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