A lot has been made of self-described YouTube comedian Nicole Arbour, who went viral recently thanks to her “Dear Fat People” video. While Arbour claims her videos are for comedic value, most correctly argue that just being mean for mean’s sake is not funny. That’s the main problem I had with Glee and American Horror Story mastermind Ryan Murphy’s Scream Queens. I went into the series expecting camp and fun, but I mostly only got one of those things.
I have to wonder if the dialogue in Scream Queens might have been pulled off better with a more competent actress at the helm than Emma Roberts, who delivers every line in the same flat, disinterestedly bitchy tone. In the premiere episode — in just the first 10 minutes — her character Chanel Oberlin (Chanel #1) refers to the sorority house maid as “White Mammy,” asks Jamie Lee Curtis’ Dean Munsch if she “likes to munch box because your name is Munsch, or if that’s just a coincidence,” and makes a blumpkin joke at the expense of a character wearing a neck brace for scoliosis. (Although kudos to Murphy for sneaking a blumpkin joke into a network television show). Then again, selling lines like these would be difficult for any actress.
The premise of Scream Queens revolves around a scandal-plagued sorority, Kappa Kappa Tau. In typical Murphy fashion, the opening scene takes us to a flashback from 1995, when a freshman pledge who didn’t know she was pregnant gives birth in one of the sorority bathtubs. Rather than feign concern for the girl, the head sorority queen flips out at the thought of having to put a damper on the party, in lieu of attending to more pressing issues at hand, as she says: “I am not missing ‘Waterfalls’ for this. ‘Waterfalls’ is my jam.” When they return to check on the girl however, they find her dead with another sister cradling the now orphaned baby. This sets in motion the first mystery of Scream Queens.