New season of “American Horror Story” distasteful, sexist

New season of American Horror Story distasteful, sexist

When I found out “American Horror Story” was starting its third season, I was pumped. I’ve been in love with the show from Day One. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

So I was more than a little disappointed at what I saw in the first episode of “Coven.” In less than an hour, series creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk managed to convince me that not only were they completely oblivious to women’s issues, but that they apparently believe women are some mysterious species alien to men.

This season’s story follows a group of witches in New Orleans. Despite witches in Western culture traditionally representing the clever, independent, and therefore evil woman in fairytales and folklore, modern media has managed to turn that trope on its head.

Back in the ‘60s, “Bewitched” turned witches into lovable tricksters, and also introduced male witches. In the ‘90s, “Charmed” basically made witches into feminist superheroes who used their powers to protect the world.

Now, in 2013, Coven brings us a sort of mixed bag. We’re back to a strict “x-chromosomes only “ policy, but at least the witches aren’t evil hags. Well, at least not all of them are.

So what sorts of superpowers do Coven’s witches have? Our main cast has a telekinetic, a clairvoyant, a “human voodoo doll,” and… a vagina that kills people.

Which brings us to our first problem. Our main character Zoe’s power is that when she has sex with someone, they have brain aneurysms. Ignoring the fact that this makes absolutely no sense in any context, what the show has done here is basically weaponized sex.

Some of you might be familiar with the old myth of “vagina dentata,” found in various cultures across the globe. In the story, a woman has a toothed vagina, which she usually tries to use to dismember the male hero of the story. In most cases the hero manages to “de-tooth” her lady parts, with his own bits still intact.

This wonderful story showcasing the unmitigated horrors of the vagina – run away while you still can, men – is used in Coven with no remorse. Zoe’s sex is her superpower. Some may call this feminist empowerment, in that Zoe is always in control of her body, and can never be taken advantage of sexually.

It’s really not empowering at all. Instead, it reinforces an age-old fear of female sexuality. It turns Zoe’s female-ness into a curse. It transforms sex from an enjoyable act into something horrific, and blames it on the woman.

While we’re on the subject of sex, let’s move on to problem number two. This is an issue that American Horror Story has had with every season thus far, and it keeps getting worse. The issue is rape, and Coven continues the series’ tradition of trivializing rape to create cheap drama.

I’m not saying television should never talk about rape. It’s a serious issue in our society, and it should be discussed. But it needs to be covered with dignity and respect, and American Horror Story has proven itself incapable of either.

In Coven, we’re introduced to Madison, a witch in both the figurative and literal senses. She’s mean, she’s selfish and she’s got a bad attitude. She’s very unlikeable. Ten minutes after her introduction, she’s gang-raped.

Suddenly, she’s sympathetic. She gets her revenge on the boys who hurt her, and then she basically forgets the incident. The only indication we have that this traumatic event even affected her is two seconds of her crying in the bathtub during the final scene of the episode.

There’s distasteful, and then there’s downright disrespectful.

Given that its cast is almost entirely female, it’s amazing that American Horror Story: Coven manages to be so unfriendly to women. I really do enjoy this show, and I want to love it. But until Murphy and Falchuk realize that there are some lines they just shouldn’t cross, American Horror Story will just be one more show that could have been great.

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