Who asked for a TV show about the 2016 elections? And other concerns
Last month, Ryan Murphy announced that the upcoming season of the television anthology “American Horror Story” will be election-themed. That is, this time around the horror will be about the 2016 United States presidential election. The news came less than a month after Donald Trump took office. To be more direct, we are not even through the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency, and the entertainment industry already has found a way to capitalize on the suffering of millions of Americans because of the administration. Who asked for this?
Previous seasons of “American Horror Story” have been mainly defined by their settings. The first season, which premiered in 2011, was about a murder house. Then, the second installment centered around a 1960s asylum. The following year, the series followed an all-girls witchcraft school in New Orleans. The fourth season focused on a circus in Jupiter, Fla. After that, the fifth and sixth season were set in a haunted hotel and the infamous Roanoke Colony, respectively.
Although Murphy has kept most details under wraps, it is safe to say that this upcoming season is undoubtedly a departure from the usual subjects that the FX show tackles. Unlike the other installments, which have dabbled in supernatural and gory thematics, the new season seems to aim to create the horror within very realistic political circumstances. It’s also a clear political and sensationalist statement—the idea that the presidential election can be likened to the horrors found in a haunted hotel, a murder house and a coven.
Murphy has been interviewed a couple of times about his decision to use the election as the plot of the new season and his comments are alarming. For one, he confirmed that both Trump and Hillary Clinton will be characters in the show, although not the protagonists. Then, he gave more details: “It starts on election night is all I’ll say…It’s very scary, that night, for many people. It’s fun; you will like it.” It’s fun, he said, referring to a show about a presidential election that was anything but fun.
Maybe it is because I have seen far too many negative, life-threatening, discriminatory decisions emerge from the White House since Trump was inaugurated, but I am having a hard time envisioning a “fun” take on this whole political debacle. It becomes even harder when I realize that “American Horror Story” is known for its campy, sensationalist approach to its source material. That in and of itself is not a bad trait. In fact, it is what makes “AHS” an enjoyable watch. But when Murphy calls an election that has resulted in the ban of immigrants “fun,” I fear that perhaps he doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation due to his privileged status as a white male.
I don’t doubt that Murphy will make a thought-provoking season and bring up interesting commentary about U.S. politics, but at what cost? How do you make a show about circumstances we are currently living in? We are far from being in the position of seeing the election as some sort of historical event, simply because we have yet to grasp the repercussions that are playing out day by day, with no end in sight.
It is true that entertainment should not just entertain us but also incite conversations. But I do not think someone like Murphy is here to do that this time around. For conversations about the election, all we have to do is turn on the news, read our Twitter time lines, talk to our neighbors, our classmates, our friends. For election-related entertainment, “Saturday Night Live” is vindicating itself with sharp satire that is still mindful of the severity of political events. But, to assume that the November election is worthy of a campy horror narrative is far-fetched and opportunist, commercializing on the pain of those suffering under Trump’s leadership.
I also do not discredit those who might be excited for the upcoming season. Murphy, after all, has become the master of television with shows like “American Crime Story” and most recently “Feud.” To his credit, he approached the O.J. Simpson trials with dignity and respect, mainly because it was a straightforward dramatization of the events.
However, it feels too soon for Murphy to jump on the utilization of current political occurrences as a “fun” plot for the sake of creating a shock factor in his audience. Yes, the elections might have been a horror, but it is not the type of horror we can afford to cover our eyes with our hands during the ugly parts