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American Horror Story: Cult

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

So this show felt like it lost its relevance a long time ago, and Ryan Murphy is certainly doing bigger and better things with American Crime Story (and...a Nurse Ratched prequel?), but the current season that premiered on Tuesday is certainly taking a stab at being topical. It tackles and conflates the presidential election last year with the spree of clown sightings and the rise of fascism, and...I'm kind of intrigued?

 

My relationship with this show has oscillated over the years. The first season has some genuine highs, but showed signs of the kitchen sink approach that would unravel later seasons. I powered through season two and was pleased with moments of innovation (the "Name Game" musical episode), but for some reason the promise of season three's Coven devolved into a Stevie Nicks's music video. I never finished Freak Show and only caught a few episodes of Hotel.

 

But My Roanoke Nightmare brought me back in with its takedown of reality television and found footage. The first half being about the show within a show and second half giving the actors a chance to switch things up was pretty nifty, even if the whole thing petered out a bit by the end. And the stunt casting of Lady Gaga for Hotel, to compensate for Jessica Lange's departure, didn't amount to much with her limited presence in MRN. But at least they reined in a lot of the shock value and music video editing. 

 

Strangely enough, or not so strangely, a lot of the series regulars appear to be gone this season. Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Lily Rabe, Wes Bentley, Gaga, they all seem to be gone, unless they're being kept under wraps for surprises later. So it's just series stalwarts Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson, here from the beginning, in a kind of tête-à-tête against one another.

 

On the one side Peters is a pro-Trump, USA USA kind of guy that appears to be using clowns to wage a fear campaign that will make the masses more malleable to control by the government. On the other is Paulson playing an agoraphobic, ultra-liberal (she voted for Jill Stein) lesbian in a marriage with Alison Pill that is, you guessed it, afraid of clowns. Twisty the Clown from the Freak Show season also makes an appearance, although just in a comic book (so far, it's ambiguous if the events of season four "happened" in the past of this season, since season connections are tenuous at best). 

 

And the reason I said topical above is how charged the imagery and language is on the show. It doesn't shy away from real-life footage of Trump and Clinton, and loads up the dialogue with exigent buzzwords like "triggered," "women's studies" and the "dark web." Characters wonder where they'll get abortions now or if their same-sex marriage will be dissolved. Paulson at one point complains about how often Trump tweets, and a cashier wears a MAGA hat. It all feels like your social media feed dramatized into a narrative. 

 

So far I can't tell what Murphy is trying to accomplish. He's obviously poking fun at liberals that either didn't vote at all (one character yells at another for being too busy with Etsy to go vote) or threw their vote away with a protest vote. But he doesn't shy away from showing Peters' deplorable revolutionary to be depraved and pathetic, and yet alluring. It's an angry, angry show, and when Pill's character advises that Paulson just keep her head down and get on with real life, it oddly feels like the thesis of the story because it's coming from the one sympathetic character. Yet when Paulson goes to her therapist and he says something similar about cutting the cord, he comes across as being kind of a douchebag (he mentions doing CrossFit to distract himself).

 

I don't know what you're trying to say, Murphy! And if it comes down to there being blame "on both sides" that will feel like a real betrayal from a progressive creator that has always pushed the envelope with his work, for better or worse. 

 

Anyways, anyone watching this? 

post #2 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
 

So this show felt like it lost its relevance a long time ago, and Ryan Murphy is certainly doing bigger and better things with American Crime Story (and...a Nurse Ratched prequel?), but the current season that premiered on Tuesday is certainly taking a stab at being topical. It tackles and conflates the presidential election last year with the spree of clown sightings and the rise of fascism, and...I'm kind of intrigued?

 

My relationship with this show has oscillated over the years. The first season has some genuine highs, but showed signs of the kitchen sink approach that would unravel later seasons. I powered through season two and was pleased with moments of innovation (the "Name Game" musical episode), but for some reason the promise of season three's Coven devolved into a Stevie Nicks's music video. I never finished Freak Show and only caught a few episodes of Hotel.

 

But My Roanoke Nightmare brought me back in with its takedown of reality television and found footage. The first half being about the show within a show and second half giving the actors a chance to switch things up was pretty nifty, even if the whole thing petered out a bit by the end. And the stunt casting of Lady Gaga for Hotel, to compensate for Jessica Lange's departure, didn't amount to much with her limited presence in MRN. But at least they reined in a lot of the shock value and music video editing. 

 

Strangely enough, or not so strangely, a lot of the series regulars appear to be gone this season. Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Lily Rabe, Wes Bentley, Gaga, they all seem to be gone, unless they're being kept under wraps for surprises later. So it's just series stalwarts Evan Peters and Sarah Paulson, here from the beginning, in a kind of tête-à-tête against one another.

 

On the one side Peters is a pro-Trump, USA USA kind of guy that appears to be using clowns to wage a fear campaign that will make the masses more malleable to control by the government. On the other is Paulson playing an agoraphobic, ultra-liberal (she voted for Jill Stein) lesbian in a marriage with Alison Pill that is, you guessed it, afraid of clowns. Twisty the Clown from the Freak Show season also makes an appearance, although just in a comic book (so far, it's ambiguous if the events of season three "happened" in the past of this season, since season connections are tenuous at best). 

 

And the reason I said topical above is how charged the imagery and language is on the show. It doesn't shy away from real-life footage of Trump and Clinton, and loads up the dialogue with exigent buzzwords like "triggered," "women's studies" and the "dark web." Characters wonder where they'll get abortions now or if their same-sex marriage will be dissolved. Paulson at one point complains about how often Trump tweets, and a cashier wears a MAGA hat. It all feels like your social media feed dramatized into a narrative. 

 

So far I can't tell what Murphy is trying to accomplish. He's obviously poking fun at liberals that either didn't vote at all (one character yells at another for being too busy with Etsy to go vote) or threw their vote away with a protest vote. But he doesn't shy away from showing Peters' deplorable revolutionary to be depraved and pathetic, and yet alluring. It's an angry, angry show, and when Pill's character advises that Paulson just keep her head down and get on with real life, it oddly feels like the thesis of the story because it's coming from the one sympathetic character. Yet when Paulson goes to her therapist and he says something similar about cutting the cord, he comes across as being kind of a douchebag (he mentions doing CrossFit to distract himself).

 

I don't know what you're trying to say, Murphy! And if it comes down to there being blame "on both sides" that will feel like a real portrayal from a progressive creator that has always pushed the envelope with his work, for better or worse. 

 

Anyways, anyone watching this? 

I might give this a try in a few weeks if I hear that it seems to be going somewhere, but based on Murphy's track record I'm not really getting my hopes up.  I really gave up on AHS as a whole a few episodes into Hotel and hadn't really liked a season much at all since Coven. 

 

From the descriptions I've read of the premiere, it basically sounds to me like someone decided to adapt the Facebook comments on pretty much any political post in the last two years which doesn't sound particularly appealing to me while we're still going through it.

post #3 of 22

Ryan Murphy is Lucy and we're all Charlie Brown. Don't fall for it again!

post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 

Engage with the goddamn epic tome I wrote above, Atom. 

post #5 of 22

Your tome is well written and interesting, but I haven't seen the new season so I'm afraid I can't comment further!

post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 

Let us fuck?

post #7 of 22

I had pretty much the same history of this show as Bort did, though I quit after Coven.  Didn't watch Freak Show or Hotel.  did come back for Roanoke and that was easily my favorite season.  This one...I've always thought fear of clowns and scary clowns were just silly.  After seeing the trailer have so much focus on scary clowns and fear of clowns, I don't know if I'm going to bother with this one.  If I hear later that clowns was such a small thing and there is so much better things about the show to watch, I may give it a shot.

post #8 of 22
I just wanna know what's up with all the bee imagery.
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 

Not sure yet, but it seems to play into the idea of a hive mentality. The actual motif of porous surfaces occurred a few times in the first episode with Paulson's character being freaked out by a piece of coral in her therapist's office, and then with a plate of food bleeding at one point (a lot of the show seems to question whether or not Paulson is hallucinating). 

post #10 of 22

Boy, this was dumb. I'm not quite sure what Murphy's "both-sides" ism solves or offers up. 

 

"Fuck you, Nate Silver" is my new favorite bad line of dialogue, though.

 

The last time this show was good was the serial killer dinner from Hotel. That was an episode. 

post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 

I was hoping for a Boone interjection! I wondered about the repeated usage of "fuck." I'm not sure if this is a new thing with FX, but I don't remember earlier seasons, or other shows, being able to use the word so willy-nilly. 

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
 

I was hoping for a Boone interjection! I wondered about the repeated usage of "fuck." I'm not sure if this is a new thing with FX, but I don't remember earlier seasons, or other shows, being able to use the word so willy-nilly. 

 

I think they've slowly been able to push things more and more as the boundaries of what's acceptable has been shifted. Let's not forget PEOPLE V. OJ's fabled use of "motherfucker!" 

post #13 of 22

One of the things that will be interesting to watch going forward is whether it remains firmly rooted in the present and our present fears, or if Murphy plans to really dive into the origins of the threads and tensions that Trump's election has brought up. The show is at its best, and at its most wild, when it is both satirizing and exploring this iconography of Americana in a blender, with the ghosts of the past reverberating into the present - sometimes metaphorically, often literally. That's why Murder House works so well, and it's why the serial killer dinner, ripped from Neil Gaiman though it may be, works, this concept that we are all haunted by these ghosts of our collective pasts, these ghosts we have made.

 

But I'm not sure how that works this season. I've heard some stuff about Peters role this season which I won't spoil, but let's just say it's the most obvious approach they could take for a show named "cult," and I'd much rather them explore how American politics has always been a horror story, that the two threads of our political culture have been hope - but also fear, fear of the other, fear of the future, fear of whatever. 

 

Will Murphy go there? Will he get into stuff like Lindbergh and the German-American Bund, to name a couple examples off the top of my head? It remains to be seen. 

post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post

Not sure yet, but it seems to play into the idea of a hive mentality. The actual motif of porous surfaces occurred a few times in the first episode with Paulson's character being freaked out by a piece of coral in her therapist's office, and then with a plate of food bleeding at one point (a lot of the show seems to question whether or not Paulson is hallucinating). 

Ah, expected 'hivemind'. Honestly was hoping Peters was gonna end up as some sort of an immortal 'queen bee' of cult leaders.
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bartleby_Scriven View Post
And if it comes down to there being blame "on both sides" that will feel like a real betrayal from a progressive creator that has always pushed the envelope with his work, for better or worse. 

 

Anyways, anyone watching this? 

 

The episode felt like a drawn-out, not particularly funny episode of South Park, with a subplot where Butters sees some truly disturbing clowns. (Seriously, never got the whole "scary clown" thing, but those designs creeped me out to a level I didn't know TV could.)

 

Only season I made it through was Coven, barely. Gave up on Freak Show and Murder House. But keep trying because I know this will be a haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights next year and I love that event. Calling it a year in advance, that house will not be very good.

post #16 of 22

 I felt that Paulson's character was trying to push people's buttons, but it didn't work on me. I also felt that Peter's character could have used some depth. This episode was trying too hard to be edgy and for all its effort, it just got a meh reaction from me.

 

  Bille Lourd was a bore in this. If she was a Hillary supporter, why is she working with her crazy Trump loving brother?

 

  I'm going to give this season another episode or two to impress me.

post #17 of 22

 Since I saw It a few days ago, none of the clown stuff freaked me out. Not even twisty slicing that dude's throat.

post #18 of 22

Second episode was predictable and boring. When it comes to AHS, I can forgive a lot as long as crazy things happen; hence I was one of the few who liked Coven.

 

 Peter's character does need to be better written and even some nuance. I don't see how he gets people to vote for him by freaking them out. If he is supposed to be a Trump like figure, have him talking shit on people to a crowd of like minded people.

post #19 of 22

I'm curious to see where this goes. Considering the protagonists are liberals being victimized cruelly and the villain is a psychotic Trump-worshipping idiot, I don't know how you can accuse it of Both Sides-ism. The Horror of this season comes from that feeling we've had all year where we've been shocked at how much shittier large swaths of people are than we had initially realized, and that's a decent place to take inspiration from. Too many people only feel happy when other people feel afraid. So, in a sense, this season has the potential to the most 'American' Horror story they've done yet. And I like that.

 

But so far, I'm finding Peters more irritating than frightening, and if he continues to follow the Trump model of just getting away with shit that he clearly fucking shouldn't, well, I guess that'll be some fine commentary, but it's not going to be a particularly fun watch.

post #20 of 22
I was suprised to learn that the stout chubby person with a beard is played by Chaz Bono. I guess having a short and fat clown as part of the killing troupe would give that character away.
post #21 of 22

Anyone still watching?

 

I'm digging Evan Peters work in this. And Andy Warhol is not the only historical figure he'll be playing on the show

 

 

 

Not gonna lie, that's pretty creepy. Apparently he'll also be playing David Koresh and Jim Jones.

post #22 of 22
Yes.
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