Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Simon Abrams checks in on "Home Invasion" in the following post. You can read the recap and catch up on the entirety of our discussion so far via the following links:




Hey, Dennis,

You'll have to forgive this post's lack of focus; last week was not so good and today got off to a bit of a rough start. Also my notes on "Home Invasion" are on my laptop, which is currently in the shop for repairs. Guh.

Anyway, I think what makes Falchuk and Murphy's thematic concerns uniquely "American" kinda speaks to what irritates me about the show's flip attitude. American Horror Story is set in Los Angeles because, so far, it's a story about our morbid conflation or celebrity and macabre crime. The fact that, as you said, "Home Invasion" is the first proper episode of the show is telling. Here is where Falchuk and Murphy, the co-creators of Nip/Tuck, start to explain why physical beauty and fears of birth defects are a concern in this L.A.-based show. Simply put, it's because image is everything. We already know that Constance failed as an actress and that she almost exclusively disdains Addy for her physical deformities, as is shown with the mirror-lined closet. If nothing else, that closet is Constance's evil way of punishing Addy for reminding Constance of her failure to make it as a star.

So within the context of American Horror Story (as I understand it now), being born deformed is a uniquely American curse. We are image-conscious, whether we're talking about Constance or the copycat killers that want to get famous by repeating the senseless and cartoonishly Evil violence of the past (they just had to massacre chaste, Christ-worshipping medical students whose idea of a good time is studying and watching Laugh-In!). So the poisoned cupcake is Constance's way of trying to prevent any further mistakes. No more births in the Harmons' house presumably means no more deformed children (I haven't watched beyond episode two, nor have I read anything about the show, but I can only imagine the house makes monsters).

I find that to be fairly insufferable. The invocation of the killers interest in slayings like the Black Dahlia murders is an especially smug way of insisting that the concerns of serial killers and never-was starlets like Constance are eerily similar. This reading gives the scene where Constance asks Tate if the killing of the copycats was his handiwork a goofy new meaning: Constance regrets being involved with Tate, a monstrous little brat and a killer. But she can only affect what happens in Harmons' house so much. And ultimately, it doesn't really matter who did the killing. The only thing that distinguishes Tate and the copycats is that they hail from different generations of killers (I think I mentioned this last time, but I assume Tate is a ghost). And the first generation of killers are being treated as real monsters while the copycats are just insecure because the copycats are only enacting their fantasy of what true Evil really is.

That philosophy is essentially what I object to in an otherwise moody and intriguing show. As I understand/anticipate the direction that Falchuk and Murphy are taking American Horror Story, the show's drama fetishizes serial killers of the '60s and '70s like Manson because, well, it wasn't a different time, Dennis! Manson-like killers are, in the show, counter-cultural signs of the time but only thanks to the magic of warped hindsight. I'm saying this as someone that considers the Serial Killer Museum in Florence to be one of the city's most diverting attractions. I think it's dangerous to assume that simply acknowledging the cyclical nature of our mythic monster-making culture is a sufficient cultural critique. Because Falchuk and Murphy are assuming that one generation of killers is worse than the another and that's just another form of fetishizing the past.

Anyway. What do you think, Dennis? I know I ranted a bit too much this time out, but without my notes, that is basically what came to mind. What do you think of the episode in general?


No comments: