RJ Bayley – ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Retrospective Part 2

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As part of our Women in Horror Month celebrations, RJ Bayley will be looking back at the third season of American Horror Story: Coven – particularly with regards to it’s female driven cast. 

Part One.

Boy Parts continues with last episode Bitchcraft’s theme of natural justice being enforced by women against those who prey on more vulnerable creatures. In the opening instance however, it’s the freshly resurrected swamp witch Misty Day, using her powers to bring poached alligators back to life to kill their killers. Between this and the opening episode, American Horror Story: Coven is setting witches, and so womenl (as they’re the only women featured in the show) to be much more in tune with nature than their masculine counterparts: their powers are, after all, imbued in them from birth, entwined with their genetics. As an extension of this Coven is really pushing women as the defenders of natural justice as well, stern and matter-of-factly lethal punishers of those who upset harmony and coexistence. A definite point is made of the fact the poachers are killing the alligators for leather, not food. Food? Under the natural justice logic displayed in the show so far that could be seen as comparatively justifiable, necessary and importantly natural killing. Killing for leather however? That’s unnecessary and therefore unnatural, and so is met with decisive measures. It’s also fascinating that in both episodes the women are untroubled and happy to mete out death as a punishment. Given that civilized humans are generally the only animals that try to avoid killing at all costs in domestic situations, Coven’s logic that: women = more in tune with nature ∴ intrinsically have less problem with killing, does hold water.

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The same is true even when it comes to fellow women upsetting the natural harmonious order. Boy Parts reveals how Madame LaLaurie is still alive in the modern day, albeit buried in a coffin until Fiona Goode digs her up. For her treatment of her slaves, the voodoo witch Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett) has tricked LaLaurie into drinking an immortality potion before burying her for what she intends to be eternity. A fate worse than death, but not technically death? Don’t forget that Laveau has an itchy lynch-finger and has slaughtered LaLaurie’s entire offspring, hanged before their mother’s eyes, all as a punishment for LaLaurie.

There’s also a ring of poetic justice to the deaths deaths portrayed in Coven. In the first episode the rapist frat boys bus, the vehicle in which they got so fired up and which transported them to their crime scene, is flipped and smashed, killing them as they try to drive away from it. The last of them, who used sex as a weapon, is killed by the victim’s friend, using sex as a weapon. And in Boy Parts the alligators eat the poachers and the slaves lynch the white people. It’s clearly no coincidence that LaLaurie is a fan of classical literature, in which poetic justice was so prevalent. As were, in fact, witches.

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