TV

"American Horror Story's" 1984 Trailer Looks Like a "Stranger Things" Ripoff

AHS 9 seems to be taking a summery, nostalgic, cliché-filled turn.

AHS's 9th season will be called 1984—the year that's also the title of George Orwell's very famous and disturbingly prescient dystopian novel—and it'll take place at a lakeside oasis called Camp Redwood.

It seems that Ryan Murphy's going for a slightly sunnier depiction of the 1980s than Orwell's surveillance-heavy, totalitarian dystopia, though certainly there will be plenty of blood and gore to sate viewers' hunger for the uncanny in the new AHS season.

Image via AltPress

Some fans already have mixed feelings about this season, as it won't feature many of American Horror Story's most beloved cast members. Sarah Paulson will "not have a significant role," according to Variety, though she may have a cameo or two. Evan Peters and Billy Eichner also won't return. However, the Emma Roberts will be back, almost certainly playing a stuck-up character as always, along with Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy. (Perhaps it's for the best that Peters and Roberts won't have to be on set together, because after a seven-year relationship, the two broke up in March 2019). The show will also feature Billie Lourd, Cody Fern, John Carroll Lynch, Leslie Grossman, and Matthew Morrison (of Glee notoriety), as well as a bunch of overzealous teenagers who are impossible to tell apart, at least judging by the trailer's first few frames.

Considering all this, it looks like AHS is either getting desperate or going fully meta. With 1984, they're capitalizing on some of the oldest horror tropes in the book—ripping off Anna Wintour, Friday the 13th, and Orwell's titlebut the trailer doesn't suggest a resurgence of any of the elegance or intelligence that made the show's first few seasons so bone-chillingly good. While Murder House, Asylum, and Coven were incredibly timely, due to the way they deftly threaded topics like school shooters, mental illness, queerness, and feminism into hackneyed horror tropes, it's hard to see how 1984 will replicate the raw ambition and timely acuity of those seasons.

Instead, the show seems to be going for a, well, campy approach, one that makes fun of poorly made '80s B-movies and their perpetually masked, knife-wielding killers. Knowing AHS, there will be some hyper-serious, dramatic undercurrent woven throughout the whole thing; it'll either all be a movie set a la Roanoke or a hyper-realistic hallucination, or perhaps another commentary on the state of American politics or the gleeful clichés of '80s horror; but it's hard to imagine that the entire season could be a parody. Still, in this day and age, sometimes parody feels like one of the most intelligent and realistic forms of media, for at least it's self-aware of its own bullshit. If it is all a parody, then 1984 could be a complete disaster or (by some miracle) AHS's best work in years.

AHS goes 80sImage via Screen Rant

One other thing we know about 1984 is that it won't be American Horror Story's last season. Maybe it should be; since Coven, none of the seasons have lived up to the expectations set by the first three. While many of the concepts have been creative and impressive, the show has favored excessive gore and absurd, unrealistic, and hollow characters, foregoing the nuanced, flawed complexity of characters like Murder House's Tate Langdon and Asylum's Sister Jude. With Peters and Lange not returning, hopefully some of the new cast members will be able to carry the show as these actors did, but that seems unlikely given the fact that the writers seem to be creating simpler (and more annoying) characters each season.

As far as 1984 goes, it seems that we'll be taking a deep dive down the nostalgic path paved by Stranger Things, with a bit of the sunny hysteria of Midsommar to boot, though with fewer neon lights and flowers and lots more blood. Most likely, there will be murders in cabins and by campfires, murders on a lake, and murderers on the loose in the pines. It's hard to know if AHS will be able to exchange some of its reliance on shock value and for its initially spellbinding, supernatural magic, but time will tell.

American Horror Story Season 9 "Camp" Teaser Promo (HD) AHS 1984 www.youtube.com


MUSIC

iskwē Leaves an Abusive Relationship for the Butterfly Realm in Her New Video

The electro-pop artist's newest video is a neon-lit metamorphosis.

iskwē's newest video for her song "Breaking Down" is about leaving an abusive relationship—but it's also about what you find after leaving a dark space, be it the space to create a new version of yourself, or possibilities and other worlds you never imagined.

"This video is about me finding my way back to my clan, the butterfly clan, which represents my family in the spirit world," said the artist. "I wanted to show the emergence of self, by shedding layers of the past while discovering strength in being true to who I am."

Image via Mikwchyan

The visual features a variety of diverse dancers, all at first struggling to escape gauzy, cocoon-like prisons. Eventually, they break out and find a way to fit into their own skin; at last, their bodies are illuminated by rainbow paint and Christmas lights. It's a surreal, campy, and dazzling performance that will leave you blinking away the glitter.

"Breaking Down" is the second single off iskwē's upcoming LP, achakosuk. A member of Canada's indigenous Cree community, her music has always strived to overcome Western expectations, prioritizing ancient communal and mystical traditions while bringing attention to indigenous voices and contemporary social issues.

"Our vision was to be as inclusive as possible, with each of the dancers representing different communities," iskwē said of the "Breaking Down" video. "Indigenous, people of colour, LGBTQ, as a way to honour our various stages of emergence and growth in finding comfort in who we are."

The video feels like it's about more than just finding oneself. It seems to be about tapping into hidden spiritual forces, using them to metamorphose into a higher version of oneself, and finding communities that support and uplift those forces.

Watch "Breaking Down" below:

iskwē - "Breaking Down" (Official Video) www.youtube.com

CULTURE

How Black Drag Queens Invented Camp: An Incomplete History of Lena Waithe’s Jacket

Camp was created by marginalized communities, in part to avoid traditional confines of language, and particularly, to escape restrictions of gender, sexuality, and the kind of power and wealth that funds the Metropolitan Museum of Art and puts on its star-studded gala each year.

When Lena Waithe stepped out wearing a jacket that read, Black Queers Invented Camp, she was making a decidedly pointed statement.


Sunday's Met Gala boasted thousands of designers' takes on the theme of camp, an elusive and complex term usually linked to Susan Sontag's essay, Notes on Camp. However, there is no one set definition of camp, and in fact, camp is partially defined by the fact that there is no precise record of where or why it was invented.

We do know that it was created—somewhere, at some point—by marginalized communities, in part to avoid traditional confines of language, to evade scrutiny, and particularly, to escape restrictions of gender, sexuality, racism, and the kind of power and wealth that funds the Metropolitan Museum of Art and puts on its star-studded gala each year.

The Secret Language of Queers: Reading Into Lena Waithe's Jacket

Lena Waithe's Met Gala jacket—emblazoned with the words Black Drag Queens Inventend Camp—made a powerful tribute to camp's roots in queer black subcultures. "Pepper LaBeija, Benny Ninja, RuPaul, all these pioneers . . . I really wanted to pay tribute to them and all that they did for the culture," Waithe explained. "They started this whole 'camp' thing by being over-the-top." Her jacket was also emblazoned with lyrics from traditional drag queen anthems, like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and "I'm Coming Out."

Image via Hypebeast

Even the misspelling of "Invented" was purposeful. "First there was "Periodt," Waithe tweeted, "and Kerby and I wanted to give y'all another one 'Inventend' — which we take to mean a heavy emphasis on the 'D.'" By purposefully misspelling and reinterpreting a word to support her own community, Waithe was operating in the old traditions of secret queer languages and other dialects and styles used to express solidarity between marginalized groups. That extra D in the Invented might mean a lot of things—but it's definitely a fuck-you to heteronormative ways of doing things, and a shoutout to people who break from dominant traditions.

Camp has always been connected to secret languages of queerness. According to John M. Wolf, "Camp is a queer sense‐making practice that subverts dominant gender norms and heteronormative practices and institutions." Essentially, camp is a way of existing as a queer person within a heteronormative culture—a way of using exaggerated performances to both celebrate one's identity and to critique and reclaim the mainstream.

The word camp actually originated as a queer slang term, part of a secret language called Polari that gay people have used for centuries. Polari has roots in secret languages of sailors and theatrical performers in the 18th century. In 20th century Britain, it soon evolved to function as a street language that contained many euphemisms for police as well as homosexual relationships and was eventually largely left behind as queer culture became more publicly acceptable.

Camp and Black Queer Culture: An Interconnected Relationship

Black queer people, in particular, have to contend with the intersection of racism and homophobia and have had to invent their own languages and performance styles within these systems. True to form, the history and language of camp and black queerness is not a linear or easily readable one, especially for those who are not part of those communities.

According to Myles E. Johnson's Afropunk article, "The Met Gala Turned Drag into Deities," "To truly understand camp as it concerns the Black queer person in America in 2019, you'd have to wrestle with history. Not necessarily knock it out, but slightly strangle it until it can't fight the investigation of its body; leaving you to discover through excavation the source (usually racist) of the things we find pleasure in as a culture and what we perform."

The article goes on to cite some early examples of black people performing camp and making it into what it is today. Black performers like Bert Williams and George Walker, who brought the first African American blackface minstrel theatre to the stage in the early 1900s, used minstrelsy—a format traditionally used to marginalize black culture—to reclaim their own identity through a self-aware performance of racial stereotypes. Camp is not merely a performance of exaggeration; it involves a level of critical self-awareness and humor. These early African American minstrel shows were, in a way, examples of early camp.

Since then, black drag queens have long utilized exaggerated, stylized performances to carve out spaces of freedom for themselves. Unable to fit into dominant, white traditions of femininity even through drag, "black gay feminine men took the rejection of black women from the femme canon and created a coded language that allowed them to not only exist in the world but also, for those who understood the language, express their true selves," Mikelle Street writes in her article "Do Not Erase Black Femmes in Your History of Gay Slang" for PAPER Magazine. This intersectionality—between gender roles, sexual orientation, and racial politics—created a need for secret modes of expression and celebration that brought modern radical black camp into being.

Camp arose in part as a way for drag queens to access and transcend ideas of wealth, opulence, and mainstream fame that, in a white supremacist, heteronormative world, was difficult for them to attain. This is seen in the film Paris is Burning, which tells the story of a group of drag queens desperately pursuing a dream—"to live for a brief, dazzling moment in a fantasy world of high fashion, status, and acceptance," as Steven P. Schatt writes. Somehow, through this desire and the fantasy needed to access it, the fantasy became the desire, and camp became the end goal of many drag performances. Ultimately, the artifice became the celebration.

Even so, camp cannot be used to define all drag performances. Violet Chachki, the winner of the seventh season of RuPaul's Drag Race and a Met Gala attendee, explained that although "to the fashion world, a man in a dress will always be camp," in the world of drag there are different categories—and camp drag queens perform in a way that's specifically humorous and-self aware, in a way that "alludes to the artifice of everything."

Image via Metro

Ultimately, though black artists did not necessarily solely create camp as a term, they have been instrumental in making it into what it is today. Some black artists who have helped make camp into a mainstream phenomenon include the inimitable, ever-changing persona that is Beyoncé, the gender-bending theatrics of Prince, Nicki Minaj with her alter-egos, and even Titus Andromedon in Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. All of these performers resist constrictive gender roles and propose the possibility of a world beyond them. They constantly change, while celebrating themselves as they are.

Modern Camp: Still Subversive or Totally Commodified?

Waithe cited RuPaul as an example of a modern forerunner in the world of camp, and certainly, RuPaul has been instrumental in bringing camp to the mainstream. However, this may not be a total triumph. Just like black culture has been packaged and commodified, camp culture has also been capitalized on—and not only by Anna Wintour. RuPaul's Drag Race has been called an example of camp and queerness made palatable and profitable for the straight consumer.

The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion - Arrivals Image via People

Similarly, Cristy Turner cites Sex and the City as a show that has capitalized on 'fabulousness'—aka style, color, and radical independence—another term that originated with drag queens of color. Basically, through this lens, styles like modern camp developed as queer modes of survival and communication, but now that they've been brought to the fore of mainstream capitalist culture—aka the Met Gala and Sex and the City—they no longer have the subversive potential they once did.

But even this commodification can swivel back around on itself, creating spaces for the people it was originally meant for and allowing them to express themselves and find joy. "The term's subversive origins as a form of cultural capital, most notably among drag queens of color, allows audiences to disidentify with a level of status specifically meant for the rich, white, largely straight characters on the show," Turner writes, essentially arguing that although Sex and the City has taken advantage of an idea created by black drag queens, audience members who cannot access the show's stars' kind of money-driven fabulousness can still relate to fabulousness as a way of resisting homophobic or racist cultures. Basically, although camp might've been capitalized on, that doesn't mean that the people who it was created by and for can't celebrate it.

It's particularly gratifying, though, to see camp performed in its original spirit. Few people embodied this true radical spirit of black, queer camp at the Met Gala better than Billy Porter, who was carried aloft onto the red carpet by fishnet-clad men, his entrance becoming an instant self-care meme. "I am a theatre baby, and I do understand camp," said Porter. "I am camp."

Before the Met Gala, Porter was asked what camp meant to him. "Camp means as hugely over-the-top and grand and what some may feel is ridiculous and silly, and embracing all of those creative impulses inside us that very often are squelched," he explained. When all is said and done, that's one way of understanding the spirit of camp—real, true, uncritical, and unapologetically joyful.


Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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