Eight Things I Learned from “Orange is the New Black”

Warning: Includes spoilers for all seasons!

The Netflix original series Orange is the New Black (sometimes referred to as OitNB)  has become one of the most popular television shows ever in the past few years. Not only does this show provide hours of fantastic entertainment, it has also provided its viewers with life lessons and interesting new perspectives. Here are some of the things I’ve learned through the experience of watching this incredible show.

  1. Friendship can’t be held back by bars.

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Even in prison, friendship is still the most important value there is. Our friends keep us grounded even in the darkest of times. In Orange is the New Black, the prisoners band together in order to fight for their rights and keep each other company. They are clearly much stronger together than they would be individually. It is essential to make friends in order to survive in life. Friendship is a crucial necessity, especially in a place such as prison where the women don’t have much, but they have each other. The people we’re closest to are the people who suffer alongside us. The people who stick with us through thick and thin are the people we know we can truly count on.

2. A bad situation is what you make of it.

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Being in prison is undoubtedly worse than most of the things the average person experiences, but everyone has dealt with bad situations in their life. If you just sit around doing nothing and feeling sorry for yourself, nothing will change and nothing good will come from the negative experience. Many of the characters in Orange is the New Black take their negative circumstances and make the best of them. They acquire job experience, seek out counseling, and even use prison as an opportunity to quit their negative behaviors such as alcohol and drug use. They also make friends with people who help them get through the hardship of being in prison and build relationships that make them forget how lousy their situation is.

3. A sense of humor can make all the difference.

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It has been proven that a positive attitude can change your perspective. While it may seem impossible to keep a smile on one’s face in a prison, the characters of OitNB prove that laughter can be “the best medicine.” Even with the sometimes serious subject matter of the show, I found myself laughing hysterically at some of the jokes and funny moments. It can sometimes be effective to “laugh through one’s pain.” I’ve learned that every opportunity to laugh or smile is a blessing because just putting on a smile can increase a person’s mood and well-being.

4. No one forgets their first love.

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Alex and Piper are the most popular couple in television right now. Former girlfriends and partners in crime, they have had a passionate on-and-off relationship that has made viewers sit on the edge of their seats. Piper fell in love with her long ago, and even though in season one she was engaged to her boyfriend Larry, she still had feelings for her ex, whom she hadn’t seen in years. As soon as she saw her again, she knew they still had chemistry and could not resist picking up where they left off. It has been said that your first love is the hardest to get over and you never forget the experiences you had with them. This is certainly the case with Vauseman, as the couple is known in the fandom.

5. Doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person.

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A fair majority of the characters in OitNB do not deserve to be in the terrible situation they’re in. Some are innocent, and some committed crimes for good reasons and regret what they did. Just because most of them committed a crime doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad people and deserve the treatment they are subjected to. In the words of Hannah Montana, everyone makes mistakes. Doing so doesn’t make or break you. Making a bad decision doesn’t mean that you are not a good person. Even the best of people still have bad days and mess up sometimes.

6. People can surprise you.

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Whether it’s a positive or negative surprise, many people don’t behave in the way you’d expect. A criminal can end up being your best friend, and someone who is supposed to protect you can end up being corrupt. In life, we prejudge people often and we are too often wrong. In Orange is the New Black, it is more common for the guards to commit acts of violence than the prisoners, and the prisoners sometimes show more compassion towards each other than average people in the outside world are likely to.

7. Life lessons can be learned in the most unexpected ways.

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Piper learns a lot while she is in prison: about herself, about society, and about others. I’m sure she never expected to learn these life lessons while locked away in a cell, but life doesn’t always turn out how we’d expect. It just goes to show that you can try to plan out your life as much as you want, but unexpected challenges and struggles will present themselves no matter what. We learn from every experience we have, good and bad, and that is why growth can arise from the biggest hardships.

8. Trust. No. Bitch.

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The now-famous phrase that Stella Carlin tattooed on Piper Chapman’s arm took on a new meaning when Piper really screwed her over by planting contraband in Stella’s bunk and reporting her to a guard. She truly got her revenge for having her money stolen by Stella. However, most people believe Stella’s crime did not warrant being sent to a maximum security facility on the day she was scheduled to be released. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Orange is the New Black, it’s that prison can change a person. Piper went from being a meek, polite woman to a cold, cruel person. Even though Piper was previously considered a trustworthy person, we now know she is not to be trusted. This show constantly reminds us that characters can change at the drop of a hat and that we are not to assume anything about the characters on the show. As viewers anxiously await season four, everyone ponders what character will next remind us that we can trust no bitch.

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