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American Horror Story: Freakshow
Stevi Costa
Anonymous

Thanks so much for this mini-essay, Elsa. I think this contributes a lot to the greater discussion about the representational politics of disability and “cripping up” in the performing arts.

Your comment about “the voyeuristic murder of the Other” really resonates with the way many marginalized communities are treated on AHS. I think about all the times Murphy has asked us to watch lesbians die at the ends of men (ESPECIALLY on Freakshow), and the gruesome use of black male bodies on Coven. We might claim that the show, and horror in general, traffics in this trope: voyeurism, destruction of the Other. But on AHS, this brushes against the show’s surface-level progressive politics: casting actors with disabilities (on almost every season), casting queer characters as both queer and non-queer, creating space for powerful black actresses.

How do we even begin to reconcile these two opposing forces in the broader universe of the show? Can we?

American Horror Story: Roanoke - season 6
Stevi Costa

Thanks so much for your take on the fragmentation of narrative, truth, and history on Roanoke. In calling up history, I’m reminded of Laura’s post about reenactment in gothic narrative, and I wonder if you might categorize this fragmentation as gothic in anyway, or if you read it as purely postmodern — the show’s attempt, perhaps, to critique, satirize, or otherwise parody the sensational horror of “truth”?

AHS Reenactment
Stevi Costa

I’m really excited for you to see how this tread is picked up in Nick’s piece on Roanoke for tomorrow which, of course, uses documentary reenactment as its primary storytelling mode for the first half of the season!

AHS Reenactment
Laura R. Kremmel

Yes! I had originally planned to talk about the reenactments in this past season… but ran out of space. Season 1 does reenactment best with most episodes opening with a scene from the past, all grounded in the house: architecture is an excellent record of the past in the Gothic.

Other seasons do include a lot of flashbacks, but not in the same way. Kai’s use of cult history, though, harkens back to that first season. He uses the history of cults in an attempt to create a power of legacy and authenticity he doesn’t truly have. This is very Gothic! He styles himself on the ghosts of cult leaders, some of which aren’t even dead (well, Manson is dead now… but he wasn’t when the episode aired). His reenactments are even more copies of copies without origin, revealing his power to be, ultimately, empty.

AHS Reenactment
Stevi Costa

Thanks so much, Laura, for this meaty morsel on Murder House. You’ve made me want to rewatch the season in the context of the show’s series-long obsession with re-enactment.

Your essay begs the question about subverting reenactment, though: is this always the case on every season? I’m thinking about how reenactment is used in developing political narratives on Cult, specifically through Kai’s act of storytelling. But when iterations of the stories are acted out, they fail: the Kool-Aid test, the truncated “Night of 1000 Tates.” Is this because they’ve deviated too far from the original story? Or because they are reenactments with an ulterior purpose than that of the reenactment groups on Murder House?

Lana Winters gives the finger to her rapist, her girlfriend's murderer.
Stevi Costa

A thing I so appreciate about your writing, Evan, is its own camp sensibilities. Thanks for this thoughtful — and funny — look at AHS as one of the queerest shows on TV.

And in thinking more about AHS’s queerness, your piece really generates some questions about what we do with the way these characters are used. Even though Lana and Ally are queer final girls, we also have to witness their lovers’ deaths. And on Freak Show, our queer characters are especially brutalized: Chester Creb’s wife Alice and her lover are butchered, and Matt Bomer’s queer sex worker also meets a gruesome end.

Do these deaths subvert the “bury your gays” trope simply because there are so many other queer characters, and under the logic of horror, someone must die? Or does the amount of violence we witness that happens to queer characters undercut the show’s progressive casting?

Allison McCracken

Your discussion here, Elissa, made me immediately think of the second season of the current popular teen “millennial noir” (to borrow Louisa’s term) Riverdale, which seems like it’s doing much of the same kind of work in its development of the Red Circle teen militia (led by Archie) as local crime fighters. In doing so, they’re tapping into the superhero-themed Archie comics, which does seems like a potentially very lucrative avenue for them as it has been for other properties on the CW. But the localism of Riverdale seems more like what you’re describing with the Spiderman film rather than CW properties such as The Flash or Supergirl (is Archie DC? Others will know this). Anyway, this is just an observation but I find this teen vigilante localism both intriguing and disturbing. We’ll have to see where it goes.

Timothy Shary

That we have seen three different incarnations of the ‘Spider-Man’ franchise in just 15 years is not as surprising today as it would have been in the post-war boom of teen movies, when few youth media products retained long-term recognition (beyond Disney movies, which were rarely sequelized). Hollywood has realized what schoolteachers have known forever: that “generations” of youth only last about 4-6 years, moving through their respective school systems and then abandoning those identities as they move into adulthood for grown-up life. Youth of 2017 cannot respect the same actors (and stories) in their movies as those enjoyed way back in 2012, and certainly not those of the ancient 2002 franchise, which was almost in the last century. Just as we continue to witness the ongoing waves of ‘Star Wars’ and see other superhero stories recycled for new young audiences, we will indeed have “homecomings” for further teen franchises in the future. As long as teens keep watching movies.

Virtual reality film Out of Exile: Daniel's Story (Sundance Film Festival 2017)
Allison McCracken

I appreciate you sharing this story and video of this new type of digital 3D experience, which is fascinating. I haven’t heard of this iteration of digital experience before but I absolutely agree that digital media offers opportunities for visceral experiences of empathy and community that are just as valid as other types of media or in-person experiences for queer youth. What is impressive to me is the increasing number of media forms that provide spaces for LGBTQA+ youth expression and community (if only they had existed when I was growing up!). Where I see the limitations in LGBTQA+ spaces for youth more generally is not so much in their forms (on or offline) as their continuing privileging of white queer cis youth, who invariably receive the most attention/funding/acclaim/scholarly attention. This is a concern we all have, of course, and is a larger issue within LGBTQA+ mass media promotion/reception more generally.

Allison McCracken

Wow! Great piece, and this is such an amazing video—I can’t believe the production values here and it is so wonderful to see two girls skating together. As a longtime male figure skating fan, I was so pleased at the attention Yuri brought to the ways in which male skating itself invites queer reception because of its gender transgression/fluidity/beauty. Indeed, it is these aspects of the sport that women and queer fans (which I would argue are the majority) value the most about it. The resemblance of these female skaters—particularly the younger—to current male figure skaters puts into relief the gender fluidity of the sports’ stars (it’s not surprising that Johnny Weir and other major skaters have weighed in appreciatively on Yuri) .

I appreciate Andrew’s discussion above regarding yaoi, and what I particularly love about this vid is that it makes lesbian “yaoi” fandom visible, where it often is not. It made me think of the performances of drag kings—queer girls performing live as boy bands—and Barbara Jane Brickman’s wonderful essay, “This Charming Butch: The Male Pop Idol, Girl Fans and Lesbian (In)Visibility,” which points out how lesbian fans of boy bands are ignored because heterosexual desire is still the dominant framework for understanding how pop fandom works. Yet this kind of intense love and, as Louisa writes, joy, is so complex, and is certainly as much about identification as desire. In today’s culture, such texts have also become formative regarding non-binary identities as well as queer/lesbian identities for many youth.