In the build-up to the release of American Horror Story: Cult, the seventh season of the hit anthology horror series, co-creator Ryan Murphy openly admitted that Donald Trump and the 2016 presidential election would play a big part. So, is AHS Cult about the election?
The connection was apparent from the moment that the title for the season opener was confirmed as “Election Night,” and now that the episode has finally aired it has become even clearer that Murphy and his American Horror Story team are going to tackle the fallout in an uncompromising fashion. The opening shots of “Election Night” revealed just that, as we were reminded of that fateful night on November 8, 2016, when Trump shocked the political world by beating out Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
We then saw Ally (Sarah Paulson), her wife Ivy (Alison Pill) and their young son Oz, as well as their neighbors, the Changs, looking on in shock and horror as Trump was announced the winner. This scene is even shot and builds in a manner akin to a horror film, as the music swells and Paulson screams in horror as Trump is announced. Just as horrified is Winter (Billie Lourd), who has to deal with the taunts of her brother Kai (Evan Peters).
From that moment on, though, it’s more of an allegorical connection. The scenes of Ally being so petrified by clowns that she has a panic attack, her anxiety over her returning fears and her repeated clown sightings allegorically suggested at how the current era of Trump will be examined by American Horror Story. The brutality and racism of Kai, on the other hand, is reminiscent of some of the real life horror stories that have been popping up in recent news.
The character of Ally represents all of the liberal panic that has blossomed in the wake of Trump’s victory, as she repeatedly insists and warns about the growing threat of murderous clowns, only to be condescendingly dismissed by those closest to her. Oz’s revelation that clowns murdered the Changs, and the final shot, suggests there’s some credence to her worries, though. Or, alternatively, that her fears and paranoia have already started to affect her young son.
At the same time, the previously house-dwelling Kai becomes emboldened by Trump’s victory. In fact, his celebration of Trump’s triumph includes smearing his face with cheese puff dust so that he can impersonate the incumbent, as well as annoy his sister. (Side note: Always wondered about this somewhat signature tint? We have an explainer on the Trump orange look.) While the episode mainly focused on Ally and her failure to comprehend Trump’s victory, which reignited her various phobias, the sight of Kai harassing laborers and trying to incite fear at a council meeting is the most resonant. The fact that the laborers fight back, and Kai’s deserved beating is recorded, suggests that it will play a bigger part, too.
Which way the show will now head with it still remains to be seen, though. Because since the show has been just as scathing with the left as it has been with the right, American Horror Story: Cult has already managed to prove that no-one is free from blame in the era of Trump. Make sure you keep up to date when the second episode of American Horror Story: Cult airs on Tuesday, September 12 at 10 p.m. ET on FX.