Orange is the New Black

Since I have watched almost all of Orange is the New Black, I am able to understand the message that the directors were trying to get across with their opening title sequence. This show follows women in jail along with their stories and progress/digression in the system. Some get out, some die, some get in more trouble than others, some go crazy, some get to visit with family and some don’t, some fall in love, etc. In the title sequence they have music playing in the background that is being sung by a woman, which makes sense since the show is mainly about women. A few lines of the song really stand out like, “remember all their faces, remember all their voices,” “everyone is waiting, waiting on you and you’ve gone time,” “taking steps is easy, but standing still is hard,” and “everything is different the second time around.” They also finish the song with the sound of a cell door being closed which obviously goes with the theme behind the show. Throughout the opening sequence, there are photos of mouths and eyes. At first, I was a bit confused about why these photos might be the opening sequence, but then I thought about how behind every set of eyes and every mouth, there is a different story. Different things have been seen and experienced by each of the inmates and characters in the show. They have all heard and said different things, which has somehow gotten them all where they are now: in jail. Some of the photos look a bit more rough, for lack of a better word, using elements like lip tattoos and piercings. They made sure to include all ethnicities very well in the opening sequence and in the show as well, which you can almost guess just by watching the trailer. I noticed in the photos that they did not care about removing blemishes, correcting skin discoloration, or maybe even a tooth gap (which is totally fine, these are all very normal things) because they want it to appear that these women have not been living in the best conditions and that these things do occur when you are living in a jail; they want to make it obvious that these women do not have the resources to take care of these things that maybe the women outside of jail would. The photos are not something that you would use for your profile picture without a few edits here and there. You are able to tell that these are raw images. When they were listing the credits, they sometimes changed the photos to be something else, but still jail related. The few that I saw were someone’s hands in handcuffs, someone giving a thumb print, someone’s orange uniform, a sign for weekend visiting hours, the phones on the wall that the prisoners use, the cafeteria, a jail cell with two beds, a watch tower in the prison yard, and lastly a barb wired fence. They really wanted to make it clear the fact that this show is about women and jail, which they clearly did using these images. Another thing they did that could potentially go unnoticed was that when the images were going by, some of them (the mouths and eyes) turned into videos; like for example: instead of eyes that stayed open in a photo, it would be a short video of eyes blinking or when the person was in handcuffs you could see a slight movement which made it more clear what was going on. In the snippet where there is a girl in an orange jumpsuit, I noticed the light that they used. The screen started off very dark and then lit up to show her orange uniform and to highlight the name in the credits that were in that scene as well. I noticed that a few of the text elements were moving slowly, diagonally to the bottom right, upper right, sideways, or downward as they were shown on the screen, which gave slight and subtle movement, but caught your eye so that you paid attention to the image behind it. They also included subtitles in some parts that made it extra clear what was supposed to be going on in the scenes like: “[theme song playing],” and, “[cell door slams].” It is pretty obvious the methods that these creators used to draw you into the show and really highlight what it would be about once you started watching it. It is a given that the show is about women in jail from the get go, but there are also a lot of things that happen throughout the show that you would not expect just by seeing the sequence, which keeps it interesting. I would say that the opening sequence was straight to the point, but also did not give TOO much away.

Discussion — 2 Responses

  • Samantha Wine 03/23/2019 on 11:05 PM

    Hi Sara,

    I think the line that you highlighted from the intro, “remember all their faces, remember all their voices” is a really poignant reminder of what the American prison system does to the people trapped within its walls. Although the show features the trials and tribulations of incarcerated women, it does an excellent job of reminding viewers that despite their choices, these women are still human. It is easy to loose sympathy for those who have made poor decisions and disregard their struggles, because in a sense, it is the result of their own actions. However, making mistakes is human nature and our mistakes are not what defines us.
    The intro primarily features the faces and lips of women who had been previously incarcerated. As the saying goes “the eyes are the window into the soul” and as a viewer, we are reminded by the photography and clips in the intro that these women are human, that they have souls, and feelings. It is easy for them to be forgotten in the system and I imagine it is easy to lose touch with a sense of humanity while living inside bars. The intro enables to feel a deep sense of connection with these women and thus, reminding and restoring the sense of humanity within them and how we view them.
    Similarly, the intro deals with a loss of voice that individuals experience while incarcerated. Their lines of communication to the outside world and to others are limited and monitored. I also imagine it is isolating to not be able to speak to those you love or have a connection with at your own leisure. Additionally, a sense of voice is a defining feature of what makes us human.
    My takeaway from the intro that you touched on is that these women have been stripped of their sense of humanity and voice. The intro is a reminder to those watching, that are most likely far removed from this experience, of what these women are enduring. It reminds us as viewers that these women are human, they have souls and they have a voice, which transitions to what the show is about.

  • Holly Heddens 03/30/2019 on 9:26 PM

    Hi Sara,

    I have never actually watched Orange is the New Black, but I am familiar with the theme and premise of the show. I think you did a great job of walking through the title sequence and I think that your interpretation of why the different photos of eyes and mouths were used in the title sequence was very clever. I think that the interpretation that the different eyes and mouths correlated with the different stories and experiences that those women have heard and faced that found themselves in jail correlates with the theme of the show as it is following each woman’s progression and story while they are in the jail. I also noticed that the photos they used had harsh lighting and showed a very real and “unfiltered” version of the women. I think this not only represents the conditions that the women faced while in jail as you mentioned but could also represent the hardships and realness of their lives overall. I think that this shows how life isn’t all pretty pictures and perfect skin but shows the realness and reality of the imperfections that exist that make them unique and lead them to have their own stories. The title sequence also showed the stark and bleak images of jail related things such as hand cuffs, finger printing, phone booths, and visiting hours, as you had mentioned. I think that this is done to further build the setting for the show but also to contrast the individuality of the photos of the eyes and mouths. Everything shown in the other photos, the orange jump suit, the fence with the visiting hours, the monitored phone booths, show how prison strips you of your identity and your privacy or personal freedoms. This contrasts the uniqueness and individuality of the eyes and mouths and the idea that these represent different stories and experiences. The image of the orange jump suit cuts out the face of the woman in it which I think was intentional as the jump suits are meant to make you uniform with everyone else, losing that sense of individuality.

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