Orange Is the New Black

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Orange Is the New Black TV Poster Image
Quality true-story prison dramedy with sex, strong language.
Popular with kids

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 26 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 84 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The overarching message of the series is that of redemption at great cost. We see a realistic character who has committed a crime and is accepting the realistic consequences. Issues of class, race, privilege, sexuality, consent, the meaning of family, and institutional corruption all are handled with depth and humor.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character Piper Chapman is flawed but trying to better herself. The cast boasts rich diversity: Characters are old, young, straight, gay, educated, poor, and of many races. Backstories of central characters offer insight and empathy toward them.

Violence

As is customary in dramas set in a prison environment, there is often danger and menace, and the main character is in jeopardy early in the series. The prisoners generally fight with words and deeds rather than fists, though. Some flashbacks offer scenes of abuse or murder. Some sexual blackmail, harassment. Characters die or are killed on-screen suddenly; little to no gore. 

Sex

Some early episodes feature nudity (breasts and backsides) and simulated sex, such as when a woman reaches her hand under some blankets and makes a man moan, or two women have oral sex in a shower. There is a lot of discussion of lesbians and having sex with women, and viewers see women kissing, cuddling, and being naked together. Implied masturbation. A character falsely accuses another of rape. 

Language

Many four-letter words, generally used in a mild context: "How the f--k are you going to prison tomorrow?" Also sexual language, such as when one woman asks another if she "likes p---y." Racial slurs. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drugs are mentioned frequently in context with criminal justice. A few flashback scenes depict drug dealing. Characters rarely drink on-screen. A character overdoses on drugs and dies; many characters speak longingly of drugs and alcohol. A subplot revolves around smuggling cigarettes. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Orange Is the New Black is a mature dramedy set in a women's prison with strong language and sexual situations. The women prisoners talk very frequently about race and may fling racial insults at each other. There are many four-letter words, usually used in a mocking or mild context: "Get the f--k out of here," one prisoner tells another who is taking too long in the shower. Viewers also will see nudity, including breasts and backsides, and both male/female and lesbian couples having sex. Drugs are mentioned frequently, usually in the context of criminal justice, but characters very rarely drink alcohol on-screen. A subplot revolves around smuggled cigarettes; characters smoke enthusiastically on-screen. One character falsely accuses another of rape to cover up a consensual affair. Violence is fairly rare, but characters are killed or die suddenly on-screen in rare episodes; a brutal stabbing contains blood, gore, and realistic noises. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 18+ year old Written byValdoria September 25, 2013

Sad exploitation of women even in a woman's film

Why they need to make women get naked for this movie is beyond me. Tell the story, don't prostitute the actresses.
Adult Written byAmericanplaya217 July 24, 2013

awesome!

The movie has positive messages and role models. The show has some violence, there is some scenes of lesbian sex, there is graphic language and a scene of a toi... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bypollohermano5. June 20, 2015

Orange Is the new Black

To start off, people need to know that oitnb is one of the best tv shows out right now...if you have yet to see it, go watch it. It is truly unbelievable (I fin... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byrpsrascal October 15, 2013

how mature is your child>

while there is lesbian sex literally every 5 minutes, it has a very intriguing plot line, and the constant nudity isn't a huge issue.

What's the story?

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) barely remembers the person she was 10 years ago -- the person who was so in love with her intoxicating girlfriend she was willing to transport a suitcase full of drug money for her. But the law has a long memory. And now, in ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, Chapman starts her 15-month sentence in a women's prison to pay for her crime. She's terrified, but her fiancé, Larry (Jason Biggs), urges her to see it as an adventure; he'll wait for her. And so she dons her blue prison shoes ("They're like Toms!" Chapman dopily tells the officer checking her in) and her orange prison jumpsuit and starts learning the ropes in prison. Chapman makes a lot of mistakes, but the funny thing is that, for as many people who are ready to take advantage of her, there are numbers on the other side ready to help her: new friends, new enemies, new lessons to learn in the world she's just plummeted into. 

Is it any good?

A beautiful moment occurs in the first few minutes of Orange Is the New Black that signals the viewer that this drama is more realistic than most. The night before she's to go to prison, Chapman gropes her fiancé, whispering to him that she needs to make memories to "spank" to. He responds lustily, whereupon she tells him to hang on, she needs to pee. The camera follows her into the bathroom where she sits on the toilet and cries. What a rare thing to see depicted on-screen; a human being in a non-glamorous, kinda stupid, utterly relatable bad moment. Made by the same minds who brought Weeds to life, Orange is like Weeds in that it has a lovely and vulnerable woman at its center, caught in a web of other women (and a few men) who are alternately menacing and loving. Also like Weeds, Orange has a simply incredible cast, filled with people you love and hadn't realized you'd missed. There also is a bevy of lesser-known actors with whom viewers will quickly fall in love, such as the touchingly vulnerable Samira Wiley as the lovelorn Poussey and wisecracking Danielle Brooks as her best friend, Taystee.

As viewers watch, they slowly realize that Piper's story is just an entry point into the stories of Litchfield's inmates, a sort of Trojan horse that draws in viewers before the series reveals its true aim: to explore the lives of characters the likes of which we don't often see on TV. Old women, fat women, women of color, lesbians, poor women, those who have made mistakes and regret them, those who have made mistakes because the deck was stacked against them. This is HBO-level drama, addictive, layered, and very, very funny. It's made for binge-watching, but most parents will want to reserve it for after the kids are in bed, due to the strong language, mature situations, and plenty of sexual content.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how realistic the show is. Would you be surprised to know it's a true story? Which of the characters seem the most realistic to you? Which backstories do you relate best to? Why? 

  • If you read the book Orange Is the New Black, how did the characters change in translation to the screen? What does this say about the difference between telling a story in written and cinematic form?

  • Compare Orange Is the New Black with some of the other prison/criminal justice dramas you may have seen, such as Law & Order or CSI. How is Orange alike? How is it different?

TV details

For kids who love drama

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