Friday, November 18, 2011

Review of American Horror Story, Season One Episode Seven: Open House

Instead of calling this episode open house, perhaps they should have named it record breaking fail as quickly as possible.  From a social justice perspective, all seven episodes of American Horror Story are deeply problematic for various reasons; however, Open House, takes it to a brand new level.

In yet another flashback, American Horror Story takes the viewer back to 1994.  Constance and Larry are seated together, and we learn that  protective services have plans to remove Constance's son Beauregard from the home, and charge her quite rightfully with child cruelty. Rather than face the consequences of her actions, Constance has Larry kill the child.  For the record, this is yet another example of ableism on the part of American Horror story. It seems as though this show is incapable of having a disabled character not only survive, but be treated with basic human dignity.  Even though Larry is more than aware that what he is doing is wrong, he pushes aside any guilt, because he loves Constance. 

At the obstetrician's office, Vivien is clearly anxious and actually asks the doctor if she saw any hooves. This of course stems from being told that she was carrying Satan's spawn in an earlier episode. When Ben looks at her strangely, the obstetrician tells him that what Vivien is asking is quite normal, and that every woman worries that she is carrying "a little devil". To that I can only add, really? It turns out that Vivien is having twins, and my guess is that one child belongs to Ben, and one belongs to the ghost that she had sex with.

Back at the house, Marcy is giving Joe Escandarian a tour of the house in the hopes that he will buy it.  She tells him that the house was "meticulously restored by a couple of the previous homos, homeowners".  Not to be outdone, Joe says, "f@gs have such a great eye for detail don't they?"  You would think that would be enough homophobia, but Marcy finishes with, "queer eye."  This conversation did not need to happen. It did not advance the plot in anyway, and I fail to see how having a house restored by two gay men adds value.  I am sick and tired of the homophobia on this show.  It feels like something they throw in because they think it's edgy, thus ignoring the fact that it is downright oppressive.  I am further disturbed by the fact that the character which Marcy is referring to, is played by Zachery Quinto, and this is the first time that Quinto has played a gay man. I worry that this will be a sign of the roles that will be relegated to GLBT people when they come out. 

When they enter the kitchen, Moira is there waiting with refreshments that she has made.  Of course, being a man, Joe Escandarian only sees the young Moira and he is instantly attracted to her.  When Escandarian says that he plans on digging up the gazebo and building a pool, Moira asks him how deep he is going to make it, because she apparently likes it deep.  Vivien and Marcy are clearly confused, because to them he is flirting with a very old woman. When Vivien interrupts to ask if he would like a tour of the house, he says, "actually I just have one more question. What's wrong with this place? This land alone is worth more than twice what you are selling for."  Marcy tries to deflect by claiming that Vivien is just an interested seller, but Vivien sets Joe straight, and lets him know a bit about the history of the house. It seems that though she was tricked into buying, Vivien is unwilling to do that to someone else.

After Joe leaves, Terry shows up claiming to want to see the house. Marcy tries to deny him by telling him that the open house is over, but he says that the flyer says from 4-6PM.  Marcy then counters by telling Larry that it is by appointment only.  Licking his fingers Larry says, "I see, it's because of my affliction isn't it. You know sometimes I wonder, if I knew how much I was going to be shunned, if I would have run back onto that burning school bus to save those children." I feel that Marcy is well aware who Larry is, because she quickly pulls a gun out of her bag and tells Larry to "put down the stemware".  When Vivien asks her what she is doing, Marcy responds saying, "A woman in my line can't be too careful, they're a lot of minority men in this city who would like nothing more than to ravage me on this counter top." I don't know about you, but at this point I was looking for a brick wall to bang my head against.  Of course men of colour are rapists touring the city for precious White female flesh. I know that some will feel that Marcy's behaviour is excusable, because the writers have gone out of their way to ensure that we know that she is vile, but that is not a good enough reason to justify the continual inclusion of isms. Nasty people can be very bigoted, and unless someone directly confronts them, it's a sign of their acceptance.

Vivien says nothing about Marcy's racism, but tells her to put the gun down, because she does not like them. Larry steps up saying, "yes Marcy, I hope that you are permitted for that, as I will be mentioning it in my lawsuit.  What you're doing is in direct violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act." With that, Marcy puts her gun away and they go on the tour.  There is a part of me that was happy to see a disabled character speak up for themselves; however, after all of the abelism on this show. it just feels like it was a convenient tool for him to get his way. 

That night, Vivien goes to bed with a woman's best friend, aka her vibrator, and she begins to fantasize. At first she thinks about Luke the security guard, and then switches to Ben. Finally, she ends up fantasizing about a man wearing black leather. This of course is the ghost that she slept with when she thought he was Ben.  This image frightens her, and she jumps up out of bed clearly disturbed.

In the bathroom, Violet is cutting herself once again, and Tate stops her saying, "stop mutilating yourself."  When she accuses him of doing the same, he tells her that he does not do it anymore. Tate asks Violet to promise that she will never cut herself again, and she agrees. Vivien tellsTate that her parents planned a family dinner, but Tate is distracted and asks if she believes in ghosts -  a ghost asking whether someone believes in ghosts.  Is that supposed to make the viewers mind shift and consider Tate to be deep?

At the dinner table, Violet is not eating and so Ben finally plays dad and suggests that Violet talk about her feelings.  It only took the man 6 episodes to stop thinking about his own problems long enough to remember that he has a daughter. Violet being Violet responds, "Like who I'm going to live with after you get divorced?  Is there a third option because both of you make me kind of want to kill myself. Is that what you guys are afraid of? Why else would you actually want to deal with a problem?"  Ben answers, "you never leave your room, you barely eat, these are text book signs of depression. We're very concerned Vi."  Finally, finally, Ben is acting like the therapist that he is' however, one conversation is not going to reach Violet after long months of neglect. Violet tells them, "Look, you guys dragged me all the way out here to save our family, then you decide to break up. You buy a house that I actually like, then you tell me that you're selling it out without even asking me what I want. So fine, I'm not going to off myself and you can go back to your policy of benign neglect." 

Vivien suggests keeping the house, and Ben disagrees saying that they need to sell the house but that they will stay on Violet.  Didn't Violet just say that she wanted to be a part of the decision?  I think that after what they have put her through, they should at least listen to her concerns. Vivien tells Ben that they have two perspective buyers, a Persian and a guy with a really burned face.  This makes Ben pause, because he realizes that Vivien is talking about Larry.  Vivien goes on to say that she is going on the murder house tour to get all of the details about what happened in the house, in order to give full disclosure, before anyone commits. Ben tells her that she is required to say what happened in the last three years, but Vivien asserts that she does not want to deceive anyone. Ben tells her that she will blow the sale, but Vivien answers, "it must be nice to be able to flip a switch and justify your own bad behaviour." How nice and self righteous.  The truth of the matter is that is what happens when you sell a house, and so Vivien is wrong to make it all about his lecherous behaviour. 

The next day, Joe shows up for yet another tour, but Moira tells him that Vivien is not home.  She takes him to Violet's room and says that she would paint it a deep dark red and hang a nice big sex swing. This of course has Joe fantasizing.  Moira continues, "it's always been a fantasy of mine to swim naked in a heated pool, when I'm not tending to your needs of course."  At this point Joe's mouth is gaping open, and so Moira unbuckles his pants. kicking a pillow into place for her knees and says, "I've always heard that Persians have big thick cocks, something a girl can gnaw on."  Is that line really supposed to be a turn on?  I almost giggled when Joe said, "yeah, not teeth though and I'm not Persian by the way, I'm Armenian."  I have no idea what the hell the writers were getting to with the whole Persian/Armenian thing.

Moira later stumbles out of the room wiping her mouth on a handkerchief, with Joe following closely behind, and they run into Ben.  Moira quickly tells him that Joe is a potential buyer, when Ben asks what they were doing in Violet's room. Ben lies and tells Joe that they've been happy, but Joe tells him that it's all inventory to him, because he plans to bring in bulldozers and turn the house into units.  

Later that evening, Ben breaks into Larry's apartment and tells him that he knows that he lied about killing his family and Hayden. Larry admits that he tried to scare Ben out of the house, but that is because having the house is the only way that he can be happy again.  In a flash back, [yet another one] we see Larry telling his wife Lorraine, that he is leaving her for Constance. Larry promises to take care of her and his daughters, but thinks that they should all leave. When Lorraine asks if he intends to move Constance into her house, Larry responds, "it was her house before and I can't live without her." When Larry goes upstairs, he realizes that Lorraine has set the room that she and the girls are in on fire.  

Ben gets totally sarcastic and says, "Constance? All this for Constance?"  Larry tells him that Constance is the most exciting woman that he has ever known, and reiterates that he needs the house.  It's clear at this point that Ben is done playing with Larry and says, "We have a buyer, a real buyer, with real money, and he's going to pull the whole damn thing down and after everything that's happened, it can only be good."  With desperation, Larry tells him no, but Ben is past of even humouring Larry and says, "I can and I will and as soon as I leave here, I'm going to report you to the police and file a restraining order." He tosses his cigarette on the ground and says, "game over" as he heads for the door.  I loved the tension of this scene. I had forgotten how good Dylan McDermott is at playing badass and the fact that he is hot dressed all in black is  pretty awesome as well.
On the murder tour the next day, the bus stops at Nicole Simpson's [the former wife of O.J Simpson] house. Simpson.  Marcy tells Vivien that she glad she came on the tour, because apparently, no matter how gruesome the murder, apparently, someone will always buy the house. This of course inspires yet another flashback.  We learn that after the Montgomery's baby died, Nora is upset to be polishing her own silverware.  Charles enters the room and tells her that he has saved the baby, but when Nora goes upstairs to see the child, she sees a monster.  She comes downstairs and tells Charles that what he created isn't human, and she knows because when she tried to nurse it, it attacked. She even stabbed it with a knife, but it kept coming. In absolute dispair, she shoots Charles in the head, and then finally commits suicide with the same gun.

Inside the house, Constance walks around talking about how she got the card and flowers.  She challenges the sender to show himself and talk to her. Constance taunts him about her new boyfriend and Larry shows up in the shadows. She tells him to come forward because she wants to see his shame. She says, "I bet the kiddies scatter like little buggies when you walk down the street", Constance tells him when she finally sees his face. She tells Larry that he disgusts her, because he let the house get the better of him.  Larry tells her that they are selling the house, but Constance claims that it doesn't matter, because he does not believe that anyone can own the house.  Larry tells her that Joe plans on tearing it down.

In the attic, Violet sees the Beauregard, but Tate chases him away saying that he is scaring her. When Violet says that she is slowly losing it, Tate tells her that "they're people from the past, people who've died here. They're appearing to you now because you're evolved. All you have to do is tell them to go away and they will". Violet tells him that he really knows his way around the house. and Tate responds that he has been exploring after his sessions with Ben. Okay, after everything that Violet has seen, how can she possibly think that Tate is alive?  

Tate then decides to show Violet his secrets.  He grabs some magazines to which, Violet responds, "cool, I love gay porn".  Okay can I just was WTF?  Enough already with this shit. He hands Violet a box that contains pictures of the Montgomery's.  When Violet turns, the nurse that was murdered in episode one appears saying, "look what he did to me", but Violet just closes her eyes and tells her to go away. 

In the next scene, Constance is in a beautiful house, but before she can steal one of the crystal figurines, Joe comes down the stairs. It seems that he believes that Constance is there to ask him to consider buying her house as well, but Constance asks him for a drink first. Constance tells him, "that it used to be that no one was from here. People came her to escape their past - find a plot of land that not even a red Indian had set foot on". Right cause all of North American didn't belong originally to Indigenous People, there were free and open spaces just waiting for the White man to come and claim.

Joe just wants to get down to business and tells her that he does not need the history lesson. Constance continues to go on about the past, claiming that much has been lost to new development. She tells Joe that he should have respect for people's past. "We have a responsibility as caretakers to the old lands, to show some respect."  Joe is done listening and tells Constance, "they're three reasons I deal with women: sex, money or making me sandwiches and unless you plan on going into my kitchen and slapping some ham between two slices of bread, this conversation is over."  Now we know what the constant reference to Joe's race was all about. He's a misogynist, but that's to be expected, because he's a man of colour, and we all know how brown skinned men don't respect women. 
In a session with Ben, Tate tells him that he feels so much better.  Ben ends the session and saying that he is worried about Violet.  Tate tells him that she is not a little girl anymore and that he needs to let her go.  Ben beg him begs him saying, if Violet is in real trouble that he wants Tate to come to him.

Constance shows up at the house and tells Moira that she is there to see Tate.  When she finds him, he is still very standoffish. She asks if he is feeling any better and wants to know if the sessions with Ben are helping. Tate tells her that he hates his mother. and walks away. She then goes on to see Beauregard, and tells him that she has to say goodbye. because they are going to take everything away forever. 

Constance goes back to the kitchen to confront Moira for throwing herself at that "greasy Persian."  It seems that Moira's plan was to encourage Joe to build the pool, was based in the hope that her bones would be discovered, and Constance would go to jail at long last.  Constance calls her a silly slut, and tells her that the house was going to be torn down.  Moira tells her that he lied to her, but Constance tells her that they can work together. 

Moira calls Joe and invites him over.  When he arrives he is eager to get a blow job, and so as soon as they are in the basement, he pulls down his pants.  Moira begins sucking him off, and then bites off his dick.  Larry then appears and puts a plastic bag over Joe's head until he passes out.  Constance comes around the corner saying, "after all of these years Moira, I have finally come to appreciate your talent." Constance then orders Larry, "make sure he's off the property before he expires. I wouldn't care to encounter his carcass again". For the record, Joe's death constitutes once again the death of another marginalized person, because he was a man of colour.  Even though he had all kinds of class privilege, the characters on the show had no problem making sure that we understood him as "other."

Alone in her room, Violet continues to look at the pictures, until Vivien knocks on the door.  Vivien tells her that she believes that they have a serious buyer for the house, and that if they sell, they are going to move into Violet's aunt's house temporarily. Vivien says that they have not figured out everything yet, and this wasn't supposed to happen, because she really loved Ben. Violet asks how Vivien knew that she was in love, and when she answers, Vivien wants to know why Violet asked.  Of course Violet says that she was just curious, and to redirect  the conversation, she shows Vivien a picture of the Montgomery's. The camera fades to black, as Vivien realises that she has seen Nora before.