If you haven’t had the time to binge watch all of Orange Is the New Black yet, I won’t ruin it for you...except for the part about alien space monsters. Didn’t see that coming at all, did you? But seriously — if you haven’t watched the show and don’t want to learn how badass Sister Ingalls, the pacifist nun, or any of the show’s other ancillary characters real-life counterparts are, then avert your eyes, because some minor spoilers will follow.
Autostraddle bestowed upon the Internet a massive post about the intersection between memoir fact and television fiction in Orange Is the New Black. Piper Kerman’s prison memoir is obviously much different from its Netflix incarnation. For starters, the real Larry (Larry Smith, an actual working writer and founder of SMITH Magazine) isn’t a huge boner like the perpetually masturbating Jason Biggs character. “Litchfield,” the upstate New York low-security prison where TV Piper spends her 15-month sentence, is based on Connecticut’s “notoriously cushy” Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, which once housed the poet Robert Lowell, and is currently the idling place of Lauryn Hill. And oh, how observant of you! It is the very same place where Nancy Botwin did her time in between seasons of Weeds.
There’s plenty more info about actual prison life in a place like Danbury, but perhaps the most interesting (and least spoiler-y) info Autostraddle offers us concerns the real prisoners who provided the framework for the show’s eclectic cast of ancillary characters. Sister Ingalls, the wise pacifist nun, is actually based on an even more badass pacifist nun named Sister Ardeth Platte:
Sister Ingalls chained herself to a flagpole at a nuclear test site, but the real Sister Ingalls — pacifist nun Sister Ardeth Platte — actually cut a chain link fence around a Colorado missile silo with two other nuns and proceeded to paint the sign of the cross on the Minuteman III silo in her own blood, using a baby bottle as a paintbrush! That's hard core.
Piper’s roommate, Miss Claudette, is based on a much more mysterious (and apparently friendly) woman named Miss Natalie, Yoga Jones is based on Yoga Janet (a woman who may or may not sound like Patty Mayonnaise), and Jesus-sycophant Pennsatucky was a friend of Piper Kerman’s. Piper Chapman, on the other hand...not so much.
How “Real” Is “Orange Is the New Black”? [Autostraddle]
Image via Getty, Rob Kim