Watch Out Sanderson Sisters! There’s a New Coven in Town!

ahscoven

(SPOILERS BELOW – do not read the following article if you have not watched the first episode of American Horror Story: The Coven unless you are (1) seriously interested in the show and/or article as a whole, (2) do not mind spoilers, or (3) want to be schooled on some serious feminist ideologies in this season of AHS. Also trigger warning(s)!).It’s no surprise that the new season of American Horror Story: Coven has been the latest trending topic of discussion this past week. All over social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc – people are hot with Coven fever.  The show even made it to our Hits and Shits list, as a hit of course. What better way to ring in All Hallow’s Eve 2013 than with a spine-chilling display of witch bitch power at its finest.  First of all, the season premiere of AHS: Coven had me trapped in a mind blowing whirlwind of emotions: I was screaming, clamping my eyes shut in horror, laughing, and cheering simultaneously in this expeditious episode filled with dramatic tragedy, disturbing twists, and menacing terror. As if the graphic spectacles of the show were not enough to give me heart palpitations, the blatant misogynistic undertones truly got my blood boiling.

In the beginning, the audience is introduced to Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) who is your basic, average teenage girl who learns that she is plagued with a “genetic affliction” – a witch gene that is found within her female ancestors.  Only after she accidentally kills her boyfriend during her first act of sexual intercourse does her mother reveal their family secret.  As the show unravels, the audience learns that her special power means all of her sexual partners will be massacred to death by bloody rupturing aneurysms.  Through a patriarchal lens, Zoe’s power tests the sexual binary between the powerful and the powerless – the untamed hypersexualization of the female alongside her sexual repression. In and of itself, Zoe’s power is both a curse and a blessing.  Her fear of slaying a human life each time she has sex imprisons her into a sexually immobile state, and yet,  Zoe possesses a quasi – “pussy power”  or metaphorical vagina dentata sans teeth that castrates the man.  In one swift motion, Zoe is both a prisoner chained to her purity but also executes her sexual prowess which inverts the natural gender order and raises the very important question, “Who is the more dangerous sex?”

Unable to harness and curtail her treacherous powers, Zoe’s family ships her off to Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies in New Orleans – the boarding house for young witches. The small school embodies the old fashioned patriarchal idealism of confining women within the privacy of the domestic sphere whilst the men remain prominent in their distinguished roles within the public sphere. Throughout the episode the audience learns that the witches are a dying breed following the scene of a witch being burned at the stake by a group of angry men, further reflecting the masculine fear of the feminine relinquishing the patriarchal throne of society.  During their time at Miss Robichaux’s Academy, the girls learn how to control their powers reiterating the repression of female power in a chauvinistic world.

It is within the Academy where we meet Madison (Emma Roberts), a movie star and closeted witch who procures the power of telekinesis – the ability to move objects with one’s mind.  We observe Madison exhibit her incredible gift at a frat party after she is drugged and gang raped by a cluster of fraternity brothers.  The unsettling scene of the rape encounter demonstrates the dangerous implications of how the powerful can transcend into the powerless.  We, as the audience, play a role in the male gaze as we watch alongside the fraternity brothers who smile in twisted delight while each male takes turns penetrating Madison without her consent.  The most disturbing part is that the males on the sidelines have their cellphones in hand, taping the entire revolting act whilst deducing Madison’s humanity to a singular pornographic image.  This spectacle symbolizes the female losing her power and succumbing to the mere definition of a sex object for amusement and pleasure as they reassert their male dominance over her through violent, sexual aggression. When Zoe finally barges in to rescue her, the rapists flee the scene and escape on their party bus with the girls close in tow.  After the drugs wear off, Madison retrieves her inner vengeance and flips the bus with a simple flick of her hand in retaliation. Together, she and Zoe watch as the bus ignites into flames. It appears that Zoe only has her power when she is an independent female entity separate from a male overpowering her own.

And at the end of the episode when Zoe discovers the ringleader of the gang rape survives, she transforms into the dangerously subverted sex binary by sleeping with the unconscious frat boy on his hospital bed until his gruesome death.  In this rape scene,  Zoe once again inverts the natural gender roles by becoming the masculinized but still hypersexual being while emasculating the fraternity brother into feminine passivity. Zoe and Madison may be only half of the witches, but we still have yet to learn about the other two students – Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) a human voo doo doll and the clairvoyant Nan (Jamie Brewer) alongside their adult teachers, Cordelia Fox (Sarah Paulson) and Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange).

Witches are a perfect medium for dissecting women within the patriarchy. Since the beginning of time, witches have always been feared by their male counterparts for their potential to hold an encompassing power proven to be greater than any man’s.  I can confidently state that these women are a coven of powerful bad ass bitches you don’t want to mess with no matter who you are or what your gender is.

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