The time has finally come to discuss this year’s’ “American Horror Story” season. Based on seasons past, it’s safe to assume that the directors have given up on emotionally scaring their viewers and have moved on to tackling a much more comical approach to their storyline. While other seasons, such as “AHS: Coven,” had also attempted to contain dark humor, they were never, well, this direct.
The first episode of “American Horror Story: Cult” was not necessarily scary, but it did play upon a few interesting themes. First, this season is the most modern version of any others, as Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, the series’ creators, are attempting to play with a prevailing fear—the 2016 presidential election and its outcomes. Unsurprisingly, this was met with a lot of controversy; when Evan Peters’ character humps a television after Trump wins and then proceed to rub Cheetos dust on his face in an imitation of Trump, there will be a fair share of complaints. Furthermore, the association with Trump and the term “cult,” dances on a very thin line between satire and outright disrespect towards his supporters. Nevertheless, the elections act as a trigger for the very anxious Ally Mayfair Richards, played by Sarah Paulson, who seems to be serving as the chief character for this season. This means that the plot will most likely revolve around her and her family, and with Paulson taking on this role, fans should expect an abundance of excellent acting revolving around notions of psychological torture.
This season of “AHS” is also tackling the motif of phobias. Some of the world’s most common phobias include the fear of clowns, though the media and film industry’s obsession with clowns is arguably more terrifying than the actual fictional characters they create. In this premiere episode, we see clowns constantly reoccurring; they appear in comic books, having sex in the produce aisle of a grocery store, crashing two lovers’ alone time, outside a little boy’s window—the usual. Another fear mentioned was trypophobia, the fear of holes. People with trypophobia claim the presence of holes makes them feel uncomfortable and anxious, so it’s possible the directors won’t present the fears themselves as frightening, but rather the anxiety they induce.
The most interesting aspect of this first episode was perhaps the references and hints alluding to previous seasons. It was refreshing to see more LBTQ+ representations within this season; “American Horror Story” has always effectively used actors representing minority groups. Specific to this season, we see a parallel with one of the show’s previous seasons, “AHS: Asylum,” as Sarah Paulson plays a lesbian. The secret relationship between Lana Winters and her girlfriend during “AHS: Asylum” mirrors that of the now overt relationship between Ally Mayfair Richards and Ivy Mayfair Richards, played by Alison Pill.
The most notable reference to previous seasons was seeing a recurring character for the second time in “AHS” history, Twisty the clown. The only other recurring character to be shown in more than one season is Pepper, the lovable pinhead from season two, who reappeared in “AHS: Freakshow.” Twisty the clown is arguably one of the most terrifying clowns currently on television, and with Pennywise from Stephen King’s adapted novel, “IT”, making an appearance on screens this year too, it looks like 2017 is really the year of the clown. Overall, it should be interesting to see how the directors will tie in other seasons and old characters within “AHS: Cult.”