“She Has Enough Black Eyeliner On to Outline A Corpse:” The Opening Credits of Orange Is the New Black

As an avid tv show watcher I usually focus on some elements which make me decide if a tv show is worth my time or not. After the plot and the characters (and their style sometimes) there are the opening credits, a sort of business card of the show itself. I hate when there are no opening credits and I highly enjoy them when they’re good. This is the case of the credits of Pretty Little Liars and Ripper Street, for example: they beautifully introduce each episode re-working the main theme of the show and its imagery. I’ve recently binge-watched the first season of the new it show – Jenji Kohan’s Orange Is the New Black, based on a novel by Piper Kerman – and its opening credits have immediately entered my favourite list. Regina Spektor wrote and sang the theme You’ve Got Time (whose lyrics directly refer to the story told by the show), while the visuals were designed by Thomas Cobb Group, referencing yet again to the show in a different way.

One of the peaks of Orange Is the New Black is the diversity of the stories told and of its protagonists, who not only have different backgrounds, levels of education, ethnicities and differ from a physical point of view, too. None of the actresses acting in the show are in the opening credits [1], but Kohan wanted to keep a high level of authenticity nonetheless. For this reason, all the women portrayed by Michael Trim and Thomas Cobb in New York and Los Angeles were previously incarcerated, just like the protagonists of the show. Writing a show without taking a dip into the wide sea of stereotypes is very hard but Kohan did her best to steer clear from it, and this approach is mirrored by the credits, too. Those we see (their eyes and mouths, to be precise) are not the classic airbrushed women we usually see on tv but are portrayed in all their flaws – wrinkles, undereye bags, skin marks, moles, acne scars and clogged pores. God knows if we need such a plausible portrayal of women on tv!

As a visually-obsessed blogger, it’s easy to see why the opening credits have had such an appeal on me. The point is that I’m a make-up addict, too, so I screencapped all the sequence and kept some shots only. The concept behind the credits is interesting and thoroughly relevant, but I’m a vain girl, so here is a breakdown of all the shots portraying a woman sporting black eyeliner, mascara or eyepencil [2].

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h25m43s89Plucked eyebrows, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h25m48s138Plucked eyebrows, black mascara.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h26m02s21Painted-on eyebrows, silvery eyeshadow and double crease effect with black eyepencil, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black eyepencil on the lower lashline and in the waterline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h26m15s141Plucked eyebrows, black eyeliner (heavy cat’s eyes), black mascara on upper lashes, dermal and upper lip piercings.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h26m22s216Plucked eyebrows, black mascara on upper and lower lashes, black kohl in the waterline.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h26m31s47Plucked and filled-in eyebrows, black eyeliner (cat’s eyes), black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h27m11s184Plucked and filled-in eyebrows, black eyeliner (cat’s eyes) on the upper lashline, black mascara on upper lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h29m20s206Plucked and slightly filled-in eyebrows, silvery eyeshadow, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black mascara on upper lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h30m09s173Plucked eyebrows, bronze eyeshadow, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h32m43s0Natural eyebrows, fading black kohl in the waterline.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h33m01s107Plucked and filled-in brows, silvery eyeshadow, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h33m51s101Plucked eyebrows, black mascara on upper and lower lashes (falsies maybe?).

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h34m00s195Natural eyebrows, black eyepencil on upper and lower lashline and in the waterline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h34m08s20Plucke eyebrows, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black pencil on the lower lashline and waterline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h34m15s82Plucked eyebrows, bronze eyeshadow, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h34m23s155Plucked eyebrows, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h34m39s67Plucked and filled-in eyebrows, silvery eyeshadow, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black pencil on the lower lashline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes (falsies maybe?).

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h34m49s145Painted-on eyebrows, silvery eyeshadow, black pencil on upper and lower lashline and waterline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes, upper lip piercing.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h34m59s11Plucked eyebrows, black eyeliner on upper lashline, clumpy black mascara on upper lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h35m11s106Plucked eyebrows, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black mascara on upper lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h36m13s214Plucked eyebrows, smudged black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black eyepencil in the waterline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h36m18s33Natural eyebrows, black eyeliner on upper lashline.

vlcsnap-2013-08-17-12h36m25s101Plucked eyebrows, black eyeliner on the upper lashline, black eyepencil on the lower lashline, black mascara on upper and lower lashes.

Seeing all these diverse beauties one after the other is a unique experience, which sounds like a new direction which I hope will be followed by other tv shows. While watching the 13 episodes of OITNB’s first season, I never skipped the credits but watched them carefully, so as to catch all the details of each portrait, especially those featuring make-up. My concern was about eyeliner and the question on my mind was: “What will black eyeliner look on me when I’m an old and wrinkled lady?”. Judging by how the middle-aged women in the credits proudly sport thick black lines on their upper lashlines, I guess I will be able to wear it for many years to come.

Before closing, just a note about the title. If you’ve watched the show you’ll probably remember Alex Vause (Laura Prepon) saying something about her habit of wearing black eyeliner. While looking for the exact quote, I found another quote (from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan) which I found perfect for this post. Talk about serendipity!

[1] Piper Kerman appears in the credits: she’s the blue-eyed woman blinking at the 1:02 mark.

[2] In 2009 (yes, 4 years ago) I wrote a post about eyeliner because it’s an item which holds a special place in my make-up stash.

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2 comments

  1. This sequence of eye details is impressive!
    I used to line my upper lid with a pencil to simplify my routine, then panicked when my skin started to give a bit due to age (and bad bouts of pollen allergy), then decided what I really love is an eyeliner flick anyway, so at 45 I’m wearing more eyeliner than ever in my life :o)
    (Maybe not always the stark superblack liquid kind: I find gel eyeliner and brown or dark grey eyeliner a bit more forgiving as day makeup.)

    1. Resisting an eyeliner flick is impossible! I can totally get your choice because I do the same. I tried to use brown or dark blue gel eyeliners but I didn’t like them much, maybe because I’m used to wearing black only. Thank God I bought Maybelline ones, which are quite good but cheap: now they’re sitting in my make-up case unused 😦 Recently I’ve gone back to wearing a very thick line, part Amy/part Siouxsie… I guess I’m turning into one of those eccentric teachers who have been wearing the same type of make-up all their lives.

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