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AHS: Feminist Allegory? (and Boy Parts recap)

While the second episode of American Horror Story: Coven is aptly titled “Boy Parts,” ironically it’s mostly about girl things. Things like the cost of being a woman with power, the too- often coexistence of sex with violence, the vanity of aging, and the perils of being different are what is at the heart of this episode, and probably this entire season.  With scarce-few male players, “Boy Parts” is asking us to look at each of the witches outside the traditional archetypes that appear with so many all-female casts and examine each character in her own universe. This will allow us to get to know her and to access our own experiences as we see each witch through the double lenses of her humanity and her gruesome and macabre choices.

 

This mingling of the sympathetic and horrific is evident throughout the entire episode. The opening sequence reacquaints us with Misty Day, played by Lily Rabe, deep in the swamps of Louisiana. Meant to evoke memories of Stevie Nicks, Rabe is as ephemeral and earthy and Nicks ever was. In the first episode, Misty was burned alive for exhibiting her gift of resurgence, but we find her in the first few moments of the episode reanimating two dead alligators shot and killed by local hunters. Misty watches while Stevie Nicks plays in the background as the swampers are dragged back into the murky water. At first, I thought Misty was a throwaway character, sacrificed at the altar of exposition, but she has much to perform, allegorically speaking, as the outcast, looking for acceptance and inclusion.

 

Misty reoccurs later in the episode following a scene in which Madison and Zoe, try to [literally] stitch together the perfect boyfriend from the spare parts left by the horrendous bus crash of the previous episode.  Calling upon everything we know about the Frankenstein myth, the girls succeed in reawakening a dead Kyle – visible, crude stitching and all. While this scene is crisply gruesome in its carnage, it is so rife with teenage angst, that you can’t help but feel compassion for Zoe as she is struck with her misdeeds of the recent past and the present. The weight of her power starts to press down on her and we begin to see just how fragile she is.   Misty appears in the car with Zoe and the Frankenstein-monster-that-is-now-Kyle, claiming Zoe’s magic drew her out. Misty brings the pair to her shack in the swamp where she offers to keep Kyle and heal him if Zoe promises to return to visit. Her loneliness coupled with Zoe’s desperation make this a striking scene illustrating the show’s humanity.

 

In terms of the allegory, it is murky how it all shakes out. This episode switches, like a heartbeat, from scene to scene, giving us snippets to digest quickly and roughly.  However, it starts to become clear in “Boy Parts” that each witch is meant serve as a particular, disenfranchised, female voice. Laden with flashbacks, we discover how Queenie landed herself at the school after putting her hand in a deep fryer to punish a cruel customer at the fast-food restaurant she worked. She reveals she is descended from the witch, Tituba and admits believing in only white witches, planting the seeds of race that Marie Laveau will reap with Fiona in subsequent scenes.

 

It is also in this episode where we meet Delia’s husband and learn, through a flashback as well, their trouble with infertility. Eventually, Delia gives into his pressure to use witchcraft and suddenly we are privy to an intense sex ritual involving a blood sacrament, live snakes hatching from huge eggs, candles shooting fire, and chanting. It was both incredibly scary and kinda sexy.

 

Delia’s quiet confidence and understated youth acts a severe contrast with the matriarchs of the show. Fiona, as we know from the pilot, is youth obsessed; something she has in common with Madame LaLaurie, which is currently dug up and tied to a chair in Fiona’s bedroom. Intent on finding the woman who gave her the immortality, Fiona must acquaint Delphine with the world in which she currently resides, since she has no memory of getting there.  Delphine leads Fiona to the powerful Marie Laveau played by Angela Bassett who (even in real life) stopped aging somewhere in the mid-1980s. This calls upon Fiona’s intense vanity as she seeks out Marie’s secret for remaining so beautiful all these years.  Marie owns a shop in the lower ninth ward and the scene is rife with socioeconomic tensions as Fiona sticks out as a patron in her black-centric beauty salon. All coming from vastly different backgrounds, this older generation of witches serves to reflect the desires and values of their respective and symbolic worlds.

 

“Boy Parts” has opened the door to the other side of the individual characters, so to speak.  While these characters all have their respective individuality, they all work towards a greater story, emblematic of female politics across generations. However intrigued I am at the shocking and terrifying storylines, I am further interested in the girl-dynamics playing out in each episode, as well as all season long.

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