The Ladies Of Litchfield Live Again

The Ladies Of Litchfield Live Again
Courtesy Photo As of June 11, the newest season of Orange Is The New Black can be streamed on demand exclusively through Netflix.

Courtesy Photo
As of June 11, the newest season of Orange Is The New Black can be streamed on demand exclusively through Netflix.

Last Thursday, the girls of Litchfield were released a little bit early (for good behavior).

Last Thursday, the girls of Litchfield were released a little bit early (for good behavior).

The third season of Netflix’s hit show Orange Is The New Black (OITNB) hit the streaming service a few hours ahead of schedule, and I spent my weekend in the company of the lovely ladies of Litchfield.

Best absorbed all at once — as is becoming the pattern for Netflix’s binge-friendly model — I took the chance to go back and watch the rest of the series after I’d dove into the new season. I am happy to report that nothing has changed. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Piper Chapman, our blond-haired yuppie insert into the world of Litchfield, has become almost non-existent as a focus of the series, especially when compared to earlier seasons, when flashbacks to her story and life came every episode, intruding on our time with more memorable inmates.

It says a lot about the creative force behind the show that they’ve allowed the focus to shift like it has. Maybe they actually listened to the fans, who have consistently disliked Piper Chapman and all her privileged crap. I like to think they paid attention to the rest of the cast. This is probably the most representative show on television right now, with every demographic covered in some way.

Most importantly, though, this show proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that a show led by a predominantly female cast can and will carry the weight that other, less female-centric shows would. There’s this archaic and ridiculous belief in the world of television and cinema that women can’t carry a show on their own, and that men are not interested in watching a show dominated by women. This is insulting on a terrifying number of levels, and deserves an article unto itself, but thankfully, we have OITNB to save us the trouble of having to scream this in their faces. There’s your proof. It’s already happened, and everyone loved it.

For the third season, Litchfield takes quite a few turns. The major players have stayed, but the dance has changed significantly as Litchfield is taken over by a corporation. Corporate-run prisons are a real thing, and they are terrifying. The girls of Litchfield help soften the true implications of a corporate run prison, but the cracks show all the same, as inept guards are put out before their training even starts because, for the people on the board, the bottom line is all that matters. The profit. The people have little-to-no impact on discussion.

The ladies of Litchfield, while not important to the people running the prison, are incredibly important to the viewers, and they do not disappoint. There are a few repeat performances during the flashbacks, but thankfully it’s mostly relegated to the women who we’ve spent two years with, but have not had the chance to get to know yet. It’s the formula that makes this show so amazingly easy to follow, and the reason that removing Piper Chapman as the “main” character was the best possible decision the producers could have made. None of the women get the chance to be one-dimensional caricatures as each is given a chance to shine in a spotlight episode. One-by-one, these women are fleshed out and given life in a way that no show, not even Lost, famous for it’s flashbacks and flashforwards and flashsideways, has done before.

One thing that does strike me as interesting about Orange Is The New Black, and specifically the removal of Piper as a main character, is how the actual, real-life Piper feels about all of this. The first season’s hyper-focus on her is because the entire first season is based on the memoir Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman, a real woman who went to prison, knew and dated a woman named Alex and was engaged to a man named Larry. These were all real people, and the show very quickly separated reality from fantasy by placing Alex in prison with Piper and spawning a soap opera relationship between them. Larry has been removed entirely, only popping up in passing mention during the third season, but after every episode, the words ‘Executive Producer Piper Kerman’ pop up. It would be interesting to see how she feels about this show that has since become it’s own beast, becoming important for its portrayal of a wide range of women from differing backgrounds, instead of being just another tale of a spoiled privileged person in circumstances they never thought they would have to deal with.

Seriously though, thank god Larry is gone. Ugh, Larry.

Categories: Commentary