Revelation: I rant a lot.
My friends are used to getting lengthy texts about things I’m presently up in arms about or even lengthier emails in which I write stream-of-consciousness diatribes about some (usually) pop culture thing or another. I have very long-suffering friends. Also friends who are hard-wired to find most of my rants sort of amusing. Anyway, this is a two-pronged rant. One in which I rant happy and one in which I swing angry. Both of which I unleashed (in one form or another) on Alan who is old hat at absorbing my roller coaster proclamations.
First, the good. Have you heard about the new ‘American Horror Story’ season? It’s called ‘American Horror Story: Coven’ and it’s about witches. I loved the first season of AHS to pieces pretty much right up until the point I thought they went too far which was when Black Dahlia entered the house or, more specifically, when they introduced Boy Dahlia and I was all “groan OH NO THEY DIDN'T” and had Things To Say™ about it all. I do love a twisted, dark, creepy story, though. So it was disappointing that I couldn't in good conscience watch the second season once it was revealed to be in an asylum and set, as it was, with nuns, god and the devil, serial killers, and torture. I have lingering troubles with anything wildly religious subverted for horror. I like devilry but not the horrific subversion of Catholicism. I'm not even Catholic. I'm sure my objections would make a fantastic analytic essay one day but, to paraphrase Aragorn, it is not this day. In any case I was curious what the third season of AHS would bring and when it was announced to be witches in New Orleans I really just about danced a jig of joy. I like to envision this as being Ryan Murphy’s personal mea culpa to me directly (because I am insane, you understand) and setting the high glamour witchery of Jessica Lange in pillared mansions in the the deep south and peppering it with voodoo and history and Salem and then including Danny Huston to the cast is just like a love letter to me. All Hustons are divine Hustons and all New Orleans devilry is the stuff of delight. Anne Rice set her epic Mayfair Witches series in New Orleans and there's no better place for levitation and snake-handling and whatever-the-hell else is going on the 'AHS:Coven' trailers that is making me breathless with anticipation. 'AHS:Coven'. Yes please.
Naturally during the press for 'AHS:Coven' Ryan Murphy has been asked what he'll do in future seasons or, more to the point, what he won't do because is there anything he won't do? It turns out there is. He won't do vampires. This is a personal blow as I adore vampires. But despite my enduring fascination with, study of, and branding of myself with vampires, I actually do understand Murphy's reluctance to touch them in AHS. The trouble with their saturation right now is exactly what Alan noted in his first piece for this blog: they've been neutered. Vampires are literally omnipresent now but they're all YA de-fanged versions. They're either boyfriends or sparkly or just monstrous enough to be interesting but not so deadly that they’re no longer hot and desirable (see Eric Northman from 'True Blood'). Vampires as protagonist or, even, anti-hero have been given a whitewash. It seems the present fascination with them doesn't allow them to be true to their nature. Walter White on 'Breaking Bad' or Tony Soprano on 'The Sopranos' or Nucky Thompson on 'Boardwalk Empire' have more bite and menace and questionable ethics than your average TV and film vampire these days. How come those characters can be written as true anti-heros and still have their stories wildly succeed but vampires - whose very nature is monstrous, destructive, and unnatural - need to be painted as sympathetic and only killing the 'bad' humans? It's ridiculous and this entire YA incarnation of them as hot brooding loverboys needs to end. I completely understand, from this perspective, why Murphy wouldn't touch them. AHS is known for being truly horrific, frightening, boundary-pushing, dark, twisted, etc. All the things vampires SHOULD be but aren't. So he either does vampires as they are now: popular and white-washed or he does them the AHS way and everybody loses their collective shit and clutches their pearls and questions their existence and "won't he think of the children" because they're so popular with the pre-teen/teen set that you can't actually show their rightful nature without destroying a large swath of YA literature and the innocent awakening of an entire generation of teen girls who will probably convulse if they discover Edward Cullen is descended not from a My Little Pony or fairy but actually a blood-engorged walking corpse who lives only to satiate a supernatural thirst for living blood, not giving a fig for who or where or how that blood is obtained.
No, that was pre-emptive. I'm not done.
All that to say I can't wait until the day vampires return to the monster shelf. I like them sexy and I like them intelligent, sure, but I like them dirty, dangerous, hungry, and predatory. I like them monstrous. Even Anne Rice, who largely ushered in their suave re-imagining, wrote many of them as unforgivably savage. They were smart, beautiful, clever, charming, but they were killers and they plotted against each other and humanity and with few exceptions they didn't much care about the mortals who fed them.
/end rant for real
So it is with a heavy heart that I declare, despite my disappointment, my sympathy to Murphy’s point of view. Vampires are experiencing the worst resurgence of their history right now. They are over-popular and viciously de-fanged and make even The Lost Boys versions look positively demonic by comparison.
I will have to console myself with witches, New Orleans, and Danny Huston until the world comes to its collective senses and starts fearing the blood-lust of animated corpses again. Side note, does anyone remember the 90s obsession with witches that we managed to survive without any long-term damage done to witches? ‘Teen Witch’. ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’. The Craft. Practical Magic. The Witches. The Blair Witch Project. Which brings me to another side note which is that the Huston family at large seems to have a very strong connection to witchery. Anjelica played the Grand High Witch to glorious effect in The Witches. Nephew Jack Huston (currently owning ‘Boardwalk Empire’ with half a face) was in the ill-fated television reboot of The Witches of Eastwick simply called ‘Eastwick’. The original Witches of Eastwick of course starred Jack Nicholson who is tangentially related to the Hustons by way of a lengthy love affair with Anjelica. And now Danny and AHS:Coven. I knew there was a(nother) reason to love that family.
- Corinne Simpson