The Psychology of American Horror Story: Cult

If you’re anything like me, you’re a fan of the horror genre. So as you can expect, when American Horror Story announced that they were signed on for a seventh season, I was filled with excitement. It was only when creator Ryan Murphy announced that the theme would take influence from the most recent election that I realized that this season could perhaps be the most terrifying of them all. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the election that I would find the most terrifying per say, but what the election would represent for the rest of the show.

American Horror Story: Cult begins on the night of the election (when undoubtedly many Americans were surprised by the announcement that Donald Trump would be America’s next president). Ally, a progressivist mother who has a history of anxiety disorders, can be heard within the first five minutes of the show screaming at the television set. In contrast Evan Peter’s character, Kai, can be seen acting triumphant as he is clearly pleased with the result of the election. Two completely different reactions that will pave the way for the rest of the season. I will be referencing other parts of this show for the remainder of the article so consider yourself spoiler warned.

So let’s begin to break this season down and figure out why chills run faster down my this season over any other season. First, and perhaps most important, is that this season, unlike all other seasons, is completely devoid of supernatural forces meaning that there are no ghosts, no demons, no devils. For a show that usually gets its kicks out of the paranormal, this is a major and crucial change. While I am most certainly one to believe that ghosts and such exist (a personal opinion), the fact that this season lacks such forces implies that everything that happens this season could be done today by a person as real as you and me. This implies that the murder that takes place at the end of the first episode, however gruesome, was performed by another human being that has feelings and, to make it more personal and perhaps relevant, has an opinion on the outcome of the election.

The election, the second factor that makes this season so terrifying. The fact that this season was based around in a very real event that was both recent and salient allows this story to be grounded in a place that is more non-fictitious than fiction. Because we all remember this specific event, there is a place in our mind where we are led to believe that, because this event actually did happen, perhaps in a small, sleepy Michigan town this terrifying event happened too. This base in reality is quite different than, for example, season one where a random family moved to a random new house thats haunted. With Cult, however, the viewer remembers being at a viewing party where he or she realized, much like Ally, that the person they voted for would not become president and, in many ways, the viewer relates to Ally.

Speaking of Ally, this character in and of herself is a major factor as to why this season could very well be the most terrifying. Ally, as I mentioned earlier, has previously suffered from debilitating anxiety disorders, as shown within the first fifteen minutes of the show when she glances at a “Twisty the Clown” comic book and collapses to her knees in fear. While Ally’s extreme coulrophobia, which is the irrational fear of clowns, may be too extreme for the everyday viewer to relate to, many Americans do feel a sense of fear when confronted with clowns. From Pennywise the dancing clown to the clowns that terrorized small towns across the country last year, we have been told that clowns, while made for the purpose of enjoyment, should be feared. This is a natural disposition as it has been psychologically proven that looking at a face with an unnatural smile for an extended period of time will cause the viewer to be uneasy and wary of the smiler. This being said Ally, also has trypophobia, which is the irrational fear of holes, a fear that many people have without even realizing they have it (if you don’t know whether or not you have it, google it and you’ll be able to tell within five minutes [chances are you probably have it]). Because Ally has this fear, the camera oftentimes zooms in on images of clustered holes, making the viewer right away feel both repulsed and scared, along with Ally. There are also a host of other phobias that are common among the American population including the fear of oozing blood which I’m sure will come into play later in the season. By doing this, the director is allowing the viewer to relate to Ally on a deeper level than any other American Horror Story character because, as Kai stated in the premiere episode, fear is the most influential form of power. When you share fears with someone, you begin to feel connected with them and, when something scary happens to them, something scary happens to you. Ally has all of these phobias so that the viewer who perhaps does not have a fear of clowns but rather fears dismembered body parts can relate to her on some level and then feel the fear when she feels fear. This psychological horror is extremely inventive and not something I have seen many times before in the horror genre oftentimes lead by general characters who are difficult to make a connection with. This is also not to mention how helpless Ally feels when her wife, Ivy, begins doubting her, claiming that she is hallucinating. This feeling of hopelessness when faced without fears is something that many people are oftentimes more afraid of than the triggering fear to begin with.

Put all of these factors together and you have a story that is physically real without supernatural forces, grounded in an actual event, and led by a character who not only understands our deepest fears, but is effected by the very things that affect us, is paralyzed by the very things that paralyze us. American Horror Story Cult is so terrifying because of its ability to convey the idea that, even though it is merely a television show, there is no reason that it could not be happening right now to us, with our very fears.

Needless to say this season is going to be wildly different and innovative and I, for one, am excited to see how Ryan Murphy and his cast twist my fears into a terrifying reality.

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The Complexity of the Evil Queen: Part 1

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been a classic story in the hearts of children since the debut of Walt Disney’s first fairy tale adaptation in 1937. A quick google search of “Snow White” will yield results of the Disney classic however, it is not the first Disney princess in a long franchise of royalty that I wish to focus my efforts on today, but rather the oftentimes overlooked villain.

The Evil Queen, unnamed in many adaptations including Disney, is quickly seen as vain, cruel, and jealous, all qualities that children immediately see as undesirable. This discredits the queen as she is regarded as the villain and unlikable for the remainder of the story however, after watching the movie in my older years and re-reading the original story, I am beginning to think that perhaps there is a layer of complexity hiding beneath the façade of beauty and jealousy.

I shall begin by stating that Walt Disney has been known to create more complexity in his villains, specifically for movies that he had a hand in making, due to the fact that he, himself, felt responsible for his mother’s death and, in turn, felt himself a sort of villain in his personal life. This tragic event can also explain the fact that there are rarely ever any mother figures in Disney movies however that is a different topic for a different blog. That being said, it is no wonder why Walt Disney decided to debut his first full length masterpiece as Snow White, a story where the titular character’s mother passes away and is replaced by the story’s villain, but I digress. This post is not about Walt nor his family issues but rather about the villain in his first feature length film.

After re-watching the movie and reading the story again I noticed something that I hadn’t noticed in my younger years: The Evil Queen, referred to as merely the Queen for the sake of brevity and a neutral mindset doesn’t act out of cruelty, revenge, or selfishness, as do many fairy tale villains; she acts out of fear. It is not the type of fear, however, that comes in the middle of the night from a creaky floorboard nor the type of fear that someone will harm you. The type of fear that the Queen acts out of is the fear that, eventually, she will grow old, she will no longer be in her prime, and she will be replaced; in other words, the Queen is afraid of growing older.

This topic is touched upon in J.M. Barrie’s classic “Peter Pan” however the villain, Captain Hook, hated youth whereas the Queen fears aging. It is a concept that can be seen not only in fairy tales but in life as well. Take basketball superstar Lebron James, who was once inarguable the most talented basketball player, who has recently had trouble keeping up with still-new-to-the-game Stephen Curry (Lebron fans please do not be offended, I am merely making an example with the real life situations that I am given). As the days before the 2016 playoffs commenced I heard talk of the battle that would take place between the “old king” and the “new king”­­ (needless to say the “old king” proved that he could still rule). But it was not the petty insults or the arguments between teams that I noticed, but rather the look on Lebron’s face when he walked back into the locker room after game two. He really thought he had been replaced as best in the league and that caused not only grief, but fear and anger as well. The very same fear and anger that caused a beautiful queen to try to poison a fourteen-year-old girl.

Consider this next, more personal, example that has been on my mind recently: my passion is writing, I love to write creatively, to provide analyses, such as these, on topics that I am passionate about and, if my dreams were to come true I would one day be considered a published author. Once published I can start writing more, publishing more, and do what I love to do. However, living this dream can only last so long before another, more talented author comes in and sweeps away the audience with a new, stylized type of writing and a fresh story that entices the reader. What I once had, a new author with the potential to follow in my footsteps will have, what I once held so dearly now belongs to someone else.

Or consider the more resembling example of the aging actress who, for the first time in her life, is denied a lead role because she is simply “too old” and is replaced by Hollywood’s next hot star. Or Consider the musician who was one popular now forced to make money as the opener for the latest Grammy winner. Perhaps the television series that is cancelled in its sixth season so that a more popular show can take its primetime spot. The list goes on and on because it’s a problem that is so relevant in society; we’re always looking for the next new thing but we forget that, in finding that new thing, we are pushing aside what was once great in our minds, forgetting about the people who supplied this greatness.

How does this relate back to the Queen? The Queen, throughout the story, is realizing that her time is running out. She is becoming irrelevant as the new princess who, to add insult to injury, is more beautiful than her, is growing up and will one day reclaim her throne. The Queen is acting out of fear of the natural order, for things to be replaced by newer things. The Queen, throughout the story, is trying to deny her fate, she is actively working against both nature and time in order to extend her already limited golden age. While most people look back on their lives in retirement and think about their golden age as a far-off concept, the Queen recognizes the present time as her golden age and, instead of embracing what the future holds, works as hard as she can to ensure that she doesn’t lose these moments that will soon be nothing more than memories.

While her actions are reprehensible, the reasoning behind them is natural, is human. However, this is never seen by audiences as they quickly write her off as the story’s villain and cheer at her untimely demise. Nevertheless, she remains one of the most complex villains in fairy tale lore and will continue to remain one of the most relatable . . . for now.

I Poured the Drinks

Hello everyone!

I like to think that the saddest of emotions don’t have to be drawn out into lengthy books but can be expressed through short bursts of tragedy. So without further adieu,

“I Poured the Drinks”

~~~

We had fun last night. We drank, we laughed, we felt overconfident in ourselves. It was a night to remember, well I wouldn’t remember anything, but she had to drive home later so she paced herself, made sure she had water, tried to eat something in between sips.

When the evening came to an end she insisted that she was feeling well enough to drive home. I was in no place to argue because I couldn’t get behind the wheel so I had to trust her, and trust her I did.

I only started to worry when she didn’t let me know that she got home safely. I couldn’t worry too much however because I was preoccupied with the spinning room.

Who knows, maybe if she had left thirty minutes later she would have been fine, maybe if she had had one less drink she would have been able to see that the light was red.

The police officers said that her BAC was within the legal range and it was probably some kind of misjudgment.

If I had known it was our last night together I would have done something differently. I would have kissed her harder as she left, I would have held her tighter.

They tried to tell me it wasn’t my fault but I couldn’t believe them, not when I know that I poured the drinks that killed my love.

~~~

I know it was short but I hope you liked it! Thank you so much for supporting The Pursuit and if you want more short stories and insight from my life feel free to follow my blog!

Thank you again and I hope you all have a safe weekend!

-blake

Lost Puppy

Hello everyone!

To get myself back in the rhythm of posting weekly (after that extensive hiatus) I’ve decided to share a very short story with you I like to call, “Lost Puppy”

I hope you enjoy!

~~~

Lost Puppy: A Short Story

My name is Dot. It’s a nice little name. The shelter gave it to me after I was dropped off by my first owners. That’s how my life is split up now, into three different parts: First owners, shelter, second owners. Three distinct stages of life that most mutts usually go through. You see my first family was a breeding family. My mom was a purebred Shiba Inu and my dad, well my dad was a mix between a chihuahua and about a million other things.

When my first family saw that my brothers and sisters weren’t full Shiba Inu, they gave us all away. Well everyone except Snuggles, my brother that they thought was just too adorable to give up. I wasn’t angry though, honest. I was happy for Snuggles and hopeful that I, too, could have a family one day.

The shelter was oftentimes cold as night after everyone left. My brothers and sisters were getting taken one by one until it was only me and one other. We quickly became best friends and even the shelter workers knew we couldn’t be separated.

Until we were.

I’m not saying anything bad about my new family. I loved them but I had to leave my brother to get them, which was utterly and immeasurably depressing. They, now I, lived on 510 Washington Way at the end of a tee-like road. I was never allowed to play outside because my family was afraid that I would get lost, or worse. I didn’t understand because what could be worse than getting lost? Not even the shelter was as bad as what I imagined wandering the streets at night would feel like.

The first few weeks with my second family were spent in a haze of laying on the couch staring outside while the people tried to get me to eat and play with them. They decided to keep my name as “Dot”, which is fine. It’s nice and short. Easy to remember.

My favorite spot was at two-thirty, when all the people were gone and the sun was shining through the window onto the floor perfectly warming the ground for me to sleep. The clock would ring for the half-hour and I would trot over to the warmest spot and, when my paws felt the heat, plop onto my side so most of me would be touching the warm ground. Everyday about an hour after I’d fall into the deepest, most relaxing sleep, the youngest one would walk in from the front door and greet me by saying, “Hey, Roadkill”, which I presume was because of how I looked laying down. At this name, what I took to be my second name, I would get up and walk over to him for a few minutes of playtime.

Everything was beautiful in that house on Washington way. I loved my family and they loved me back. Every day was like the one before, but not everything would stay that way.

I remember the day that I got separated from my second family more clearly than I remember being adopted by them. We were on our weekly walk (I know I should be taken on more regular walks but, as the older woman said, they were busy people and wanted to just relax after a long day) when suddenly the handle of the leash fell to the ground behind me, startling me so much that my instincts kicked into overdrive and I just ran, with the leash trailing behind me. My family ran after me but I didn’t stop. Why didn’t I stop running I don’t know but, by the time the adrenaline wore off I was not anywhere near Washington Way. Sometime during my olympic run, I don’t’ really remember when, my collar did what it was designed to do and broke away from my neck.

So here I was, lost, like my family told me I would be. Without a home, without a family. It was getting late and I was getting cold, so I curled up nose to tail, to conserve body heat, and drifted off into a deep sleep.

A few days went by before my hope started to fade. It was a warm spring day and the ground was, as it was when the sun was shining, warm. I walked over to some of the warm ground, painted black. My parents warned me about the road but, really, how bad could it be if all I wanted was to drift off into my dreams where everything felt safe again. I knew I’d find my family again soon, but until then I wanted to be fooled into thinking that I was with them again.

I, following my daily routine when I was with my family, walked over to the road, felt the warmth under my paws, and plopped down, feeling the heat rise into my side and relax my muscles. It felt so nice that I couldn’t help but drift into a nice warm slumber.

~

The radio is loud.

“Hey man, turn it down for a second”, a teen driver says to his friend. He shouldn’t be driving with another person in the car, not yet. He doesn’t care though, summer is only a few weeks away and he wanted people to know that he could drive people to parties if they needed a ride.

“What’s up,” his friend, who is using the guy for his car, asks.

“Wanna see something sick?” The first kid says.

“What?”

He points to a dead dog on the road and the other teen, smiling, nods in agreement.

The first kid pushes the pedal farther down, making the car jerk forward, and shifts the steering wheel slightly as to line up the presumably dead dog with the front driver’s side tire.

A short speed bump.

Laughs.

The radio is loud again.

~~~

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed!

Follow The Pursuit for more short stories and stories about pretty much anything!

Like and comment below!

Thank you!

blake lonero

My Unfortunate Demise and Relentless Return

Hello everyone!

Long time no hear from me I know! It has truly been a season for me what-with going through my senior year of college and figuring out not only masters programs but everything for this next step in my life.

I am happy to say, however, that I will be updating The Pursuit of Bookishness rather frequently starting this next week.

While I have taken a break from the escape that is my blog, I am happy to say that I am back (all signed in on my computer) and ready to spill my heart out to you all.

In all the world, there is few as sweet as the keyboard to relive tensions and expose beauty.

It is for this reason that I am happy to announce a second relaunching of The Pursuit Of Bookishness on @Twitter where I’ll be uploading daily tweets regarding a variety of topics including my pursuits in writing and the aforementioned tension relief.

Follow @PursueBooks on Twitter

and

@Pursuit.of.Bookishness on Instagram

and

@PursueBooks on Tumblr for an all around update on this unforgettable journey.

Another big step that I have made is changing the domain of this website from the previous “BlakeResponds.wordpress.com” to the current “PursuitofBookishness.wordpress.com” where all of my previous posts will be, however any links from the previous domain would be rendered invalid.

Thank you all for those of you that have stuck by The Pursuit and I can’t wait to see where this is headed.

The road may be arduous, the journey tough, but I will endure until my final breath.

Thank you again and, until next time,

Keep Chasing It, Always Pursue,

blake lonero

Beautiful Video

Hello everyone!

So rather than posting a story today, which I was very excited to post! I have decided to share with you all this beautiful video that I came across this morning. Tackling the subject of race and labels, I wanted to share with you a video from Prince EP, who is a spoken word artist that spreads awareness for issues such as the broken school system, racism, and more.

The first video I’d like to share if called “I Am NOT Black and You Are NOT White” and talks about how labels were made to divide us.

 

The Second video is called “I Just Sued the School System” and deals with issues very close to my heart and how we can change a school system that has been around of rhundreds of years to create more creative, innovative, and independent thinkers.

 

Thank you all so much! I hope you enjoyed the two videos and that they got you thinking about the labels we put on ourselves. If you were hoping for a story, I’m so sorry, but I will have one for you next week! Like and comment your thoughts below!

Thank you all!

They Call Me Special (Part 2)

I guess i should start from the beginning.

I was two when they first told me that I was special.

They didn’t know that I could understand them, but I could. The late nights when they would cry, ask each other how they would manage. They thought I couldn’t understand them, but I could.

You see that’s what made me special, I could understand them, I just couldn’t respond. At this point no sensible person could respond, so I forgave them for their naïvety.

They told me that I would have to go to a special school, either that or be put in the special education program. The latter was easier for them, and cheaper.

So I went into the first grade, when I was six, and joined the schools special program.

This would have been perfect, if elementary school kids weren’t so mean.

I could never remember whether or not they were attacking me because they hated me or because they were afraid of what they couldn’t understand. Nevertheless they were mean.

The teachers all tried to stand up for me, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter when they weren’t looking, when we were on recess, when they would push me to the ground, when they would tell me I was worthless and that no one wanted me.

I know my parents didn’t want me to feel this way, but I couldn’t tell them that I wasn’t happy. Everyone told me that being bullied would build character, but all it did was tear me down.

So there I went, reluctantly, to school, every day for five years until my fifth grade graduation. It was difficult for me to get through, not just because the academics were confusing, but because everyday was a struggle.

It wasn’t as if I didn’t have friends though. Jerry was my best friend. He, too, was considered special. He was bullied and he was beaten up.

The only difference was that he could complain about it. He could cry without his parents wondering what was wrong. He could explain why he was upset. I, on the other hand, could not.

When we graduated, Jerry told me that he was going to have to go away. His parents wanted him to go to a different school, a school where he could live with people his age that needed special attention. I think his parents just didn’t want to deal with his anger fits anymore, but I never told him that, mostly because I couldn’t.

I said goodbye to him and, suddenly, I felt sad. I spent the rest of the afternoon crying until my mom made dinner for me.

She told me that it was all going to be okay. She told me that I would have a fun summer with Jerry and that he would leave when school started again.

Her words made me feel a little better, but the ever-present fear of school still hung over my head.

I tried to tell her that I didn’t want to go back to school in August, that I wanted to go be with Jerry, but she didn’t understand me.

She told me that middle school would be easier for me because their special education program was bigger and better. I believed her. What a fool I was for believing her.

~~~

I hope you enjoyed this! I believe in spreading awareness of mental health issues and learning differences, so thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoy what I have in store for this “series”!