The Weird World of ‘Orange Is the New Black’ Tie-Ins


Last Friday, Netflix unleashed 13 more episodes of Orange Is the New Black on the world. The existence of these new and fantastically written episodes were not enough to satiate us, so we were also given a handful of strange OITNB tie-ins. TV show tie-ins aren’t uncommon, and are usually quite clever — the Fakeblock app from Netflix’s season of Arrested Development rings a bell — but most of the Orange Is the New Black promotional stunts are strange and tone-deaf, and only tangentially related to the actual program.

The weirdest of all the show’s tie-ins has to be the fashion collection from the upscale members-only shopping site Gilt. To its credit, the collection is inspired by one plot in particular: the mock career fair at Litchfield prison in Episode 2. There is a nice statement behind it — Gilt’s editorial director Tracey Lomrantz references “the cyclical nature of the prison system and the lengths a woman must go to in order to break out of it” — and some of the proceeds go to Dress for Success. But it still feels misguided. When I think of Orange Is the New Black, the last thing I think about is a purse that costs more than my monthly rent or a $3,539 dress. But there’s no denying that a good portion of OITNB‘s viewers are wealthy women — so much of the collection is already sold out.

There are also some official Netflix-created tie-ins. Inspired by the annoyingly popular game Flappy Birds, Netflix has introduced the OITNB version, Feisty Chicken. In Feisty Chicken, the game substitutes the Flappy Bird for the mythical Litchfield chicken that the inmates chase in Season 1’s “Chickening” episode. It’s a silly, mind-numbing time-killer, but I would prefer an Orange Is the New Black-inspired version of Snake, like Piper plays on the contraband cell phone.

Netflix has also launched a somewhat creepy photo-sharing app aptly called Orange Is the New App. In the free app, available via iTunes and Google Play, you can customize cards with your own face (or anyone else’s) to give yourself a pornstache or spoon with Alex in prison. You know, normal everyday things. The app capitalizes on the social aspect of the program — viewers can quickly and easily share the cards through a variety of social media programs like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Of course, each one is tagged with #OITNB, so Netflix gets all that free advertising. It’s fun, I suppose, if you think inserting yourself in prison via an Instagram photo is fun.

One of Season 1’s most memorable (see: most Tumblr-GIF-friendly) moments is from the third episode, when Suzanne defends Piper’s honor by whipping her pie at Alex. When Piper thanks her but tries to explain that she’s not her prison wife, Suzanne matter-of-factly replies, “I threw my pie for you.” The statement has become an odd catchphrase for Orange Is the New Black, popping up on everything from an Etsy cross-stitch to a Hot Topic T-shirt. Not to be outdone, Netflix created an official food truck inspired by the line: Crazy Pyes.

Orange Is the New Black has an established relationship with food — an in-depth cookbook will be released in October — and now the Crazy Pyes food truck will be handing out free fruit-flavored hand pies from June 12 to June 15 in New York City (you can follow the truck’s location on the @OITNB Twitter). The truck will also give away free chocolate-and-vanilla swirl ice cream cones because of another popular (and very uncomfortable) Crazy Eyes and Piper scene. What’s the best way to celebrate a one-sided prison relationship that ends in violence? Free ice cream and pies!