Orange is the New Black: TV vs. Memoir

Like many North Americans I like to watch Neflix and…relaaax. (Oh get your minds out of the gutters please.Stop. Just stop.)   Come on, admit it. You’ve binged watch an entire series in a matter of days haven’t you?   The online streaming service has hosted many popular shows in addition to creating their own original series. House of Cards, Stranger Things, Daredevil among many others. However, Orange is the New Black is shaping up to be Netflix’s most popular and longest running series. It gets an 8.3/10 rating on the IMDB and is BASED on Piper Kerman’s experiences in the drug world, her arrest and subsequent incarceration. You’ve probably heard the expression “the book was soooo much better” and in most cases it’s usually true. But is it true in this case? No.

Now I don’t like to judge. There are periods in every writer’s career where he/she is subject to crushing self doubt let alone the critic’s reviews. Nevertheless, if you’re going to publish a memoir, any book really, you open yourself up to literary judgements. I found the narrative to be long and drawn out like the author was stretching her words to fill up the pages. It lacked the depth and grit that comes out in the show with all the characters, subplots, and back stories. The book is really only about one person. Piper. Piper, Piper, Piper. Poor little rich girl who decided to rebel against the status quo and jumped into the adventures of a drug smuggling enterprise with her lover Nora (Alex on the show). One gets the feeling that Piper just couldn’t help herself being heavily influenced by her older lover’s exotic lifestyle. “We blew off steam in Bali beach clubs, Jakarta military pool halls, and nightclubs like Tanamur that were borderline brothels. Nora and I shopped, got facials, or journeyed to other parts of Indonesia – just the two of us, girl time.” It all sounds so glamorous right?  The two women don’t always get along though and things grow boring for Piper when Nora’s business takes her away and Piper realizes that “This was not the adventure I craved.”  So Piper abandons her drug family and relocates to San Francisco. Just neatly severs the ties and there’s no mess at all for her to clean up. Is that really how things work in the international drug world? I don’t know for sure but it seems unlikely. The past catches up with her and she is eventually indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking.

Fast forward many years later and Piper is serving her 15 month in Danbury (Litchfield). Despite being in an overcrowded prison with every racial clique imaginable, Piper never mentions getting in a fight at all. I find this extremely hard to believe. In fact, even in prison Piper seems to get what she wants. A radio from commissary when no one else could get one leads her to write ” I wasn’t really sure  what I had done right, but did it matter?” Yes, it does matter Piper. It matters because as a reader you want me to accept that you did some hard time but you’re not telling me the real story. Or are you? Subsequently I’m lead to believe that your 13 month prison stay was just a long exercise in self-discovery and yoga.

So which is better the book or the show?  Read it. Watch it. Then you be the judge. Orange_is_the_new_Black



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