Thursday, October 27, 2011

American Horror Story, Season One, Episode Four: Halloween: Part 1

This episode opens with Chad carving pumpkins in an attempt to make the house pretty to sell it.  Patrick and Chad  immediately get into an argument, when Chad tells him to wear a condom when he goes to the gym, because he suspects that he is screwing his twink trainer. Patrick admits that he is having an affair and says, "I don't give a shit about carving pumpkins, I want love, I want a relationship with a man not Martha Stewart." Chad responds with, "Then leave. Oh you can't, I forgot all of your money and mine is tied up in this house, which we agreed to flip and make a mint on, but now we can't because the economy is in the shitter". Patrick reminds Chad that they were going to have a baby and a great life.  It's seems just like Ben and Vivien, the house plays a major part in ruining their relationship.  While Chad is carving pumpkins, a man appears dressed in Black leather from head to toe and then proceeds to throw Chad across the room and drown him in his bobbing for apples station.  When Patrick walks in, he finds the man and a very dead Chad.  

For the record, this is the second death of a gay man that we have seen in a scant four episodes on this show.  I think it is highly problematic that the only people who seem to die on a regular basis are women and gay men. The portrayal of Chad and Patrick's relationship falling apart was very real and true; however, why do we need a dichotomy between a BUTCH man and a camp man in a relationship? Why does there always have to be one of each? Ah yes, gender roles. Being camp in and of itself isn't problematic, it's that gay men are always constructed as camp in the media.  There is also the issue that despite the fact that we are dealing with people of the same sex, the media often tries to model gay couples after heterosexual couples.

In the present day, Vivian and Ben are still trying to sell the house to no avail.  They accuse Marcy of not trying hard enough, and she suggests a fluffer.  That was a quaint use of the word, considering that a fluffers function is to give male porn stars erections. She recommends a woman and a gay man.Yes, a gay guy who just happens to bean interior designer, and note that gay is part of his qualification. She's not saying "oh I have these two people who can do it" no, no - he's a gay. Because it's an interior designer that they are discussing, the GAY is important. Can you imagine saying "oh hey, I have a straight mechanic to fix your car?" or "hey you're ill? I know a bisexual doctor!"The other point worth mentioning is that Marcy suggested gay men, which leads me to believe she knows more about the house than she has previously indicated.  Is she even alive?

The other issue with Chad and Patrick's appearance on the show was the vicious snipping - remember they are supposed to be working for Ben and Constance. If that were not enough, when Ben goes upstairs with Patrick to take care of a cut, Patrick comes onto him by grabbing his crotch and says, "Come on Ben, we're the same I can tell. You play the role of the dutiful house husband, but you like having that cock sucked often and well. I can do that four minutes, no one will know." When Ben tells him that he's not gay, Patrick responds by saying, "yeah, neither was I until I got head from a guy."  Yeah, that screams of predatory gay man trope. Ugh, gay men creeping on straight men and being predatory and sexually assaulting straight men is an awful vile trope. It is used to justifying beating them, killing them and as a legal defence over and over again. I'm sick of the trope and, frankly -- it hardly ever happens because gay men have to be extremely careful propositioning anyone.

Downstairs, Chad tells Vivien that Patrick can't keep his dick in his pants.  He tells her that he caught Chad cheating from his cell phone records. "You can delete a text, but you cannot erase the bill." This of course is a set up for Vivien to check and see what Ben has been up to.  Surprise, surprise, Vivien discovers that Ben has been in contact with Hayden, but Ben being quick on his feet, claims that Hayden has been stalking him however,  he has been so forceful that she won't call again. Isn't that a nice way of saying I buried my pregnant lover in the backyard and then covered her with a gazebo. Sure enough, his phone rings and Hayden's number appears.  Because Hayden died on the property, I suspect she will continue to make Ben's life miserable, and make him question his sanity.

The other treatment that was highly problematic this episode was that of Adelaide.   Her mother Constance has clearly infantalized her, dressing her as though she were a child instead of a thirty year old woman.  When Adelaide expresses her sexuality by flirting with Travis, Constance makes it clear that he is off limits, and that she will not share a man with any woman. This really isn't about sharing a man and serves more as a commentary about the de-sexualization of disabled people.

Adelaide turns to Violet, because she wants to be a pretty girl for Halloween.  Violet does her makeup, and when she looks in the mirror she is thrilled with her reflection. Adelaide no longer wants to be treated as a child.  Her declaration that she is most certainly not a virgin makes that clear. When she returns home, Constance tells her to wipe that smut off her face, but Adelaide responds by saying, "I want to be a pretty girl". Constance couldn't even let her have that, she makes it all about her, reminding Adelaid that her father wanted to put her in a home.  She tells Adelaide that she makes them feel lucky - lucky to be "normal" that is.

If that were not enough, Constance gives Adelaide a mask to wear, cementing that, to be pretty Adelaid doesn't just have to wear make up, she needs an entirely new face - completely affirming that Adelaid is beyond beauty. The only word to describe this is ableist.  This is why she locked Adelaide in a closet covered in mirrors last episode. Adelaide is so hideous that just looking at herself is constructed as torturous. In the end, Adelaide is reduced to a burden who is punished for her desires, by being run over by a car. Constance cries when she finds Adelaide's body and attempts to drag her to the front lawn of the Harmon house before she dies, so that she can be trapped there -- just like the other ghosts. Wanting the continued existence of her daughter, does not remove the wrongness of her abelist treatment of Adelaide.

This episode it was confirmed that Mira is indeed a ghost.  She asks Vivien for the day off to visit her mother in a nursing home.  On Halloween, the dead can walk freely, and I suppose this is why Moira is able to leave the house.  When she sees the condition of her mother, she removes the ventilator allowing her to breathe and her mother dies.  Moira's mother begs her to come with her, but she says that she can't and falls weeping across the corpse.  This really speaks of Moira's desperation to be free.

Tate convinces Ben to continue to treat him by agreeing to stop coming to the house.  This of course is a lie, and he meets Violet in the basement again.  I am betting that this is where he died, because he is always in the basement.  Tate tells her the story of the death of the Montgomery baby. The child was kidnapped and murdered in revenge for the abortions performed by Dr. Montgomery. Do I even need to say how problematic this is?  Abortion is not now, or ever will be murder, but that is not how it is treated in this episode.

Near the end of the episode, we have Chad flipping out yet again, but this time over apples.  One must have the right apples. When Vivien tells him that he is overreacting, he responds by telling her that they should just leave.  Vivien is of course shocked by this but Chad goes on to say, "It's not your house. We know it, you know it and the house knows it. Frankly you don't deserve it."  Vivien tells him to get out, but Patrick responds saying, "we're not leaving."  Vivien has a fit and destroys the Halloween decorations, but then doubles over in pain, when she claims that she feels the baby kicking.  They rush to the hospital and when the ER doctor does an ultrasound she passes out cold.  Clearly, there is something unearthly with the baby. Perhaps, Ben is not the father of the baby but the leather covered man that she slept with believing that he was Ben.

Home alone, Violet becomes concerned when Larry begins banging on the door, demanding his thousand dollars.  He had told Ben earlier in the episode, that he would only be patient for so long and reminded him that if he chose to call the police, Hayden's autopsy would reveal that she was pregnant with his child. It looks like Larry's patience has run out. 

Despite the homophobia, ableism and violence, I like this show.  It is incredibly complex and continues to dole information out in a way that leaves the viewer wanting more.  I simply don't understand why the writers and directors feel the need to rely upon tropes to tell their story.  Removing them would not hurt the plot, but it would give dignity to the historically oppressed characters that they have created.