American Horror Story, Season 2

American Horror Story, “The Coat Hanger” responses.
Talking television.
Dec. 13 2012 12:09 PM

American Horror Story, Season 2

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 Is AHS political, or just campy?

Joseph Cromwell as Dr. Arthur Arden in 'American Horror Story.'
Joseph Cromwell as Dr. Arthur Arden in 'American Horror Story.'

Photo by Michael Becker/FX.

The headline to last week’s Thursday roundup was “Is Lana carrying Bloody Face’s baby?” and, as you know if you watched last night, the answer is a definitive yes. Even though Lana tried to abort the evil spawn in horrific, back-alley style, Dylan McDermott’s presence in the future indicates that not only did the child survive, but also that he lived to fulfill his mother’s darkest nightmares. While I personally find this storyline compelling enough, Jeff Jensen over at EW, recalling Vivien Harmon’s anti-Christ baby, rightly points out that this “would be the second time in two seasons that AHS played this card.” I agree with Jeff that a new twist on the theme would be preferable, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see how McDermott’s therapy turns out (not great so far!).

Speaking of the abortion scene (along with the potpourri of other potentially offensive moments in this episode), I’ve begun to wonder if any viewers out there have finally had enough of Murphy’s “nothing is sacred” approach this season. While I couldn’t find any smart, outright screed’s (in the lame-stream media, at least), Salon’s TV maven Willa Paskin did offer an astute take on the scene.

This plot-line, in typical “AHS” fashion, cheekily and outlandishly (and gruesomely) ran roughshod over many of the more controversial aspects of the abortion debate: rape of the mother, health of the mother, legality vs. illegality, coat hangers. This “AHS” plotline may have ended with Lana still pregnant, but she’s essentially carrying Rosemary’s Baby. It’s unlikely she’s going to regret her attempt. I’ve never seen a show stack the cards so heavily in favor of abortion, no matter the outcome. Because of “AHS’s” feverish, crazy, surreal aesthetic, it gets away with political positions more grounded shows can’t, or won’t, attempt.

Paskin’s last line, about AHS’s ability to “get away with” certain political positions, is an interesting one. I absolutely agree that the show is able to push the boundaries as much as it does because of its aesthetic, but I’m not sure that I agree with Paskin’s reading that it then takes on unpopular or controversial political positions. In fact, I’d say AHS’s aesthetic—which is pure camp—actually eschews political positions all together. After all, this is what camp is about. It skates upon the surface of our culture’s morals and conventions, pausing just long enough to chuckle at the sacred cows frozen in the ice below, before gliding along to another part of the lake. That’s what happened with abortion last night, and whether that kind of approach strikes you as gross flippancy or incisive critique is, I guess, a matter of sensibility.

Now, before I go, I have to give a shout out to our commenters for their excellent help with my rubies question from last week. A number of you guys tried to find scriptural guidance on the issue, and though no one found any direct evidence, Satan’s vanity does seem to be a clear element in all this. However, perhaps commenter Jennifer Eichenberger has the best approach: “I don't think we need to find historical data. I mean she made it clear she LOVES the color red, and was coveting Sister Jude's red lingerie. How wonderful would those red earrings go with red silk? Fabulously. And she knows it.”

All I have to add to that is a hearty “werk!”

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.