Real-Life 'Orange Is The New Black's Alex Has Some Great Stuff To Say About Show's Romance
Netflix's Orange Is the New Black is well-known for a lot of things: Its captivating cast of diverse characters and its sudsy, juicy story lines. It's always valuable to remember, though, that while the series itself is fiction, it's based on a memoir telling the story of real people. It only follows, then, that when the real people talk about their real experiences, we should listen; it's the least we can do after being so entertained by their fictionalized adventures. And besides, what Catherine Cleary Wolters – the real Alex Vause — is saying about what Orange Is the New Black got right and wrong paints the kind of compelling picture that only real-life-vs.-fiction can.
What she told Vanity Fair about how the relationship between "Alex" and Piper went down in real life is probably what's going to get the most attention:
I was not Piper’s first, and I certainly did not seduce her.
[...] When we were traveling together I started developing a crush on her. And eventually that turned into a crazy mad love affair. But that was after she had already done the deed that made her complicit. We weren't girlfriends. We were friends with benefits . . . I was not the older sexy, glamorous lesbian who snatched her from her pristine Smith College cradle.
Basically: Real life's not always like the sexed-up romantic stylings of TV.
But if you ask me, it's the stuff about living life in prison that's the most captivating:
We were ghosts of the humans we had once been, milling about amongst hundreds of other human ghosts, shackled and chained, prodded through transport centers at gunpoint, moved through holding facilities.
[...] Praying is about the most intimate thing two people can do in some places, not sex.
The most telling quote from the interview, though? Wolters referred to the real story as "so wretched and stinky, it would quite possibly result in a collapsed universe. So I guess it’s a good thing Piper and Jenji stick with the fun little tidbits.”
And as she continues later in the interview, talking about her own viewing of the show:
This story isn’t about a fun ride through some old familiar haunt, giving me little glimpses and peeks of some fond old stomping ground. Christ, it’s my nightmare, the one that wakes you gasping on your rubber legs that won’t run. . . . This stress is real, it is unrelenting. I've had a heart attack, a five-way bypass, been judged, humbled, and hobbled, but I made it.
The commentary on prison life is one of the show's more underrated and least-discussed themes — ironic, considering it's the basis for the show's premise and a sizable chunk of the motif. But America's still got plenty of issues to work out in its prison system, and it's fascinating and important to hear from the people who have actually been through it — and not just their fictionalized counterparts.
For more information on just a couple of the hitches in the system, Hank Green made a video laying a few of them out. And some of them will be familiar to viewers of OITNB.
You can read more about Wolters and her life over at Vanity Fair. She's releasing her own memoir of her own called Out Of Orange, she has an ex who looks like Jennifer Lawrence, and she said the phrase "who doesn’t want to see Donna from That ’70s Show have lesbian sex?"
Basically she's great. Looking forward to reading her book.