American Horror Story: Is America the real horror story?

As of this week, audiences are now four episodes deep in the highly anticipated  seventh season of American Horror Story, subtitled ‘Cult’. This season revolves around an array of characters, including a lesbian couple, creepy neighbours and a Charles Manson-esque man with blue locks and plans for world domination.

The villains this season are a troop of terrifying clowns who make a habit of murdering unsuspecting victims. Aside from the usual gore and jump scares, there is a strong political motif casting a polarizing shadow over the plot – and the AHS creators have used little to no nuance in realising said motif.

The show’s intro begins with a man donning a rubber Donald Trump mask, followed by images of pilgrim-clowns and blood-drenched American flags, complimented by what sounds to be an ominous rendition of inaugural trumpets. How patriotic! This isn’t the only example of politicisation in the show – the opening scene of the season is of the presidential election and people learning that Trump would become the president-elect of the United States. As a side effect, the lesbian couple in the show worries for their marital status.

The threat to same-sex marriage after Trump’s election isn’t the only socio-political controversy that is brought to light in ‘Cult’ – there are also instances of racial tensions and ethnic violence.  A Mexican immigrant is shot dead in the second episode due to fear of home invasion. Also highlighted is a commentary on guilt. Guilt felt by liberals who did not vote at all, due to uncertainty felt towards Hillary as a candidate, and who now majorly regret their inaction. Although American Horror Story is a television show and the happenings portrayed are done so in dramatics – these are actual realities in today’s America.

Sifting through the theatrics and examining the core of what is being communicated, two concepts are arrived at  – fear and rage. The show paints the picture of a fearful democratic American population, opposing rage-filled republicans – murderous and desensitised.  In reality, Americans are instilled with fear for the unknown of what will happen next, and for what is out of their control. A cult of trump-supporters is formed, murdering liberals for the sake of rage, and the instillation of fear, whereas in fact a rage has been conjured towards differing ideologies.

The producers of the show could have simply seen a crass opportunity to prey upon a sensitive subject for its primary demographic which is Americans (hence the title). They knew that the combination of clowns and civil unrest would be a stellar duo in the fear-factor department.

On the other hand, if there is, in fact, a deliberate liberal-bias in the show, did they go too far with generalising republicans as murderers? ‘Cult’ is perhaps arguing that political polarization brings out the worst in people – which has proven true more than once in today’s America. Whatever the message, it’s best not to base political ideologies on American Horror Story’s take – there are more reliable sources out there!

Image: CC0 Creative Commons @ Pixabay

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