Trump-inspired ‘American Horror Story’ won’t abandon show’s roots
If you want to watch the presidency of Donald Trump presented as an American horror story, your best bet is still to keep watching MSNBC.
But you might also check out the fictional TV show “American Horror Story,” whose seventh season launches Tuesday at 10 p.m. on FX, because The Donald has worked his way in there, too.
The new 11-episode season — whose full title is “American Horror Story: Cult” — germinated in Trump’s election. But co-creator Ryan Murphy insists the story is less about Trump than the forces, fears and emotions that helped bring about his election.
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“The election is the jumping-off point of the show,” Murphy told TV writers late last week. “But it’s really about the rise of a cult of personality. We’re trying to understand how someone who is very charismatic in the culture can rise up and become a leader.
“We’re not going to say we hate Trump. What did Trump tap into? We’re interested in his rise and how that happened.”
Still, this season does promise a somewhat different path for “AHS,” and the word “cult” in the title suggests it’s exploring something more than normal party politics.
But at this time, the precise direction of the season remains somewhat cryptic and mysterious — which is exactly how Murphy and FX like it.
Murphy launched the tease parade earlier this year by revealing that the new season will begin by being set on election night 2016.
Since then, FX and Murphy have released close to three dozen video teases, and while these have often been cryptic as well, at least two apparent themes have emerged.
One is “fear”: facing it, overcoming it, surrendering to it.
Two is clowns. An army of clowns. If there’s an unemployed clown anywhere between San Diego and Vancouver, he or she just hasn’t been trying.
As for political tea leaves in the teases, one includes brief flashes of characters wearing Trump and Hillary Clinton masks.
The Clinton mask is round, with a smile whose beam borders on eerie. The Trump mask, shot from the side, shows the character slicking back his hair and turning toward the camera to scowl.
Neither Clinton nor Trump will be a character, however, and Murphy has suggested we focus instead on two widely divergent responses to the election results.
“AHS” regular Sarah Paulson, playing Ally Mayfair-Richards, screams in distress at the TV screen.
The blue hair of Kai Anderson, played by fellow “AHS” regular Evan Peters, almost starts to glow with delight.
It isn’t too much of a stretch to think Ally’s and Kai’s paths just might cross.
In other plotlines we know about, Ally is married to Ivy Mayfair-Richards, played by series newcomer Alison Pill.
While familiar “AHS” faces Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates are taking this season off, the large cast will also include Billie Lourd, Lena Dunham, Billy Eichner, Adina Porter, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham and Emma Roberts.
The political element of this season has already stirred strong arguments among “AHS” fans worried that the series could be abandoning its original menu of horror with a healthy side order of dark comedy.
Murphy says no, and moved to reassure fans last week that “Cult” will still have both — in fact, that both have been central to our national response over the last nine months.
“Everybody lost their s--- after the election,” he said, “and people are still losing their s---. There is no real discussion, and everyone is still at each other’s throats.
“The world we’re living in is ridiculous, so a sense of humor is needed.”
And also, maybe, a sense of horror.