What Does ‘Orange is the New Black’ Mean?

Orange is the New Black is a new original series on Netflix. A video says a billion words isn’t a saying, but it’s probably true. Watch the trailer to get the gist of the show, or read below to see our description, and read our interpretation of the show’s title.

VideoVideo related to what does ‘orange is the new black’ mean?2013-07-16T12:14:00-04:00

What’s the Premise of the Show?

One of the worst consequences of the drug war is that a lot of really awful people make money from it, but what if there was someone more relatable? Enter Piper Chapman. She gets offered a whole bunch of cash to move even more cash to help facilitate a drug deal. I mean, who wouldn’t consider moving a briefcase across the United States for a Kia Sorento? The premise of Orange is the New Black is that Piper gets busted moving the money so she has to go from upper-crusty New Yorker, to someone imprisoned at a New York federal penitentiary. The show revolves around her trials and tribulations in prison life, where she doesn’t exactly fit the bill for your standard prisoner. While Piper isn’t a fan of being called Taylor Swift in the above trailer, it’s hardly the worst she’ll have to endure.

Breaking Down the Title.

Let’s break down the title into two parts. We’ll start with probably the more recognizable part of it, the phrase “the new black.” This phrase is so common in pop culture, it has its own Wikipedia page. On the page you can read that the phrase is in fact “_____ is the new black,” where the blank is some suddenly popular thing. While the phrase can be used to refer to anything (like Furbies or dieting), it’s particularly relevant to fashion:

It was used repeatedly in the 1980s to indicate that other colors (frequently brown, navy blue, or grey) were temporarily displacing black’s position in fashion or industrial design as a versatile staple that complemented all other aspects and was generally unobjectionable. Via Wikipedia

Now, orange refers to the color one stereotypically wears in prison. Prison jumpsuits are often depicted in films and television as this color. Now, the title, Orange is the New Black, isn’t saying that going to prison is cool or anything like that (even though that would be closer to literal).

So, what does it mean?

The title is is a play on the phrase that has to do with the main character’s background before she goes to prison. Piper Chapman, the main character is a pretty, white affluent New Yorker. Her type would be in circles that use the phrase “______is the new black” and the title reflects the contrast of her persona to those of the other women in the prison since well, Orange (jumpsuits) is (are) the New Black, at least for her. She will no longer be occupied with questions of high fashion, but of how to survive prison. So, in this reality, the trend and popular thing going around isn’t some new color or look, it’s just orange. Because in prison, the only reality is that you are stuck there and you have to survive, and this is the premise of the show. Pretty perfect, actually.