Tuesday, October 25, 2011

American Horror Story, Season One, Episode Three: Murder House

This episode, we learned quite a bit more about the animosity between Moira and Constance.  It seems that in 1983, Moira had an affair with Constance's husband Hugo, but when he tried to initiate another sexual encounter, she turned him down claiming that the first time was a mistake because she was lonely.  Hugo simply would not take no for an answer, and was attempting to rape her, when Constance walked in and shot Moira and her husband. Constance should must certainly angry for the one time that Moira consented but what was going on when she walked in was most clearly rape.  I believe that what we are seeing is the ghost of Moira because I highly doubt that anyone could have survived being shot in the eye the way that she was.

This episode, Ben spent a lot of time blacking out and waking up in his backyard.  When he does so at Vivien's OBGYN, she runs some tests and discovers that Ben has laudanum in his system.  When he accuses Moira of drugging him, Moria simply answers "prove it" and walks away. Moira now feels safe because earlier in the episode, when she was coming on to ,Ben, he grabbed her and told her that she was fired, just as Vivien was standing in the doorway.  When she separated them in the kitchen, Ben finally told Vivien that Moira had been coming on to him, and that no matter how many times he rejected her, that she kept trying.  Of course, all Vivien could see is the older version of Moira, played by Frances Conroy, and so Ben's claims seemed ridiculous.  When Vivien suggested that for the good everyone that Moira leave, she threatened to sue and press charges for Ben's violence. After Moira leaves the room, Vivien accuses Ben of letting his guilt effect his emotions.

Vivien decides to take the "murder tour" to discover more about the history of her house.  I thought that this was a bit ridiculous, considering that a simple internet search would probably reveal anything that she wanted to know.  On the tour, the bus stops at the place where Sal Minio, an award winning actor and gay man was killed.  Apparently he was being followed someone whom he thought was cruising him, but the man yelled, "I'm not a faggot," and then proceeded to bludgeon the actor to death. Stan the tour guide, even made a point of saying that Sal lead a closeted life because his father could not accept the fact that his son was gay.  We are told that a Black man was sent to prison for his death but everyone knows that he was not guilty and that the murder constituted a hate crime. This is third episode in a row in which we are seeing homophobia in action.  Not only do we have a violent murder, but a gay slur was used during the commission of the homicide.  This show has yet to introduce a single reoccurring GLBT character, but it seems to have no problem having gay people die on a weekly basis, or tossing in a few homophobic comments throughout an episode.

In fact, when you think about it, all the people who have died thus far are marginalized in some way.  The only men that have been killed are gay.  The rest are women and children. This tells us which bodies are seen as disposable.  I was particularly disturbed with the death of Hayden, Ben's pregnant lover.  Even though Larry Harvey supposedly killed her to stop Hayden from telling Vivien that she was pregnant, it still amounts to the death of an inconvenient pregnant woman on television.  We all know far too well, how often pregnant women are murdered when their pregnancies are seen as inconvenient by their male partners. The third leading cause of death in pregnant women is homicide, and in fact 20% of deaths during pregnancy are homicide.

Not only does Hayden die, Ben actually builds a gazebo on the site that she is buried.  He may originally have been upset that Larry murdered Hayden, but he got over his role in her murder pretty quickly if you ask me. In the upstairs window -- Moira and Constance are visible and Constance says, "poor girl now she is stuck here forever," with the implication being that anyone who dies on the property is destined to haunt the house for the rest of eternity.  Only the women mourn, for the victims.

Through flashbacks we learn that the house was built in 1922 by Dr. Charles Montgomery for his wife, Nora, a prominent east coast socialite.  Nora was frustrated that Charles was not keeping her in the manner in which she expected, and so she encouraged young pregnant women to come and see him to get an abortion.  Keep in mind that in the twenties, abortion was illegal and pregnant women had very few options to terminate a pregnancy.  It seems that Charles is responsible for the jars of human body parts that we see in the first episode. It turns out that Charles killed these poor desperate women and from the bullet wound we see in Nora's head at the end of the episode, he killed his wife as well.

Vivien is determined to move, and I completely understand her desire to do so.  Ben tells her that while they are not broke, they are house poor, because they have lost money on their investments.  Vivien accuses him of lying to her and threatens to leave him should he ever lie again.  After much arguing, they agree to rent an apartment, until they can sell the house; however, when Vivien calls real estate agents, she learns that no one will take the listing because of the history of the house.  She is forced to talk to Marcy, who sold her the house and threaten to sue because of improper disclosure.  I am going to pause for a moment to point out that  Marcy referred to the former gay owners as "nasty little perverts" and this yet another instance of homophobia.When Vivien does finally find an apartment that she deems suitable, Violet threatens to run away if they move because she does not see the house in a negative light, but as the place that they survived.

Unlike Ben and Vivien, Violet has not had as many interactions with the ghosts that haunt the house. When Ben tries to ask Violet if she is okay and  questions if needs to talk, she turns him down cold.  Tate tells her that it is wonderful that she has a father that cares.  The film is shot in a manner that it makes it appear as though Tate is standing just outside of Ben's view, but I think it's clear now that Tate is definitely another ghost.  In fact, when Constance is walking by and spies Tate in a window, she waves but Tate does not respond.  When Marcy looks up to see who Constance is waving at, there is no one in the window.

So far, I have found American Horror Story to be an incredibly layered story.  The constant flashbacks give small hints as to how the characters are related to each other, without revealing the whole story.  There is still doubt as to who is a ghost and who is actually living.  I think that there is wonderful writing going on, but I am disturbed by the repeated homophobia, as well as the fact that the victims are largely female.  The house should not exist with the biases of society, if it is simply a paranormal happening.  Everyone should conceivably be at risk, and it is clear that the house is selective on who dies.