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American Horror Story and the Politics of Fright

Swinging into a new season of FX’s chiller thriller, American Horror Story, the scripted series creatively mirrors today’s political climate. The reflection is a more insidious, torturous look at the aftermath of a red victory–ushering the United States of America into a taboo new era under the Trump Administration. However, as revealed prior to this season’s release, our nation’s political climate serves more as a catalyst for deeper contextual points rather than the show’s centerpiece.

What we will see, though, is how the show characterizes and highlights a concept that has been the very framework the entire AHS anthology. Fear.


Kai Anderson, played by the talented Evan Peters, has serious issues. His reaction to Trump’s victory from his dimly-lit living room in his Michigan home is peculiar to say the least. Dry-humping his television in dark, twisted joy was his way of celebrating. The news would propel and energize his own political agenda. We can tell from his early determination to place this Michigan town under the force of his vengeful thumb that this is only the beginning of something scarier than what we’re facing today.

Photo: Frank Ockenfels/FX

Ally and Ivy, a suburban lesbian couple (played by AHS veteran Sarah Paulson and newcomer Alison Pill), have a family and home together in the unspecified Michigan town. Though the election results sparked excitement for what’s to come for Kai, there was dramatic difference in that of Ally, who seems to have a laundry list of issues she’s dealing with already.


We must not fail to mention, though this has been one of the big giveaways preceding the arrival of ‘Cult’, the eerie presence of demented clowns. Becoming a motif for the AHS series, we also see the return of Twisty, the half-mouthed, hefty murdering clown from the season ‘Freakshow’. Poor Ally, suffering from coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and a host of other fears puts a target right on her head for some unimaginable torment.

How fear becomes a character is set in Kai’s meeting with the city council, who is noticeably partial to Trump. He wants “less cops” on the street to aid in the protection of helpless civilians and supports the eradication of Jews. His racist, hate-filled and insane agenda heightens that of what we’ve seen since the election. It may not be stated explicitly, and might even be threaded into the creative storytelling of this season, but a white supremacist uprising is on the horizon–and Kai Anderson is relentlessly spearheading the charge as cult leader.

The parallels to reality are what draws fans of the season in. As art imitates life, we see quite clearly that fear is both a divider and a unifier. The value in it supersedes money, but it obviously includes it. Fear breeds power for the ones inciting it. Where this season takes its characters–and its audience too for that matter–is uncertain. The kickoff episode for AHS: Cult has accomplished grabbing me and pulling me in. Let’s hope the satisfaction increases tenfold by the end of this horror story.