It’s hard to think of a TV show that everyone is more obsessed with right now than Orange is the New Black. And for good reason. With its third season now available on Netflix, this show is the definition of binge-worthy, thanks to witty dialogue, a plot that veers between comedy and poignant drama, and its gritty depiction of life at a women’s prison. But what keeps us coming back for more are the strong female characters. We can learn a lot from these Litchfield women.
- You can get through anything. It’s tricky to think of a character who has learned to survive more than Piper. Season one Piper was a judgmental product of her wealthy upbringing who started a soap business with her BFF and her biggest problem when she got to prison was worrying that her fiancé would finish Mad Men without her. Now Piper is using her intelligence to start her own business and is even smiling (sometimes). While being in prison is a pretty extreme example, follow Piper’s lead and know that you can cope with the week’s extra crazy workload or a break-up.
- You should own who you are. Season 3 has given us a glimpse of Boo’s backstory, namely that she has never been ashamed of her sexuality. No matter who tells her to stop dressing like a tomboy or to change who she is, she’s not going to. You know that being a bitch isn’t a bad thing because it means you’re not afraid to be assertive and be who you are. Boo isn’t afraid of getting called names and you shouldn’t be anything but yourself, either.
- Being strong means admitting when you feel bad. In a moving season 3 scene, Brook Soso admits to her BFF from back home that she “feels stupid” for being sent to jail. This doesn’t make her any less strong. In fact, it makes her the opposite. Sometimes you just have to say what you feel.
- Having an identity crisis is totally okay. One of the major themes of the show is identity and how prison changes how these women see themselves and think about their lives. Piper is a good example of someone who is not always sure of who she is. One minute she’s trying to forget about her ex-girlfriend Alex and is engaged to Larry, the next she’s back with Alex. She’s less concerned with labels and just goes with how she feels. Do the same, whether you’re having fun with someone and aren’t ready to define the relationship yet or aren’t sure you ever want to get married.
- Never apologize for what you love. Do you have a hobby or passion that takes up a lot of your time and feels a bit self-indulgent, since it’s not actually your job? Live like Red and enjoy it. She loves being in the kitchen and gets herself back there this season. She knows things aren’t amazing because, well, she’s in prison and she’s not able to run her store/restaurant, but she just wants to be around food. You know that doing what you chose to do is your best bet for happiness. So embrace what you love (even if it’s just your beloved Netflix time).
- Not everyone will agree with your decisions. We all want to be accepted and supported but it’s just not realistic. No one knows this more than Sophia, who is transitioning to a woman while at Litchfield. In several heartbreaking scenes, her son comes to visit and is definitely not on board with the changes. But Sophia knows that she has to keep going, no matter what anyone says. If you want to change jobs or even careers, if you want to start your own business, if you want to take some time off and travel or even if you want to marry your BF of only 6 months because it just feels right – do it. Who cares who agrees or who doesn’t?
- True friendship means acceptance. Besides the rich characterization on Orange, what keeps us watching are the friendships. These women know that you need friends in order to survive. They see their friends messing up or making the wrong choices and love them anyway, always there to lend a shoulder to cry on (or some contraband nail polish).
- Don’t be scared to listen rather than talk. It’s amazing that we feel we know the character of Norma so well considering that she never says anything. But she communicates so much friendship, compassion and understanding with just a look. We all know that being a good friend, girlfriend or daughter means being a good listener, and Norma’s a good reminder.
- You can change whenever you want to. That old saying “wherever you go, there you are” totally applies to the women of Litchfield prison. Each character struggles with who they are and makes a decision every day to be better or to go back to their old ways. You may not be wearing an orange jumpsuit but it’s a useful lesson. It may be something as small as trying a new workout or emailing an old friend you’ve lost touch with.