Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How Problematic is American Horror Story From a Feminist Perspective?

So I just marathoned the first 3 seasons of American Horror Story over the weekend. While I can't say it's consistently good, it takes some odd story turns and assumes the audiences forgets things that a traditional horror audience would severely scrutinize but  overall it's an excellent show.

For me what made it pretty good is that it overtly tries to make moral and political statements. The show has balls. Unlike Extant.

Some of the most overt stuff its trying to say is in regards to feminism with characters often turning directly to the camera to condemn the ills of the patriarchy. The show seemed to me to have a pretty strong bent on this angle.

When a show makes me think that much I do a few Google searches and the reception has been a lot more mixed. I don't want to dismiss that. A lot of those posts make good points and being a dude what do I know anyway.

All the same I kind of feel a lot of those arguments are along the lines of Huck Finn being racist for using the N-word despite being one of the most scathing critiques of southern Romanticism of its day.

For me the problem is how much leniency I should give the show for the sake of each season being a supernatural morality play.

Let's talk about supernatural horror for a moment.

Speaking based on my limited reference pool. supernatural horror tends to be about justice.

Normally you start with characters who are or have been "fucking up" but they are in a position where for whatever reason the people around them, often who they've wronged are not in a position to do anything about it.

So the spirits get involved, they spirits have a very alien(draconian) sense of justice, causing the audience to question its own sense of morality.

That's not the only template but it seems to be the formula American Horror Story is going with.

To make that work the characters have to be "assholes". These have to be the sorts of people the audience can look at and know they've got something coming them.

AHS has a very female led cast so women are often the ones who are "punished" often in really violent ways.

But the more complicated issue is that these women are often portrayed as being the way they are because of the unfairness of the patriarchy.   That stuff is really interesting but you end up with this consistent undertone of these strong willed women being just stomped.

Equally complicated is that both of the horror archetypes of the second and third seasons, witches and nuns, have a loooooot of historical baggage in feminist circles, for good reason. There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in The Crucible.

At the same time not unlike my Tarantino movies the show is trying to evoke the 70's horror scene. Bloody Mask is basically Leather Face.   But even those stories were rehashes of rehashes of the folk tale, urban legend, fairy tale archetype which as pointed out are often morality plays.

Morality changes though.  Because the show wants to pay homage it has to play the game, dealing with rape abortions, promiscuity and a whole mess of maternalism dealing with the female body.

It creates this weird dissonance as you see characters suffer over complicated choices.

Also in Coven there is this theme of fighting age the story frames as the maintenance of sexual attractiveness.    It's an interesting way to go but making but the show focuses on it the primary motivation a several tangentially connected villianesses.

I can think of at least a couple dozen other reasons to want to live forever than staying sexy. I've seen a lot of meaningful stories about fighting the tide of aging and that was a weird way to go with it that seems to speak specifically with femininity.

Since I'm not a woman, pretty young at least by knocking on death's door standards, and not particularly a looker to start with (my great age based fear is slow onset dementia slowly losing myself  without being able to detect I am slowly losing myself. Hopefully I've got awhile before I have to face that), I feel unqualified to discuss whether or not that reading has some cultural truth but I've seen it as a pretty interesting interpretation of the Snow White story worth discussion.

I don't want to get creepy here but understanding that from my perspective would mean understanding the differences between the male and female standard of beauty.  Do women find older men physically attractive like everyone says and how does that dichotomy play if it's true?

Anyway, I am out of my depth so it's just something worth thinking about but that discussion almost always devolves into something either putrid or comedic.

Ladies of the web you tell me. What's going on in American Horror Story and in Snow White for that matter.

So back to my point. A lot of the stuff that's harder to mesh comes down to genre convention and I don't know how much rope I should give the show because of that.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Facebook Comments

Note: These Comments are from all across this blog.