Jenji Kohan, is a ground breaking show on so many levels. The female dominated cast exhibits a huge range of diverse, incredibly talented actresses Just one example of this is the wonderful (and gorgeous!) Laverne Cox, who is the first trans actress that I’ve seen in such popular television. There is a character that everybody feels represented by and a story line that everyone can relate to in some way. And for me, Season 4 has been the most successful yet at doing this, all whilst producing a gripping, ‘I need to watch the next episode NOW’ kind of show. There have been so many incredible storylines this season, and I can think of a stand out scene that each character has been a part of. And as well as my usual favourites, other characters have really stood out for me this season – Lolly (Lori Petty), Poussey (Samira Wiley), Gloria (Selenis Leyva), Aleida Diaz (Elizabeth Rodriguez), Blanca (Laura Gomez) and Maritza (Diane Guerrero).
However, there isn’t enough space on this blog, or time in the day, for me to write about every amazing storyline or scene from the season. And so I want to write about one theme of the show that, as a psychology graduate (I can finally say that, I literally just got my results that I’ve got a first class honours degree!!), I think has been particularly monumental within the show – mental health.
OITNB has raised so many questions around the suitability, understanding and facilitation of inmates with mental health issues in prisons. Uzo Aduba and Lori Petty, amongst others, have explored this through their characters incredibly well. This season Lori’s character Lolly really came into her own and became, for me, a real star of the show. Her actions, interactions with other inmates, particularly Alex and Red (the amazing actresses Laura Prepon and Kate Mulgrew), and back story, all highlight problems around mental health, both inside and outside of prison. For me, the most important message was delivered through both Suzanne and Lolly’s back stories. They show how the lack of understanding that others have of mental health issues and those dealing with them are often the real the cause of the crimes committed.
In a similar way, Natasha Lyonne (who is quickly becoming one of my favourite actresses, I feel like she’d be so much fun to hang out with) portrays Nicky’s struggles with drug addiction perfectly. The scene in which Luschek (Matt Peters) visits Nicky was one of the stand out scenes of the season in my opinion. The beauty of the show, and characters like Nicky, is that you begin to understand and root for those that would normally be depicted as the villains, and I can think of few other television shows that do that so well.
But this is only one of the many important issues addressed by the show. And the genius of Jenji is that they are interwoven so perfectly within the drama that it often isn’t until after watching that you realise that you’ve watched more than simply an entertaining show. I really think that Season 4 is up there as one of the best yet. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and as soon as I’d finished an episode I could not wait to watch the rest – now all we need is Season 5!