Orange is the New Black: A Fresh Take on Protagonists


Image courtesy of The Sun

Anthony Millan, Staff Writer

Oftentimes, when we think of a protagonist in a TV series, movie, video game, or whatever other media we consume, we think of the good guy. In pop culture, we tend to watch someone we would mostly agree with or that we could tend to idolize. This rings true with the popularity of superhero movies, and just wanting to have a main character we could relate to – or at least that we would like to look up to. Orange Is the New Black switches this format completely, spending the first season warming the viewer up to its protagonist – Piper Chapman. 

In the first season of the show, Piper is depicted as a wide-eyed blonde who got in with the wrong crowd in her past, now leaving her to carry out a 15-month prison sentence. The viewer relates to her in how she’s perceived as innocent and just wanting to carry out her sentence peacefully. However, as the show progresses, one of the main themes kicks in – how prison changes a person. We watch piper transform from this innocent “dumb blonde” stereotype into a hardened inmate. We go from watching her try to instate an educational program in the jail, wanting to help rehabilitate the women around her, to watching her run a prison gang. She uses scare tactics to those who wrong her and those who do not listen are sent to the maximum-security prison, just from Piper’s influence. 

How this affects the viewer differently is apparent from the moment Piper appears to change. This character we used to root for, we now question her motives. It comes to the point where the viewer wants somebody to stop Piper, almost desperately. Why this is important is what it reminds the viewer of: entertainment we consume is not ours. This is not our story, this is Piper’s story. I know the main example of this is Breaking Bad, however, Piper is not this supervillain – she’s a person. What OITNB is best at showcasing is the fact that people are dynamic, and can not be confined to this idea of good or bad because, at times, they can be both.