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Orange slices

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Here’s Regina Spektor singing “Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” from the album What We Saw from the Cheap Seats.

Have you been watching Orange Is the New Black, the new Netflix streaming show from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan? I’m only 8 episodes into the show so please don’t spoil it for me if you’ve binged the other 4. Still I’m really blown away so far.

Wonkblog says Orange is the best TV show about prison ever:

Created by Jenji Kohan of Weeds fame, the show is about Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), a yuppie living in New York City with her fiancé (Jason Biggs) and trying to get an artisanal soap business off the ground. However, Chapman used to date an international drug smuggler (Laura Prepon), and transferred cash for her a few times. That past catches up with Piper and she ends up with a 15 month sentence in a federal prison in Litchfield, NY — a prison where Alex, her drug-smuggling ex, is also doing time.

The show’s based on the memoir of Piper Kerman, who really did date a drug smuggler and really did end up in prison for 15 months as a result. So the basic plot isn’t totally unrealistic. But are women’s prisons in general much like Litchfield as portrayed in the show? Let’s break it down, point by point.

And then goes into a pretty fascinating break down of prison, using statistics and real facts. Beyond that, the show is making history by giving a transgender actress a groundbreaking role:

For the first time in TV history, a transgender character is at the forefront of a show and being portrayed by a black transgender woman. (Transgender is an umbrella term that also includes transsexuals.) Laverne Cox plays Sophia Burset, a former firefighter sent to prison for using credit cards stolen from the wreckage of fires she helped put out. In prison, she acts as a hairdresser, friend, and political conscience for the other prisoners, while also trying to ensure access to her female hormones and repairing her relationship with her wife and son. There has only ever been one other recurring, substantive transgender TV role held by a transgender actor: Dirty Sexy Money’s Carmelita, played by Candis Cayne, who is a staple in small transgender roles, including turns onNip/TuckDrop Dead DivaNecessary Roughness, and CSI: NY.

What are you watching these days? It’s an open conversation in the comments.

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Photo by Andrew Magill released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and