Can't sleep, clowns will eat me... As each season of American Horror Story nears its premiere date, the shroud of mystery is pulled back as more details surface about what the series will be about. At a special screening of the first three episodes of Cult, co-creator Ryan Murphy conducted a Q&A session with FX head honcho John Landgraf. There, he spilled some more details about the story, themes and some of his characters, including who guest-star Lena Dunham will play.
Dunham will play historical figure and radical feminist Valerie Solanas, who attempted to murder Andy Warhol in 1968, shooting him three times. A year prior, Solanas published her SCUM Manifesto where she urged women to “overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation and eliminate the male sex.”
This means that Dunham will be at the very least, paired with Evan Peters, who is scheduled to play Warhol, along with several other historical characters this season including David Koresh, Jim Jones and fictional lead character Kai Anderson, who is the leader of a contemporary cult, sporting blue hair. Murphy has promised that this is the most we will see Peters featured in any season of AHS.
Now there’s a lot of chatter about the new season getting political, but Murphy clarified that during the Q&A. The season premiere opens on election night and then tracks the various characters’ reactions to the waves of change resulting from the political shift.
“Last year, at this time, everybody was talking about the election, and everybody was talking about those two candidates,” Murphy said. “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was gonna win in a landslide, so the opening was a little different.”
Charles Manson was always the story Murphy considered telling, but explained that he couldn’t get a fresh angle on it. He was however, drawn to the idea of the cult of personality, which is the theme that he’s exploring with Cult.
"It's about somebody with the wherewithal to put their finger up to the wind and see that that's what happening and using that to rise up and form power and use people's vulnerabilities about how they're feeling afraid.”
"It really is about the rise of a cult of personality that can rise in a divided society."
“It’s not about Trump,” Murphy continued. “It’s not about Clinton.” Cult is about the cult of personality through Kai. Then with all the clown imagery, and nods to Twisty the Clown, the theme of cults come into play as the Freakshow character will be an inspiration touchstone for what others do this season. Cults also explains the bees seen in the show’s marketing as bees have roles and jobs that serve the queen. There will also be a character played by Billy Eichner who is a suburban beekeeper. Murphy added, “Bees are the original cult.”
It was also learned that this will be the first season without supernatural elements; it will be set within suburban Michigan and have a muted color palette. Now before we start rioting about the lack of supernaturals, the most grounded season, Asylum, was probably the most universally praised season of the first six. It was easily my favorite.
We're all living in the wake of the election and many who oppose the current administration could agree that there are plenty of horrors in the headlines everyday. But what does the lack of supernatural elements mean for AHS specifically? There's probably a handful of characters we won't see if Murphy is true to his word. Also, the Halloween episode will be structured differently than in years past since that’s when ghosts can roam freely from their prison of where they were killed.