My high school experience consisted of choir music, AP classes, and the “nerd” stereotypes that came with being in those two groups. I wasn't really exposed to material that was too controversial or raunchy during that time.
One day in English class I was sitting in the front row and doing my work when I tuned into a conversation I heard happening near me.
“He was such a dick. It was right after her baby died.”
“That was the worst! I mean she was suffering from depression when he fucked that other girl, but now he’s going to pull the ‘I’m-so-sad-we’re-not-having-sex-still’ card? No man, you fucking cheated on her.”
“He was all ‘I was so sad our baby died I had to go have sex another girl.’ Ugh, just stop.”
“Then, Jesus that weird kid rapes the mom and she doesn’t even realize it. You’d think she’d know, you know?”
“I was thinking that too, wouldn’t it feel different? I mean was the dick covered also?”
“I don’t think that’s how bondage suits work. I mean she got pregnant so I’m gonna say no, the dick wasn’t covered.”
I, like any other person listening to this conversation out of context, was partially curious and partially horrified with what they were discussing. When I asked what they were talking about, they showed me a picture of a pregnant woman seductively writhing on the floor with a man in a bondage suit about to pounce at her.
And that was how I came to watch American Horror Story, which I tune into every week now and hate as much as I love. Season one was about a haunted house in LA but now the story explores a coven of modern day witches in New Orleans.
American Horror Story just naturally gives people different reactions each season, week, and scene, so it’s not uncommon that I should have a love hate relationship with it. What I love most is the fabulous cast and their portrayal of their characters. We've got female characters struggling with power, sexuality, family, morality, beauty, and representation. The amount of complex women in leadership roles is extremely refreshing. And while there is, of course, a lot of sex in American Horror Story: Coven, no female character is ever reduced to merely a love interest.
The clothing in this show gets an A+ as well. The amount of black dresses, hippy skirts and headscarves that women wear in this show is dazzling. Amazing ladies in amazing outfits, my god that sounds like a swell time! And it is, until you realize the surprising amount of racism going on.
American Horror Story: Coven doesn’t shy away from racism as a theme in its story (it takes place in Louisiana after all). They have an entire character that gets punished with immortality and torture because she’s a raging (and I mean raging) racist. The irony comes in when, while trying to show us the negative side of racism, the show displays clears signs of it itself.
This race favoritism has become even more noticeable especially in the most recent episodes. Remember that raging racist who was punished and tortured? The one who murdered an infant child? The one who bathed in the blood of the African American slaves she’d disembodied? Well that doesn’t matter anymore because everyone is starting to like her now. In the most recent episode she was locked in a cage and tortured by the “bad” witch (called the voodoo queen). This was upsetting for audience members because, despite her past, the character was slowly starting to learn from her mistakes. She had befriended a young black girl and, in one scene, even embraced her like a daughter. (Revolutionary, right?)
The writers of the show have spun what we would normally view as an evil character into a sympathetic one. This, in my opinion, isn’t a morally bad choice. It’s just that no one seems to care about the voodoo queen’s story, which involves the sympathetic white woman torturing her lover. By not giving the voodoo queen opportunity to grow as a character as well American Horror Story contributes to the idea that because one character is white she is good and that black characters can just be pushed off to the side.
The evidence of racism in American Horror Story: Coven is not dramatic or shocking but instead weaves throughout the show very causally. Perhaps that is what makes it so disappointing. You’d expect more from a show that has the line “There’s nothing I hate more then a racist” written into it.
I love to hate American Horror Story: Coven almost as much as I hate to love it. The dialogue is awful, the sex is distasteful, the characters are unreliable and no one ever stays dead for longer than a week. There is literally a scene where a threesome takes place between one living girl and two zombies. In short, it’s repulsive. But it’s also kind of… fun. Of course you have to watch it for yourself to find out if you personally love it more than you hate it or vice versa. And I do recommend you watch it, ghost sex and all.
Chloe B. McAlpin is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College. Originally from Florida, Chloe enjoys crunchy orange leaves, used bookstores, and Simon & Garfunkel. If she had to pick a favorite animal it would be a Persian cat, and if she had to pick a favorite person it would be Virginia Woolf. Contact Chloe on her Twitter.
Images: eonline.com, blog.zap2it.com