Friday, November 7, 2014

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 5: Pink Cupcakes

Back to a swanky party at the museum with the con artists, Stanley and Esmeralda in the crowd: the display is opened, showing Paul’s body on display. This turns out not to be real – but the plan Stanley is presenting to Esmeralda in his hotel room. Esmeralda is still firm that she will not commit murder – which is still Stanley’s plan. He also drops some vintage gay magazines and Esmeralda warns him the town hates “poofs” even more than “freaks.”

This does not bode well.

Esmeralda does agree to go ahead with the murdering – for a bigger share of the cut.

At the Mott household, Gloria discovers Dora’s murdered body. Dandy insists that someone broke in but Gloria doesn’t believe it for a minute; of course after a brief protest that Dora was a mother, she’s more angry about having to clear it up than Dandy’s murderousness.

That clearing up involves a ridiculously deep flower bed and Dandy apologising for “putting Gloria out”.  She puts it down to the same problem his dad had – lots and lots of inbreeding which means “having a psychotic or two in the line” is just one of those quaint eccentricities of the upper classes. Dandy insists that he wants to be an actor – Gloria promises to find a solution because in 1952 one cannot just kill vagrants, they’re missed.

At the show, Stanley drops by to convince Elsa he can make her a star – but he presents himself as from a television network which Elsa is very very much against; motion pictures are too special for little TV boxes.

It’s a full house and Jimmy is actually getting stage fright, Esmeralda arrives to flirt, reassure him and read his palm (which Jimmy is pretty self-conscious about); she tells him a man is coming to talk to him who will be a liar – and that he needs to leave asap. She seems to have gone soft on Jimmy and to be warning him about Stanley. She tells him how smart and handsome he is and how he will succeed – he tries to kiss her and she backs off. Jimmy pulls back all pouty.

Dell is missing much to everyone’s annoyance, but Desiree still takes a moment to defend him to Jimmy – because once they were good together though he neglects her now. Jimmy has his own depression moment about Meep and collapses into tears because Meep was killed for a murder he committed. Desiree comforts him – which ends up with kissing and making out – and Jimmy doing his lobster handed thing; but something goes wrong and Desiree starts bleeding. Jimmy helps her outside shouting to get her medical attention but Ethel takes over because Jimmy is needed on stage.

Ethel and Desiree go to Ethel’s friendly doctor’s office. Ethel stays to hold her hand while she sees the doctor (which means she gets to hear what Desiree was doing with Jimmy) when Desiree asks her to stay. Desiree explains how the midwife thought she was a boy until puberty, but the doctor matter-of-factly explains things: she has an excess of testosterone and an enlarged clitoris; not a penis. From a physical examination he tells her that “physically and genetically” she’s 100% female. And she was bleeding because she’d just miscarried. Desiree is reeling from the shock she can have a baby – a baby with Dell.

At the show it’s time for the inevitable musical number – Elsa takes to the stage only it all goes wrong. No-one is interested in her and the audience is distracted during the whole performance. Her number ends with people chasing her off the stage, throwing things.

After her performance fails, she’s much more open to Stanley’s television offer. But when she gets all dolled up to go with him she sees Bette and Dot leaving with Stanley. He’s lured them away with their own television offer – and cupcakes! Poison cupcakes. Stanley has an elaborate fantasy of poisoning them with cupcakes which falls apart when Dot says no to cake since they’re going on TV and need to watch their figure.

Back to the Motts and Dandy does a lot of camera pleasing exercises to an overwrought monologue before going out – to a gay bar. There he runs into Dell who is being super possessive (and violently angry) over a male prostitute who he’s built a loving, life-together-fantasy around. The other man, Andy, points out Dell’s talking a lot but still has a wife and other life and he doesn’t have a high profile position to protect – he’s also not buying this whole “I love you” after a month: also, Dell is a John not true love. Dell storms off. And Dandy takes his place, to buy Andy’s services.

Dandy takes Andy to Twisty’s caravan; Dandy denies being a “fruit” and pushes away when Andy tries to kiss him - instead stripping down, putting on his Twisty mask and stabbing Andy repeatedly, murdering him, dismembering him then disposing of his body parts in acid.

Dell returns home to find Desiree packed to leave – Ethel told her about Dell being Jimmy’s father – she’s furious about this on several levels – but also hits out at Dell’s “freak blood” and how she never thought she’d have anything better than a sham marriage with Dell. He tries to belittle her to make her think she’ll get nothing better – but she tells him about the cosmetic surgery she can have, the doctor suggested. She leaves to move in with Ethel.

At the Mott residence, Dora’s daughter Regina, calls asking after her mother and Gloria puts her off before dumping all her angst about raising a murderer and how she rated as a mother; Regina pretty much says she didn’t – she left the nannies to do the mothering. Gloria has a tearful moment as she realises she pretty much did just that – hand everything over to nannies. Regina decides to hang up because she didn’t sign up to be Gloria’s therapist.

It probably won’t help Gloria’s worries that a half naked and blood covered Dandy arrives at that point.

Back to town and Dell drops in on the doctor to intimidate him into not operating on Desiree, breaking the doctor’s hands and threatening his family.

And Elsa brings Dot and Better to the Mott household – since Dandy once offered to “buy” them.

Ok, let’s unpack here, because there’s a lot.

There are a few gay men in this season. Dell, a murderer. Stanley, a murderer. And now Andy, a murder victim and the unnamed man who slept with Desiree, a murder victim. Why, one could almost say there’s a pattern! Vulnerable, denigrated murder victim (killed because of or deliberately sought out for their sexuality) or depraved, raging murderer are the options here. And there’s no real attempt to humanise any of them – sure, Dell had his closeted despair handled in a moderately decent scene, but ultimately – even Twisty was treated more sympathetically than that.

And, as I said before, this is part of a pattern. The only season of American Horror Story that hasn’t had LGBT people victimised through and/or because of their sexuality was season 3, Coven. The only season that didn’t actually HAVE any LGBT people. Not only that, but every last LGBT character on this show has been treated this way.

On Dersiree – I don’t know that what’s described would necessarily not be considered an intersex condition, but the way they’re framing it aims to drop the whole intersex inclusion. There’s a whole lot of complexity to unpack here – from Desiree not considering herself a “real woman” or deserving of more than her broken relationship with Dell is something needing more developing, especially since she was always clear she was a woman before. It links a lot to the even unwanted cosmetic surgery pushed on intersex people to be regarded as their presented gender or accepted but equally with the doctor’s clear “this is cosmetic, for her happiness” showing that this is not for any medical reason THAN Desiree’s own choice and happiness. There’s a lot of complexity to unpack there.

I’d really like the sexualisation of her to be toned down a lot – she’s comforting a crying guy and dealing with her own sadness – sexytimes of course!

Jimmy and Esmeralda – I hate this whole meme we see time and again. A woman says something complementary to a man, so he comes on to her, she backs off – so he decides she’s lying and gets all pouty like she’s wronged him. It’s ok for a woman to like a man, praise a man, recognise positive qualities in a man and NOT want to sleep with him. Friendship, respect and admiration can all happen without sex and the guy doesn’t get to be all sad-panda because she doesn’t want to kiss him

Dora’s disposability is beyond clear – and I can see Dandy not caring, obviously – but I thought the early episodes at least tried to establish some level of respect from Gloria. I do quite like Regina hanging up on Gloria – because she really didn’t sign up for therapy

I’m not a fan of presenting Stanley’s fantasies/imaginings/plans as if they actually happened and then rewinding to show it didn’t actually.