American Horror Story is a recently aired television series that seems to have taken the world by storm.
Based on tales of horror and fear, it is currently in the process of having a fourth series made, as a follow up to the first three instalments – Murder House, Asylum, and Coven. So far, I have only seen Coven, but it impressed me so much that I couldn’t wait until I had watched the other two series to write about it.
The third segment out of the three (all of which are entirely independent stories, so they do not need to be watched in any specific order), Coven follows the lives of a group of witches living in New Orleans. While it begins in 2013, it flips back and forth between the present day and the 1800s, showcasing the age-long battle between witches and voodoo masters. It also illustrates the conflicts between the witches themselves, with battles for dominance and power causing rifts in the dynamic of the coven on multiple occasions.
One very prominent reason why this show hooked me in from the moment I began watching it is the abundance of female protagonists. More and more shows these days are female-centric (Orphan Black, Orange Is the New Black, Pretty Little Liars) but it is still so refreshing to see a show in which women are the headliners, and are not dependent on male characters for story lines or justification of their character’s presence in the story. One scene in particular really stood out to me in terms of female empowerment and shedding the notion that men are needed to be the heroes and the saviour for women – in episode 12, a scene occurs where the witches are under attack, and the only male in the house, Kyle, steps in to help; but he is rapidly pushed aside by Misty, one of the witches, before she delivers the line, “We really don’t need a man to protect us.” This line really resonated with me because for too long, women have been perceived as weak and needing a man in order to survive, when really, that isn’t the case at all, and Coven has done a brilliant job in showing that by having a group of formidable women fighting for themselves and doing a bloody good job of it.
Also, in keeping with the theme of ‘women’, this show isn’t just a group of female characters shoved together to form a crowd – each woman is an individual, with her own plights and issues to overcome. And while some of their actions may be cruel at times, they all possess very human emotions and traits, which allow them to retain an essence of humanness, which makes them all relatable in one way or another. I mean, the characters themselves are all just a huge reason to watch this show; they all have aspects of their personalities that make them brilliant individuals, whether it’s Queenie’s sass, or Zoe’s innocence, or even Madison’s obnoxiousness, and it all makes for wonderfully entertaining television, and definitely makes the show more than just a horror spectacle. The characters also undergo rigorous developments, with some of the character arcs being utterly fulfilling to watch – we see frightened young girls grow up into strong, powerful witches, who take on their enemies and any danger that may befall them, and I’ve found that this gives the viewer a great feeling of gratification and pleasure.
Additionally, the show is great when it comes to its addressing the horrifying events that occurred back in the 1800s – from the hangings of witches, to the persecution of innocent African-Americans, this series does not hold back in its portrayal of some of the atrocities that took place. It must definitely be commended on its historical accuracy – unbeknownst to me when I first began watching it, some of the characters featured in Coven are, in fact, based on real people from history. One character in particular is especially loathsome – the role of Madame Marie Delphine LaLaurie, played by Kathy Bates, is based on the woman of the same name who lived in New Orleans in the early 1800s. A wealthy socialite harbouring an immense hatred for people of colour, LaLaurie was infamous for her horrific Chamber of Horrors, in which she used to capture, tie up, and torture African-American slaves until they died. She committed countless murders in her chamber, and during the show, when the character of LaLaurie finds herself alive a few decades later after waking from a spell that put her to sleep, her heinous crimes do not go unpunished by the strong women of colour who now reside in the New Orleans area and who are fully aware of the acts that Madame Delphine carried out on numerous innocent slaves. This historical accuracy continues throughout the show, with multiple characters being based on real-life people from New Orleans around this time. This all adds to the authenticity of the show, and makes it both even more engaging and terrifying to watch.
Also, in regards to casting a wide range of women, the show has characters belonging to all kinds of groups, including having people of colour as main protagonists and as regular recurring cast members – this in turn makes the show more accurate in terms of representation of society, and this diversity is both important and necessary.
All in all, this is one fantastic show – it has variety, characters aren’t restricted or oppressed due to their gender, and, most of all, it’s a damn good piece of entertainment. While it may not be for the faint-hearted, Coven has certainly impressed me, with an all-star cast including Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Angela Bassett, and even the incredible Stevie Nicks, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has yet to see it.
5/5 – Complete with zany witches who spout hysterical one-liners, this show is definitely something to be revered and remembered.