AHS: Cult (classic)


Nadya Awino

American Horror Story: Cult details the complex politics of the Michigan suburbs, adding a gory clown component to shock viewers and expose the dangers of submitting to fear. NC seniors Ali James and Diana Martinez reenact a scene where the characters discover the clown cult’s marking and react in horror. “Everything about it [the new season] is terrifying. I’m afraid of clowns, so this season has been good in a terrifying way,” James said.

Nadya Awino, Photo Editor

September 5 marked the premiere of American Horror Story: Cult, the seventh season in the series; fans anxiously anticipate a new, edgy theme from producers, dissatisfied with the past few seasons that included a mockumentary based on Roanoke, a hotel murder-mystery, and a dysfunctional circus.

This year, the plot centers around America’s recent election, citizen reactions, and the political divide in Michigan. The show’s returning characters include Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Cheyenne Jackson, Adina Porter, and new actors such as Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Colton Haynes, and Lena Dunham. The trailer for the season plagued viewers’ screens with distraught Hillary fans, over-zealous Trump supporters, and killer clowns.

“Honestly, I stopped watching after I saw the first episode of season five,” senior Dominique Fluellen said. “But I’m excited to see what they’ll do this season, so I’m watching it.”

The first episode, titled “Election Night,” focuses on Ally and Ivy Mayfair-Richards (Paulson and Pill), a lesbian couple  watching apprehensively with their son, Oz, and next-door neighbors, the Changs, as Clinton announces her concession.

The scene suddenly switches to a dimly lit basement where Kai Anderson (Peters) screams in delight as the newscaster announces Trump’s win in the 2016 election. Anderson proceeds to cover his face in Cheetos, resembling the newly-elected leader, to run upstairs and gloat to his sister, Winter Anderson (Lourd). Visibly upset by the outcome of the election, she initially yells at Kai to leave the room; instead, they interlock pinkies meaningfully, the beginning of Winter’s elusive characterization.

The characters then become inextricably linked; Kai appears before the city council, on which Mr. Chang serves, to deliver a speech about fear and using it to control people. Aly visits the grocery store and runs into a band of homicidal clowns. Winter worms her way into the Mayfair-Richards household as a babysitter, only to poison young Oz’s mind with gory videos from the “dark web.”

In true AHS style, the writers steadily confuse the audience as the episode continues. With no outright explanation of Kai and Winter’s relationship, viewers must either look it up online, or watch the episode in confusion as they ask and answer intimate questions about fear.

Moreover, Winter’s personality remains impossible to perceive. Although she expresses sadness over Hillary’s loss and applies for a babysitter position, she tells her brother how much she hates children. She also encourages Oz to watch the group of clowns commit murder. Winter seemingly wants to further her brother’s scheme to incite terror in the suburbs, but the episode provides no clarification of this idea.

“I watched the premiere and it was a little all over the place. I felt like there were a lot of things going on at once,” senior and long-time fan Austin Pruett said.

Additionally, Paulson’s portrayal of Ivy aims to poke fun at today’s liberals, but her exaggerated performance becomes too much. Her sensitive demeanor, overreaction to simple things, and bleeding heart exemplifies everything conservatives criticize liberals for. This, coupled with her underlying privilege and blatant snobbiness, creates an obnoxious character that the audience can not relate to; her attitude overshadows her symbolic message.

As the season progresses, the mysteries presented in the first episode either explain themselves or go even deeper; the Anderson siblings clearly plot to manipulate the Mayfair-Richards in order to set the stage for their takeover. Kai takes it up a notch by running for mayor and encouraging the couple’s eccentric neighbors, Harrison and Meadow Wilton (played by Billy Eichner and Leslie Grossman) to incite fear within the community. Winter attempts to seduce Ally and plants a misleading video on the internet in order to drive a wedge between Ally and Ivy. The entire town, overrun with fear, will make decisions to protect themselves and the ones they love, including electing a bigoted man into office under promises of protection. Who knows what message the producers intend to send out with a plot like that?

Overall, AHS: Cult looks promising. The first episode set the stage for a number of interesting storylines, but only if the writers and producers can innovatively change the direction the show, include purposeful characters, and center the premise.

“I like the show, but not the clown concept. I feel like they’re just trying to hop on the It train because they saw it regaining attention. I’m still going to see what happens next episode though,” senior Geovanie Contreras said.

The Chant’s Grade: B-