The following article contains American Horror Story: Cult spoilers.
I think Ryan Murphy misses Scream Queens.
Because what I saw Tuesday night– demonic, horny clowns terrorizing Sarah Paulson, a deranged and racist Evan Peters peeing into a condom, Chaz Bono wearing a MAGA red cap– was hilarious.
The season seven premiere of American Horror Story: Cult was met with plenty of anticipation after a relatively quiet marketing campaign. The news that Cult would follow– to paraphrase– a Michigan lesbian who loses it after the 2016 election lit up the eyes of many in the fandom. Thrills, possible gore and inevitable Trump bashing? Naturally, excitement ensued in the AHS target demographic. Many looked forward to the arguable first creative stand against recent political events.
After seeing the first episode of the Cult, “Election Night”, I have reason to believe that much of the audience probably felt a little mislead about the direction of the season. The first episode of Cult did not allege Trump as a ring leader of some underground society or expose satanic secrets of American politicians. After some prodding, Ryan Murphy explained previously that Cult would merely be prefaced by the election; that the Trump 2016 victory would be a guiding narrative of the season rather than the key storyline.
So, much to my surprise, “Election Night” poked just as much fun at the left as it did the right. This first episode set a tone for the season that was equally quippy and darkly humorous as Murphy’s Scream Queens. In this respect, nothing was off-limits to that brand of ironic humor. For a season that was meant to be a horror genre political discourse, we got some pretty hysterical quotes:
I won’t believe anything until I hear Rachel Maddow say it, she’s the only one I trust.
What is wrong with CNN for not giving us a trigger warning before announcing the results!?
You want to know how I’m dealing? I cut out social media. […] I put all my energy into working out!
The proudest moment of my life was when Lena Dunham retweeted me.
These were clear, satirical jabs at liberal culture. And they landed! Murphy presents these two extremes in Cult: the maniacal, lewd alt-right and the snowflakery of the privileged left. We as viewers are able to see how the election results catalyze Ally and Kai’s respective descents into madness. But it may be significant to understand that they were both crazy to begin with.
When Ally, portrayed by Sarah Paulson, meets with her therapist, she explains that her numerous phobias seemingly melted away when Barrack Obama was elected. This character background suggests that Ryan Murphy may have had a different political discussion in mind for American Horror Story: Cult.
Presently, the divide in political parties is more rigid than ever. Every social issue is highly politicized to volatile outcomes. Kai and Ally of Cult show me– quite theatrically, of course– what can happen to an individual when politics overwhelm and inevitably possess the human mind. For Ally, staunch liberalism supplied her with flowery cushion for her psychosis. For Kai, a controversial world leader inspired him to create what viewers to assume to be the beginnings of a supremiscist-ish clown murder ring. Again, considering that the 2016 election will steer the story, not spotlight it, we may learn that our politics shield us from something bigger– something horrific.
Granted, this piece only considers the premiere episode of the season. I can only speculate its direction and Ryan Murphy’s intentions but so much. I discussed Cult with a few friends and we agree that the election theme will be hard to sustain for an entire season (a problem Murphy has with many of his AHS themes). But if executed correctly, I see the seventh season of American Horror Story being a successful chapter in the franchise. Cult is already more tongue-in-cheek than previous seasons, with the same glimpses of classic AHS boundary pushing. I don’t love it yet, but I could.
It sort of depends on if Sarah Paulson will still be wailing “OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD” seven more episodes in.
What did you think of the first episode of American Horror Story: Cult?