This is not so much the case for Caged Heat. On the contrary, the film is constructed as an obvious fantasy. The women in the prison don't even wear prison clothes; they're all wandering around in more-or-less revealing civilian garb, often with heavy and obvious cosmetics. Even beyond such lapses from verisimilitude, though, Demme deliberately constructs the film as a dreamscape. Many sequences portray the fantasies of prisoners and staff, shot with artsy lighting effects. Demme draws a number of parallels with cabaret performance, emphasizing the artificiality not just of dream as dream, but of film as film. One of the first scenes of the movie shows one of the women having a steamy dream encounter with a man through the bars; he feels her up (helpfully revealing her breasts for the viewer) while she responds enthusiastically … until she pulls out a knife, which she wields dramatically but ineffectually.
As this all suggests, lust is a big part of the reason for Demme's lack of realism. Though OITNB has some toplessness and a fair bit of sex, flashes of skin are all carefully justified by the narrative, rather than ostentatiously displayed for a male or (given the lesbian content) female gaze. Caged Heat, though, is about the fantasy, and that definitely includes the fantasies of the viewer. Shower scenes are frequent and remarkably full-frontal, and the film's lasciviousness is openly acknowledged and riffed upon. In one sequence, the crippled prison warden McQueen (Barbara Steele) visualizes herself in a slinky dress upbraiding the prisoners for being too sexual. Her moralism is presented as both hypocritical and as a consumable, lip-smacking sensual pleasure in its own right.
Demme's reliance on fantasy enables the prurient—but it also makes possible the political. Orange Is the New Black is so enmeshed in the petty struggles and day-to-day interactions of its characters that it has little time for explicitly political statements: Even the pacifist nun never articulates a message of resistance during the first season. Backstory flashbacks present many of the women as sympathetic and caught in a web of poverty, but there is, for example, no articulated questioning of drug laws.
In Caged Heat, though, the embrace of sexual fantasy is also an embrace of empowerment fantasies—and of fantasies of solidarity. At first, these fantasies are only personal, as when Belle (Roberta Collins) risks her own safety to get food to her lesbian lover Pandora (Ella Reid) in solitary. Even here, though, the film is as politically adventurous as OITNB —Belle is white and Pandora is black, a sexualized, interracial, same-sex friendship that has (at least in its first season) no parallel in the Netflix series. Certainly, in 1974, presenting an interracial lesbian couple as heroic protagonists would have been a significant, transgressive statement, at least as daring as OITNB's admirable effort to sympathetically represent the transgender inmate Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox).