Recent Comments

Arthur Knight

Terrific explication of this crucial (and beautiful) sequence. I’ve always thought it was interesting that the final shot links together a group of women playing (where the shot starts) and a group of men (where it ends). Both groups are racially mixed, sort of cementing the utopian possibilities of basketball, but (and?) the final players you see are a white woman and a black man, which definitely presages an important dynamic in the story. That the music is Copeland’s homage to “John Henry” definitely further supports your reading—the melody is bucolic (along with many of the images; and there are those strong hits of dissonance), but if you know the folk song/story and are hearing the words in your head (thanks very much to my grade school music teacher) you get a sense that a happy end is unlikely… and the unhappiness is likely to be caused by exploitation of Black (male) labor. Thanks for the reading!

Kimberly Moffitt

Lee’s career as a filmmaker has always placed his politics central to his works. The notion of space and place and who has access to it certainly serves as one of those key facets of his politics. We need only reflect back on the scene in “Do the Right Thing” where the new (white) neighbor steps on Buggin’ Out’s Jordan sneakers and he encourages the new neighbor to move back to Massachusetts (because he’s wearing a Larry Bird t-shirt) only to learn he’s actually from Brooklyn. In that one clip, Lee highlights the complexity that exists around issues of gentrification, while also further exploring how we put physical (and mental) boundaries around people based on race. But even still, he reveals to us that gentrification, in its complexity, often has negative impacts on those currently occupying the space and often find themselves (dis)placed like “Da Major” is in the Netflix series, “She’s Gotta Have It.” I like your perspective on Brooklyn that suggests Lee has, in fact, encouraged this love of the borough, while also being critical of those seeking it out as their new space to exist. Brooklyn is romanticized in his films in the same nostalgic way that Barry Levinson recreates the Baltimore of his childhood. And currently occupying the space as home does not matter because it still allows one who called that place “home” the foundation in which to critique those changes as he often does.

American Horror Story: Freakshow
Stevi Costa

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.