The show is as riveting as it is enlightening, humorous as it is dark. From its raw lesbianism and gnawing poverty to its meth-laden Jesus worshipping and tribalistic racial segregation, Orange is the New Black has managed to captivate as many as 3 million Netflix users in just two seasons. Its back-to-back episodes can easily consume whole weekends, the blessing—or curse—of Netflix’s decision to release an entire season’s trove of installments all at once.
But watching an entire season of television in one sitting can be productive if it’s homework—as it is for one lucky group of college students in the suburban town of University Center, Michigan. Saginaw Valley State University is slated to offer a new writing class next semester that will give students an opportunity to do something constructive with that binge-watching: get college credit.
Orange is the New Black—the Netflix TV series, not the memoir off of which it was based—is being featured as the main "textbook" in Assistant Professor Kim Lacey’s general-education English course next semester on writing about oppression.
The show was first released as a Netflix original series last summer and almost immediately became a near-cult sensation. It’s the brainchild of creator and producer Jenji Kohan—best known previously for her hit show Weeds, a similarly dark comedy series—and the storyline, or at least its groundwork, is ostensibly the product of reality.* That’s because it’s based on the memoir of Piper Kerman, a woman who spent 13 months in federal women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut, after getting convicted for a crime she had committed five years prior: laundering money and trafficking drugs on behalf of her then-girlfriend, a large-scale, globe-trotting heroin dealer.