Teenage inmates at the Avon Park Youth Academy showed us how valuable some Cup O’Noodles can be in their detention facility. After one team lost a basketball game and didn’t pay up the predetermined amount of Cup O’Noodles, the facility was overtaken by angry rioters. They broke windows, golf carts, and started an office on fire. It took 150 officers to bring the melee to an end.
While a seemingly simple thing, noodles in a Styrofoam cup, the riots that broke out in Florida illustrate how important the “little things” can be in the life of a prisoner. Foods, activities, even certain kinds of soap are a link to the outside world—and normalcy. For some prisoners, these are the little threads that hold them together in their dark, cinder-block world. Everyone needs a shred of hope that keeps them sane, alive, and breathing each day—even if it’s just a cup of noodles.
In the fictional world of Orange is the New Black, “hope” is also a pervasive theme. Each character has their own “anti-depressant” to keep them going while locked up in Litchfield.
Miss Bath and Body Works: Piper Chapman
Piper’s connection to the outside world revolves around her visits and phone calls from her fiancé, Larry Bloom, and her best friend, Polly. When she wasn’t explaining to Larry how weird prison was, she was talking to Polly about their budding soap business (See? Soap really is a connection to the outside world). Piper clings to the soap venture, not only because it is income for her and cash-strapped Larry, but because it is something for her to look forward to when she gets out of prison. She is proud of it; she made it, and she wants to see it succeed—even if she’s behind bars.
Succeeding at something becomes increasingly important to Piper because she realizes how pathetic she is and feels like a failure. In episode 8, “Moscow Mule,” Piper breaks down while talking to Larry and admits how lame she really feels: “I missed your party. I couldn’t get the dryer open. And I wasn’t there when my best friend had her baby. It’s just shitty.” Hopefully Polly and Piper can get “Poppy” off the ground—this girl needs some good in her life.
Wedding Extraordinaire: Lorna Morello
Poor, Morello, cooped up in prison while her fiancé, Christopher, pines for her from the outside world. Or, at least that’s what we are made to think. All of our moments with Morello revolve around her impending wedding– which will occur whenever she gets out. She pours over bridal gown magazines, color swatches, and travel brochures on “Bora Bora Bora.” Although we have never seen Christopher (he might not even exist), he seems to be the glue that holds Morello together. She ends her relationship with Nicky in order to “stay true to Christopher” and seems to use her faith in their future nuptials as her guiding light. Planning her fairy tale wedding to Christopher gets her though the day.
Future Miss Mommy: Daya
Oh, Daya. This girl needs a mom—and one who ISN’T in prison. In the first few episodes, we don’t necessarily see a specific thing or person that keeps Daya going—although Bennett does fill the void left by her crappy family. However, after becoming pregnant, and finding out the “abortion concoction” was a ruse used by her mother to teach her a lesson, Daya reveals that she is relieved and wants to keep the baby. Her mother, Aleida, in one of her few, redeeming moments, talks of children as bringing hope—and that even Daya has the chance to make something of herself. “Babies bring hope!” I predict that we will see a shift in how the show portrays Daya—and I think having a family, possibly with Bennett, will become her main focus that keeps her grounded.
Liberty and Love: Miss Claudette
After a decade of no visitors and no interest in re-opening her case, Miss Claudette decides to take a gamble on both. When she receives a letter from her old friend, Baptiste, telling her that his wife has tragically passed away and that he wants to see her, Miss Claudette has two reasons to hope again: love and an early release from prison to be with her paramour. The possibility of these things seems to light a fire under Miss Claudette…and we love it.
Catch and Release: Taystee Jefferson
Taystee is all about getting out—making colorful lists of what she’s going to do, eat, wear, and who she’s going to see once she leaves Litchfield. After doing her hair and making her case to her appeal board, Taystee gets her wish; and is released into the wild. We will see how long she lasts…
Love Lost: Tricia Miler
Miss Cornrows was separated from her girlfriend, Mercy, when she got out of prison early. Tricia is a bit lost without her on “the inside,” but keeps herself busy by calling, writing, and dreaming about her future time with Mercy on the outside. Like Miss Claudette, it is love that keeps Tricia going. Unfortunately, Tricia’s hope of being reunited with Mercy is not to be…
When There’s Life, There’s Hope…
Hope is what keeps these girls sane inside Litchfield…and what gives the show it’s lighter moments. As we can see by Piper’s short stint in SHU, humans aren’t meant to be caged. Despite the fact that it’s against our nature, these women have to endure the punishment assigned to their crime. As the show goes on, we will see whose dreams are made and whose are shattered. But, no matter what happens in Litchfield, there’s always hope that it will be taco night…
There are no hopeless situation; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them. – Clare Booth Luce