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RJ Bayley – ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ Retrospective Part 4

by RJ Bayley

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Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

It’s almost like the makers of American Horror Story: Coven realised they couldn’t sustain a commercially funded horror TV show on bizarre explorations of gender issues and feminine concepts alone. Three episodes deep of examining fairly weighty, in-depth and complex theories and ideas around womanhood, Coven decides to drastically spin the ship’s wheel in the opposite direction in an attempt to course correct. Need a drastic injection of popularism into your gender studies show? Bring in the zombies.

To be fair, they’re not totally crowbarred in, and given zombies’ traditional, original, links with voodoo, this is the most apt incarnation of American Horror Story to put them in. And while there is a feeling of “oh. zombies again.” at least it’s nice to see them honouring their origins as products of voodoo witchcraft instead of some space virus.

This is a straight up Halloween episode, not only containing zombies, but playing with mixing cliche pointy hat imagery with the ‘reality’ of witch existence and throwing in people dressed up as monsters. And who can blame a horror show for doing so in an episode broadcast on the 30th of October?

Still, the ramifications of last week’s more straightforwardly sexual explorations are felt throughout. In The Replacements Queenie, desperate to feel love, seduced the killer minotaur sent to the house by Laveau, and had sex with him. In Fatal Pranks Ensue it’s revealed that Queenie was fatally wounded in their congress. In The Replacements the Frankensteined Kyle is molested by his own mother. As a result Kyle smashes his mother’s head to a delightfully mushy paste. While his motivation and mindset is understandable, there’s still a definite correlation between sex turning men into primal, violent beasts. These are highlighted moments in The Replacements, an episode shot through with men being unable to control their urges towards the Supreme and her supposed successor. In Fearful Pranks Ensue we also discover that Cordelia’s husband, Hank, is also cheating on her; his business trip actually a cover for his affair with Kaylee. An affair that ends (in the biblical sense), post-sex, with Hank using a pistol to redecorate their hotel room with his lover’s brains. Consider that Coven opened with a pack of men using sex as a weapon, and you’ll see a strong link between men, sex and violence. To men, it seems, sex and violence are one and the same, or at least go hand in hand, and as a result a woman is always severely damaged.

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