It’s a well recognized point that one of the best—if not the best—part of Orange Is the New Black is the slow reveal of the characters’ backstories, particularly the stories of minor characters who existed solely on the periphery of the series’ early episodes.

Among Season Three’s most fascinating character explorations was that of Leanne Taylor (Emma Myles) whose previous purpose has mainly been to serve as comic relief. But there have been clues, like when she briefly speaks German to Poussey, that suggest that Leanne is much more complicated than she appears. Turns out, as we discover in Season 3, Episode 9, that Leanne was raised Amish, started doing meth during her rumspringa, returned to the church, and was busted by cops after they found her old, drug-filled backpack abandoned in a corn field.

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So how realistic is her Pennsylvania Dutch backstory? Erin Negley of Lancaster Online sought out an Amish expert to find out.

Negley writes:

Actually, the story rather fits the fiction of reality television involving the Amish, said Jeff Bach, director of the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College.

“It is highly unlikely that an Amish youth would join the church and be involved in extreme rebellious behavior like this show suggests,” Bach said. “Because this is so unlikely, the rest of the plot twists after this are fictitious speculation.”

Bach adds:

“Most youth groups are well-supervised by parents. Occasionally extreme incidents occur, but it is not typical and it is not a pattern for most Amish youth.”

As to whether or not any of these “extreme incidents” could mirror Leanne’s story, he tells Negley, “It’s hard to reply to how real people would respond to an unreal situation that could virtually never happen.”

Also, Leanne—as a Lancaster County Amish woman—would never wear pink.


Contact the author at madeleine@jezebel.com.

Images via Orange Is the New Black/Netflix.