I’m meant to love Orange is the New Black (OITNB). I’m spot on for the demographic. I should be binge-watching it on Netflix.
I watched the first few episodes and found it engaging, entertaining and moving. But the show makes me really uncomfortable.
Let me try and explain why.
Prisons are a necessary evil in a civilized society where some people will need to be incarcerated - either to protect others or as part of punishment and, hopefully, rehabilitation.
But prisons are horrible. They are often horrendous places to be. American women’s prisons are nasty.
I know some people like to say that OITNB explores these issues but the show’s compassionate treatment of them is my problem.
Essentially, OITNB is a TV show and, by it’s nature, it can never show the true and appalling conditions in women’s prisons. The same goes for other shows like Wentworth, Bad Girls and Porridge. I’m giving Oz a pass as I think that did show how horrifying prisons can be - even if the special Emerald City/M Wing was a bit of a fantasy.
Fans of the show say OITNB does try to show the realities and surely that’s better than nothing. So why does it matter?
Because it’s not bad enough. People see shows like OITNB and think they understand. But they don’t. And if people believe prison is like the sanitised version they see on TV they are less likely to be motivated to campaign for the much needed reform.
Enjoy OITNB. But, if you can, try and educate yourself about what women’s prisons are really like.
And enjoy John Oliver on prisons.