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Lessons I've Learned From T.V.: Women on screen

Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 2, 2014 22:02

I want to talk about the latest season of FX’s “American Horror Story.” I don’t want to talk about its anticlimactic ending, inconsistent characters and disappointing writing. I want to talk about its treatment of women. The creators promised this season to be feminist in theme and empowering to women. I recall finding this rather surprising as I found the two previous season to already be those things. Ironically, this is the first season to not only degrade women, but encourage negative stereotypes.

Let’s start with the two different covens of witches. Every stereotype of both women and race are present. The white women cannot get along, they whine about everything and are mostly wealthy, living in a mansion. The African American coven lives in downtown New Orleans, upstairs in a salon. As if that wasn’t bad enough, both covens invoke every negative stereotype of African American women and white women. Oh wait, there’s more. They can’t get along because of an old feud between the two of them. It’s like an adult ‘Mean Girls,’ but without the satire of high school present. It’s a serious version.

Let’s get back to the white coven. How are they depicted? One of them is said to be the next supreme, the powerful leader, of all the witches. Why it must be one of the privileged white women while the African American witches have no shot, I am not sure. If there was an explanation, I missed it. Being the Supreme is a burden and the girls have been constantly told this. They also have been told it is not a competition. They either are or they aren’t. So how do they behave? They act is if they are fighting over a washed-up, wealthy celebrity’s affection in a raunchy VH1 reality show.

They constantly fight, betray, trick and even murder one another for a shot at being in charge. They are constantly screaming, “I’m going to be the supreme and when I am I’m going to…” at each other. They compete over boys they hardly know with the same level of murder and betrayal. They are literally in the middle of a magical war and should be working together, but all they really do is talk about boys, their competition for power and more boys. These girls are college age, but they seem as if they have just hit puberty.

Every episode I found myself more and more outraged. While the writers promised female empowerment, they seem to provide the opposite. These women are not good examples of positive female leaders or independent women in general. Jessica Lange plays the supreme who is an independent woman, but does drugs, drinks and hates all other women, seeing them as competition. Sure sounds like the negative stereotype of a woman who broke the glass ceiling. Coredelia, the leader of the coven, is portrayed as a weak woman who cannot control anyone or anything. As if that isn’t bad enough, she is married to a man who cheats and wants to kill her and she cannot leave him. Even when Cordelia begins to become an independent and more powerful female leader, she is shown as whiny, indecisive and unlikeable.

There are no positive female characters on this show. The degradation is so severe that I am offended.

 

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