The scariest part about American Horror Story’s seventh season is still the idea that it will drudge up the demons from Election 2016. While some folks can’t get enough the campaigning, the entire idea that we’d have to relive it through the crazed-eye of this series made it unsettling. That said, the reality of AHS: Cult seems to be that the election is only tangentially related to the events happening in the series and the actual focus of the series is a bit more sinister — with some timely connections to the real world.
During a Q&A with FX CEO John Landgraf, series creator Ryan Murphy spilled some details about this season, where all those clowns and bees fit into the mix, and why he thinks Jessica Lange will return to the series at some point. As for Trump and Hillary’s relationship to the newest season, Murphy said his politics are clear but everybody still has the wrong idea:
“It’s not about Trump, it’s not about Clinton,” he explained. “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… and they feel like the world is on fire.”
Added Murphy, “Yes, the jumping-off point of the show is election night, and the characters have very strong points of view about Trump and Clinton, but it really is not about them. It really is about the rise of a cult of personality that can rise in a divided society.”
Murphy says he initially wanted to do a season on Charles Manson, but felt the story had been done. He’s not wrong, seeing how Aquarius already tried to tell the story for network television and Tarantino could possibly be bringing bloody fantasy to the story of the Tate murders. So instead, we’ll get Manson for an appearance, along with Jim Jones, David Koresh, and Andy Warhol — all cult leaders of some sort for Murphy and all played by Evan Peters. He’ll also play the main cult leader for the modern story, Kai Anderson, a guy that seemed very happy to see Trump win the election in the premiere trailer. He also seems to use his power to move from city councilman to senator within the series, getting “darker and darker” according to Indiewire.
As for Andy Warhol, you might be wondering why he’s included with infamous characters like Manson and Jones. While the artist wasn’t a cult leader in that deadly, traditional sense, he and his Factory crew indeed had a cult-like following. It also allows Murphy to tell the tale of Valerie Solanas, the woman who tried to kill Warhol and will be played by Lena Dunham in the 7th episode of the season — “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins, Scumbag.”
For Murphy, it’s all tying into the anxiety people are feeling around the nation — including himself. That’s partly why he set it right in the middle of battleground territory in suburban Michigan and played into everything from the numerous protests we’ve seen since inauguration day to the ideas that fueled the tragedy in Charlotte:
“Everything is on high alert now and it was a way to write about a growing sense of anxiety in the culture,” said Murphy, who joked that – like Paulson’s character – he’s coping with a lot of rosé wine. “I don’t feel particularly calm. I don’t think anybody does, to be honest… It was cathartic to write about it, but I’m still drinking rosé.”
Sarah Paulson’s character apparently downs a lot of wine to deal with her numerous phobias in the show, which is partly why there are so many clowns running around. This includes Twisty the Clown, the returning John Carroll Lynch from the show’s fourth and fifth seasons.
While he knows that some, especially Conservatives, will criticize this season of the show, he isn’t so sure that the president will take note. When asked if he thinks the president will tweet about the show once he realizes he plays a part, with Murphy he’d both be shocked and not shocked if he did and that he hopes the president “would have more important things to do.”