orange is the new black au: THREE IN THE MORNING
set during alex’s user days. every so often piper’s phone will occasionally illuminate the early morning darkness with the name “alex”. she never answers. they never mention it. (x)
Fucking hell. cc sorry-tale
Asked by Anonymous
Ah, that’s actually my least favorite Alex scene… You’ll have to scour through the depths of my Pennsatucky tag (shouldn’t be too bad, I think it’s like…5-7 pages). I feel a bit uncomfortable reblogging that scene and kind of vowed to never do it again. :) Hope you don’t mind, friend!
You know, I’ve thought about that scene a lot. It makes me a bit uncomfortable, too, not just the content, but the fact that it happened. That Alex made a blatant rape threat and is still my favorite character, whereas usually that would be grounds for me to immediately write off a character forever as mostly irredeemable. I didn’t want to feel like a hypocrite about it, so I gave it a lot of thought. And ultimately, there are some factors that, for me, that make what Alex says in that scene - while it’s not at all forgivable or justified - at least not something that ruins her for me.
I’ll admit, the first time I watched it, I didn’t think as much of the rape threat as I probably should have. A lot of that was because the intention and sort of…focus was different than what you’d normally think. It wasn’t about threatening domination…it was solely about targeting Pennsatucky’s homophobia.
The context of the prison is the most important factor here for me. It shakes up all the rules, because the inmates are so powerless. This is especially true against the guards, but they also have limited arsenal in dealing with each other simply because justice isn’t on their side. For example, when Piper knows for a fact Doggett is trying to kill her…there’s nothing she can do about it. Piper’s not a person in any other context who would react to conflict violently, but in this case, the only thing she can do is arm herself with a weapon and figure out how to fight. Prison is a place where you have to grasp onto whatever tiny amount of power you can. Red says once that once you’re perceived as weak, you already are. It often feels like not fighting back isn’t an option, because it demonstrates weakness, which sets you up to be, at best, tormented, and at worst, killed (a very real possibility with Pennsatucky, as we see with Piper).
So let’s talk about Alex, specifically. She’s stuck in a place of institutionally sanctioned homophobia. We see how that’s wielded against the inmates, most notably Piper getting thrown into SHU. The rape threat happens before Doggett really starts waging war on them (locking Alex in the dryer, lying to Healey about seeing them in the shower, glasses smashing, mattress stealing, etc) but we can also assume Alex has been listening to Pennsatucky spewing her nonsense every single day while working in the laundry…and now this volatile little loose cannon is starting to focus a rage on Piper.
So, options: there’s taking the high road and ignoring her, but that advice doesn’t even work against bullies in elementary school, much less in prison. Then there’s physical violence, either the actual use of it or the mere threat of it (remember, this is a place where you can’t report murder threats, where people throw down over ice cream). Then there’s what Alex actually does…turning the thing that makes her a target into a weapon. She turns Doggett’s hatred of lesbians into a weakness. We see her do this twice - first with the rape threat, and then when she kisses Doggett against her will, which may even be worse as its a form of sexual assault (the actual act of it, rather than the mere threat). That one is done after Doggett’s actually gotten Piper thrown in SHU, after the administration makes it clear they’re on her side. It’s not an admirable action, and it’s not okay…but what are her options?
Perhaps the most troubling element of both of those scenes is the fact that the show sets them up as something to cheer for. It should have probably been treated in the same way as Piper’s no holds barred beating of Doggett was - an uncomfortable mix of empowering and disturbing, a “so this is what it’s come to” event. The fact that it isn’t treated that way is, to me, more troubling than Alex’s actions themselves, because while they’re decidedly not okay, it goes along with the way we see women have to protect themselves and their image while in prison. They inflict harm on each other in extreme ways that they wouldn’t in the outside world. (Even the way Alex and the others’ gaslighting of Doggett - which comes after a lot of shit on both sides of that feud - is portrayed in an interesting way. It starts out as a total joke, but then we, like Piper, start to consider the genuine consequences of it, and whether it’s really deserved).
Anyway. Sorry to hijack your very short post to go on a rant, this is just something I thought about a lot after my initial rewatch a season two, and sometimes I see that scene brought up in the tags to either extreme reaction - one of which finds Alex sexy in it, the other that says they can never like her again after it happened. I’m always tempted to write up why I don’t think either extreme seems exactly right to me. Again: I don’t want to say that it’s at all right or justified. It’s not a triumphant moment for me, and it’s a low point for Alex. But there’s a moral ambiguity to the context that means it also doesn’t ruin her character for me, and in fact, I find the idea of her using Tiffany’s homophobia as a weak spot as really complex and interesting as a narrative. I just wish the show had given the scenes a different tone.