The trailer for the fifth season of “Orange Is the New Black” just premiered this week. To recap the finale of the fourth season, there was a huge event and the death of a main character, which led to a prison riot. This season, which begins June 9 on Netflix, will take place over just three days following the immediate aftermath of that death.
If you’re not watching yet, the show is about a women’s prison. It began around a self-centered character named Piper (Taylor Schilling) and her supposedly short stay in lockup. Five seasons in, it’s about the women (and a few men) who are part of this system, and has addressed a number of societal issues.
Here’s why I like it, other than the great performances: It’s a show that is largely about women. We don’t blink when we see that the other way around. War series? Oh, men belong there, so it’s not weird if we don’t see that many women. Construction? Men. Corporations? Largely men. You see what I’m getting at.
The line you get is: Well, there are more guys there in real life, so it’s fine. Oh, the girls that just drape themselves on the furniture in the background, or play a secondary role? Just mirroring life, honey. No biggie.
Well, there is no excuse here. We see women in all their permutations: smart, selfish, ferocious about their children, ambivalent about their children, in bathrooms, in relationships, gay, straight, trans, well-adjusted, maladjusted, reasonable, unreasonable, violent, peaceful and every other way they exist in the world. This show is a revelation in terms of what it represents: real relationships between women in every way we have them, in a situation that allows heightened drama. (I’ve said it before, but our real lives often feel this heightened, and sometimes a good way to have some sort of catharsis is to watch a really heightened situation unfold on TV.)
It’s been wonderful to watch this many fantastic actresses interact without having to spend half their stories on men. I love men, believe me. Big fan. It’s just that they’re everywhere on TV and film. They’re the bulk of video game characters. They make up a much larger portion of comic book characters, if we’re talking about leads. They’re in the news, all over politics … you see where I’m going with this.
It’s nice to have one place where women are the focus. Even when we have lots of main female characters, their storylines are often about how they’re affected by the men in their lives. This time, we get to see how they affect each other. You know, like in the real world.