BY JOHN CARTER JR
The final Retro Review Summer Scares of the year is here. Read, if you dare!
Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story (AHS) was released in October of 2011. The anthology series has since had ten seasons with an 11th along the way as well as a spinoff series – American Horror Stories with its second season now streaming on Hulu. Each Season of AHS has introduced audiences to Fashion, Fabulosity, and Fear. Each theme and location stands out with its own aesthetic, legendary performances by its heroes and its rogues’ gallery of villains.
Each Tale (Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, Cult, Apocalypse, 1984, and Double Feature: Read Tide and Death Valley) has had something amazing to offer audiences. After over a decade of AHS and as we look forward to the upcoming Season 11, let us look back at the best season of AHS, American Horror Story: Coven.
This Season of AHS centers around the students of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies located in New Orleans. The show introduces many mystical concepts and fearsome foes for the Witches of the Coven to take on. From Voodoo Practitioners led by Marie Leveau – played by the powerful and iconic Angela Bassett – to the dastardly immortal woman, Delphine Lalaurie – played by the incomparable Kathy Bates. This season was not short on talented actors (Frances Conroy, Jamie Brewer, Gabourey Sidibe, Sarah Paulson, Jessica Lange, Emma Roberts, Patti Lupone, Cristine Ebersole, Taissa Farmiga and Stevie Nicks), all of which have moments that exhibit their acting fervor.
American Horror Story: Coven could be labeled the best season for these aforementioned reasons alone; however, it is how the show brings women to the forefront that not only sets the standard for the seasons to come but also for other shows as well.
The Horror genre has historically been a place for empowering women on screen, it has also been used to mistreat or misrepresent women. Many horror fans remember roles that inspired them the most. Actors like Neve Campbell, Lin Shaye, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jodie Foster, and more have all played such impactful roles. Women of color have recently increased in their presence in these roles as well, not simply being a Jada Pinkett Smith Scream cameo, for example, actresses such as Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, and Lupita Nyong’o are just some examples of this. American Horror Story: Coven pushes women to the forefront. Conveying that not only are they powerful but the experiences of women are important to the greater American Cultural identity.
Bassett, Conroy, and Lange convey this perfectly throughout their acting as three powerful leaders in the story, each acting as just one part of the spectrum of morality, personality, and fabulosity that the cast represents. Take for example the confrontation of Fiona Goode and Marie Leveau in the latter’s Hair Salon. Both actors meet each other in this scene, blow for blow, still maintaining their air of power and importance while directly confronting what divides these two factions of powerful women: broken treaties, superiority complexes, and racial disparities. The scene stays fresh in the minds of AHS fans with Iconic lines like
“So what is your wish, witch!”
“So the hammer wants the nail’s magic”
“You could give me a unicorn that sh*t hundred dollar bills and I’d still never give you more than a headache,” – Marie Leveau
“Maybe in another century, you could have two, sh*thole salons,” – Fiona Goode
Both performers convey what it is to be a powerful witch and a powerful woman in this scene and throughout the series. However, it is the heroes of the story (Myrtle Snow, Cordelia Foxx, and the wards of Miss Robichaux) that have the most honorable moments. Myrtle Snow, Frances Conroy, is the shining example of a badass and an iconic queen at the same time. It is her rivalry with Fiona and her revenge on the witches’ council that give most of her intense moments, however, her wisdom and quick-witted humor stand out and are most iconic. Lines like :
“Forgiveness, you say? Forgiveness is, and always will be, the high road… the preferred road.”
“How dare you be so unromantic and so very, very selfish. Our dear Cordelia plucked her eyes out to protect this coven, and you have the gall to ignore my words of warning and support? Now… take these tickets to Epcot and my JAR jewels and pack your bags.”
“Oh, Madison, You are the worst kind of Hollywood cliché: a bobblehead with crotchless panties!”
And of course
“Don’t be a Hater Dear”
Frances Conroy plays the wise guide for the young girls of the academy while also being among the most remembered characters for her over-the-top witty remarks that made for both a serious and comedic performance. She is just one of the memorable heroes from this season. Cordelia Fox, Zoe Benson, Queenie, Nan, Misty Day and of course Madison Montgomery all played by various American Horror Story Veterans each have shady and fabulous iconic moments AHS fans will remember for years to come. All of these women represent a diverse set of personalities and while it should’ve said that Ryan Murphy and co could have done even more for diverse casting, what we have still represented a cast of talented women.
American Horror Story: Coven is not only the best season of AHS but is one of the best seasons on television. It conveys fabulousness and power in its ensemble cast of talented actresses. Its story is intriguing not only for the lore but also for the quick-witted comedy and shady reads its characters dish out. The fun campiness of this southern drama with monologues reminds me of Designing Women’s Julia Sugarbaker at some moments sells this season. Most of all however American Horror Story: Coven is the best of all the seasons because it does all of these things leagues above the rest and it does it with class.
I give American Horror Story: Coven 7/7 of the seven wonders for being one of the best acted, costumed, and written Ryan Murphy shows!