Why American Horror Story: Cult's Take On White Feminism Is So Tickling

Photo: Courtesy of Frank Ockenfels/FX.
One minute and 43 seconds. That’s how far I got into the American Horror Story: Cult premiere before I chortled. Even with the eerie music and ominous tone characteristic of just about every AHS episode, I just couldn’t help myself. Not only was I reliving the decision made on election night, I was reintroduced to the political players that surrounded the dialogue about who should run our country — including the radicalised weirdos on the right and the heartbroken white liberals on the not0-at-all-radical left. Nearly a year later, the former have gathered to collectively terrorise cities like Charlottesville, VA. The latter group is still well-meaning but annoying. So when Sarah Paulson, playing a shocked Hillary Clinton supporter on election night, proclaimed to her family and guests, "No that’s bullshit. I won't believe anything until I hear Rachel Maddow say it — she's the only one I trust!", I was tickled to my core.
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It was a sensation I would continue to feel as more about Ally (Paulson) was revealed. Obviously, she’s white. She and her wife Ivy have a young son named Ozzy. When she suspects he’s looking at porn she insists that an erect penis nor breast have ever hurt anyone, because feminism. They live in a spacious suburban home and own a restaurant that has been successful enough to support their upper-middle class lifestyle. They’re queer cis women who, by virtue of their race and class, have avoided many of the difficulties that other marginalised communities face. In other words, Ally is a textbook example of white feminism. And because Ryan Murphy could stand in for Captain Obvious on any day, he ran with it, much to my delight.
Ally experiences a pretty intense episode of coulrophobia in a grocery store after she confiscates her son’s clown comic. She decides to take a trip to her therapist, which is a good idea for someone with the privilege to do. Self-care is important. But get this: She’s convinced that the “universe righted itself” when Obama was elected and that for the first time she was “included in the discussion in the world.” Now she doesn’t know how she’s going to survive. I’m sorry, but I chuckled. Not only do I reject the idea that Obama fixed the world, I can also confirm that white women with money have always had their say in discussions about our world.
Even Ally’s mental health has a comical tone. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I know for a fact that there is nothing funny about an attack or flare up. But the idea that Trump’s social media might trigger an anxiety attack seems like a tweet worth of a few thousand retweets, not an actual reality for someone who functions daily in the world. My anxiety is typically triggered by my unique combination of student loan debt and NYC rent, train delays, some body image stuff, and the threat of violence committed against me or members of my community — things that Ally doesn’t have to deal with (until this season’s killers come for her).
But I managed to reserve my blatant cackle for the moment it was revealed that in spite of all of her angst about Trump, Ally had cast her vote for Jill Stein in a battleground state. “As much as I hate [Trump], I didn’t trust [Hillary],” was Ally’s justification. The irony was just too much.
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