American Horror Story: Cult has yet to pick a side in this seemingly politically charged season, and Columnist Kayla Wood talks about why that’s an issue.
Politics and election angst came back into focus in this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Cult. The episode, aptly titled “11/9,” was entirely dedicated to this season’s main characters’ fears and anger that came to a peak on election night last year.
And the man pushing everyone to realize their fears and their rage? Evan Peters’ character Kai Anderson.
For the first time, the audience begins to see the power and influence Kai holds over others, especially those who are oppressed, underrepresented, under-privileged and downtrodden. He controls and manipulates those who are tired of being judged and tired of being told they should feel bad about themselves. And it doesn’t matter if they’re black, white, gay, straight, male, female, liberal or conservative. All that matters is that they feel angry. No, that they feel outraged, at their standing in life.
Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy use Kai as a tool to unite both sides of the political spectrum and see how both sides got so pissed off to the breaking point that came to be America as a direct result of the 2016 Presidential election cycle.
By pushing people to their own breaking points, Kai manages to control and manipulate each and every character he sets his eyes on.
But what I still can’t understand is why he’s doing it. Is Kai some kind of hero? The good guy who can unite both sides in some sick, twisted way as per usual on American Horror Story? Or is he the antagonist who drags the other characters into the worst parts of themselves rather than helping them rise through the pain and anger into a more superior class?
It appears that Falchuk and Murphy are just as unsure of Kai’s purpose as we are. They tried to make him a crowd pleaser, someone who could appeal to everyone. Instead, they’ve made him into a sadistic god-like character who seems just as inauthentic as he does omnipotent.
But none of that is due to Peters’ acting abilities. In fact, the characters who appear to be members of the eponymous cult of terrorizing clowns are the only redeeming factors of AHS: Cult thus far.
Adina Porter, who plays newscaster Beverly Hope, brings life to the unsuccessful-because-of-her-race-and-gender trope Falchuk and Murphy have forced her into.
In a montage of video clips in which we see Beverly dealing with white men jumping into her shot saying, “Grab her by the pussy,” she becomes visibly and audibly more and more sick of the disgusting phrase before she breaks and starts attacking one of the perpetrators on camera. Porter’s acting skills made the obvious and poorly written character seem realistic, even plausible.
The same can be said for Billy Eichner, who plays Harrison Wilton, a flamboyant gay in a fake marriage and plagued by his co-workers’ opinions. Again, this trope is overused to describe gay men in America, and the only reason the character is worth a second thought is because Eichner’s hilarious personality shines through the otherwise dull character.
And as long as we’re giving credit where credit is due, Billie Lourd’s portrayal of Winter Anderson has been chilling thus far. Though she’s such a new actress, with Cult being her fourth on-screen role, Lourd has a powerful and intriguing presence in the show. While it is problematic that Winter was portrayed as a predatory lesbian — a trope often used in conjunction with the lesbian and gay community on-screen — earlier in the season, Falchuk and Murphy somewhat redeemed themselves this episode when they wrote Lourd into a savior role for Allison Pill’s character Ivy.
Aside from the actors’ commendable performances this episode, we see a furthering of Falchuk’s and Murphy’s satirizing both liberals and conservatives in the current political climate. After the months of ambiguous promotional videos and ads, all of which seemed to insinuate that this season would lean left but could be read as either liberal or conservative, it’s a letdown to realize that the writers do not intend to take any real political stance. Instead, they intend to lay in the “safe” middle ground and simply continue to make fun of both sides of the spectrum, in turn making fun of every American affected by the election, be they conservative or liberal.
But hey, I guess they’re not looking to produce thought-provoking, politically-charged television content as they implied. Rather, they’re just looking to produce money-making, mind-numbing television content as they have been doing for years.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching American Horror Story. But it’s getting old to continue looking for messages that are not there.