American Horror Story Season 9-‘1984’, afterthoughts..

Poster
Honestly, this was the only sane looking poster I could find..

 

If one has watched all the previous eight seasons of American Horror Story, the latest season 9-1984, seems a little offbeat.

This season is kind of a ‘tribute’ to Hollywood’s slasher genre, it revolves around the camp Redwood that has been renovated and reopened by the ‘sole survivor’ (Margaret) of Mr. Jingles’ previous attack in the 60’s on the same camp. A group of youngsters go for volunteering at the camp to spend their summer away from the horrors of Los Angeles, because they believe that the serial killers get more active in summers. But later they realize that the camp is even bigger a mess than the city.

The story has some shockers (should I give the spoilers?), it has several places where the story smashes your assumed designations for victims and villains. So when we take Margaret for an overly religious Christian who keeps insisting that ‘God’s light helped her survive the attacks, and think of Mr. Jingles as an evil psycho who cannot be tamed, Donna-the enthusiastic psychologist-comes as hope for Mr. Jingles to find a cure, and changes everything. Similar to the earlier seasons, we get various shades of human nature. We get confused with the motives of each character but it later gets cleared to some extent.

It also leaves us with some bizarre plot-issues/holes.

Firstly, it’s very short, it makes one wonder if the story is even complete. Surely they have established a plot-line, but it leaves a lot of loose ends left for the viewers to wonder about. The short duration of the season limits the story to a very small and shallow ground. They introduce every character but leave their stories incomplete. Unlike earlier seasons, where every character has a past and is linked with every other character, 1984 fails to connect and tell stories of people in it.

Apart form one black character, the story is a little less inclusive, especially of the gender roles. We see a fluid sexual representation in all other seasons, while in 1984, we only see glimpses of Xavier’s struggle for identity-that too is shown as a desperate attempt for sustaining his acting career. Despite having 2 major male serial killers, the depiction of toxic masculinity was done through the male volunteers, destroying the alienation of the concept (showing you don’t have to be a psycho to exhibit toxic masculinity, it’s everywhere!)

If this were a usual AHS season, every character’s story would have grabbed our attention and we’d have swirled in the loops and connections all over the season. It doesn’t fit in as American Horror Story, because it doesn’t care about the details of plot lines other than that of the two serial killers (Benjamin Richter aka Mr. Jingles and Richard Ramirez aka The Night Stalker.) everyone else is almost a nobody.

Entering two serial killers in the same camp (Mr. Jingles and the Night-stalker) becomes very confusing especially when the real purpose behind Jingles’ first return gets revealed. Though the story propagates through Jingles’s gaze, the Night-stalker steals the limelight. And oh, all that blood(!)

Ramirez
Richard Ramirez aka the Nightstalker. Looks nice though..!

Which brings to the question, what might be the need of a parallel plot for the Night stalker? Ramirez (who existed in real life) is shown to have a troubled childhood and an early exposure to crime, and that’s a fine depiction. But he is also shown to have some deal with the Satan (how convenient it is to blame the horrors done by humans on a virtual entity, isn’t it!); but the why, when and how, are unknown. Satan doesn’t even have a purpose in this season, unlike Apocalypse (season 8), in which he had a full-fledged plan and tried to execute it through Michael Langdon (and later through another Satan-baby in the epilogue). But in 1984, Satan is just, high. He, through Richard, revives any random dead-fellow that shows up (or dies down). It’s almost as if Richard acts as the HR for the Satan enterprises (!)

I won’t talk about Mr. Jingles, because that will give away everything, he’s literally the only prota/anta/whatever-gonist. Everyone else is either almost a nobody or revolves around him. But the mystery behind the blood curse in camp Redwood-though they have shown the history of it, linking it with Mr. Jingles’ childhood-remains a mystery, it doesn’t clear why it traps the souls inside the camp for the eternity and how to get out of it. I am unable to grasp how they got away with leaving it unanswered.

S9E1_Margaret_2
Margaret instructing the volunteers

The curse points out another big mistake. The souls in the camp decide to trap Ramirez inside and keep killing him (because he keeps getting resurrected by Satan for no reason) to restrain him from catching Jingles’ son, who was safe in the outer world. So we see that Ramirez (or/and his soul) is inside the camp till 2019 (at least). Here we can see they’ve improvised, because the real life Richard Ramirez was immediately caught within a year, he was in jail from 1985-2013 and died of blood cancer while in custody. Going back to Season 5 (Hotel), we’ve already seen Ramirez’s soul attending the annual Devil’s night arranged by James Patrick March (in 2015). There he tells the Detective Lowe the real story. Since all the AHS seasons have a linear timeline, this information does not fit (how he managed to breakout the vigilance in the camp to visit the hotel, how he came back inside etc..), it changes everything because AHS shows strong links between seasons.

Also, the short role of Bruce (played by Dylan McDermott) who’s just another sadist who has set a target of killing x number of people, was annoying. He was not even needed in the story.. It was evident that he was in it just because he has been a major part of Murder House and Asylum (S1 and S2).

Then comes the 80’s nostalgia. It’s very clear from the name of the season that it’s mainly based in the 80’s and the season does capture the audience by quite a loud display of the iconic American capitalism and consumerism with multiple tools from that era like aerobics studios, camping site with all the slasher-gore, making everyone look extremely sex-deprived(!) and the Synth title track (it’s bad, lacks all the intensity) and rock music all over the season. But it becomes repetitive after a point and the whole season gets trapped in ‘the 80’s will never die’ narrative. It non-inclusively  assumes that the viewer is all too familiar with the cultural dynamics, which doesn’t help a lot of them to connect with it. But I must say, it’s sick; or should I say the society itself is, if they really considered it glorious..(?)

ED1ivSXWkAU-r_l
Beautiful scenery of the camp

But that’s not the only factor to blame. Another reason why it seems alien is that it’s too outdoor-ish. The very essence of American Horror Story is to present the ‘internal’ crisis and conflicts of Americans (or humans in general) using ghosts/supernatural tools. It uses all kinds and forms of external interventions, folklore, ghosts and whichever species one can imagine, to tell a story-a story of people, their emotions, struggles, bindings and interaction-to bring everyone’s internal horrors and pain alive in an actual form, and to show how trapped everyone is in their own personal hell (AHS S3-coven-has literally shown ‘personal hell’s of the characters). This doesn’t need the overly outdoor settee that has been used in 1984, it just leads to distraction.

AHS-1984-donna570
Donna the psychologist.

 

Despite this, the female characters stand out in their individual performances and make a significant impact on the story. Donna, is an ambitious woman who almost directly triggered the 1984’s violence in camp Redwood. Initial perception of Donna is, a ruthless academician who doesn’t care about the human price to get her work done ‘in the name of science’. Why she was so obsessed with serial killers, gets clear after a peek into her past. Her story looks complete, but later we see a surprising switch in her character which changes the course of the story.

Brooke
Brooke: before and after

The relationship between Donna and Brooke’s also shows a drastic switch. Though Brooke is initially shown to be a submissive, shy girl, her experiences and alliance with Donna turn her into a ‘badass’.

Jingles
Benjamin Richter aka Mr. Jingles: while in asylum vs after fleeing the camp with Ramirez-then philosophical awakening-then getting Ramirez to police-then-normal life with wife and a kid (hush)

But she wins us best in the season finale, where it’s revealed how she moved on and started a better life by seeing light from Mr. Jingles’s story, proving that inspiration can come from anywhere..

We don’t get to know much about Montana’s history, apart from the fact that she was probably fat-shamed in childhood and was seeking revenge for her brother’s murder (she held Brooke accountable). Initially she seems like a messed up individual; but her philosophy makes one wonder about social conventions of good and bad. She gives a very important insight when Trevor admits his love for her and tells her that he wanted to die there and spend the eternity trapped inside camp Redwood with her.

She says “It’s stupid. You don’t even know me, I’m not someone you can love. I’m not someone to die for, I’m a monster.” And when he asks her how she could say that, she tells him “My ex-boyfriend was Richard Ramirez.”

He gives a horrified expression to that and then she snaps, “Wow! I can’t believe you! I see how you look at me now; like I’m disgusting..

montana-duke-dress
Montana

“Men do heinous shit all the time, (gives the triggering details), and you know what, they are treated as Rock-stars..! Fan-mails, movies, books, and research papers, articles.. And somehow, it’s always the mommy’s fault for not loving them.. Or the wife who couldn’t satisfy him.. Or the pretty girl who rejected him.. Why are we (women) always the scapegoats for sick men to blame their bullshit on? I didn’t make Richard evil, he was already messed up when I met him. F*** you all..” and she goes on with her monologue that’s relevant to the scene. Shows how twisted and biased the whole world has always been with women, may it be economy, entertainment or even scientific research & psychology!

This season also makes us wonder if the Americans were really that sick during that period, feeding on the horrors faced by others to thrive the economy. How else can we explain the way Margaret became a millionaire turning horrible experiences into tourist attractions? Or the way people worshiped the psychopaths and held ambitions to become killers like them? Or the way even after so many murders, all the musicians and fans were desperate to arrive at the camp for the program in the same week? Not to forget the extreme creativity in ideas of violence..

The only takeaway message would be- – -no there’s no takeaway message. Bye bye.

रघू

IMG_20190629_171058_014

मैं हूँ रघू, फिलहाल किसी शहर की छोटी सी झोपडी में रह रहा हूँ| बाप मजदूर है, पर अब उस के पास कोई काम नहीं है| उस के साथ काम करने वाले बाकी साथी भी हमारी बस्ती में ही रहते हैं| जब कोई काम मिलता है तब हमें एक जगह से दूसरी जगह जाना पडता है| फिर घर, दोस्त स्कूल सब पीछे छूट जाता है| इसलिए मैं ज्यादा लोगों से बात नहीं करता| हाँ कुछ दिन स्कूल गया था, वहाँ कुछ दोस्त भी बनाए थे, लेकिन वहाँ से निकलने के बाद फिर मुलाकात नहीं हुई|

इस बस्ती में आ कर ज्यादा देर नहीं हुई है, लेकिन इमारत के काम में अफसरों ने कुछ घोटाला किया था, इसलिए सरकार ने काम रोक दिया| मैं ने सोचा, जब तक बाप को अगला काम नहीं मिलता, तब तक मैं ही कुछ काम कर लेता हूँ| तो अब मैं आस पास गाडियों की सफाई करता हूँ| वैसे अच्छे पैसे मिल जाते हैं, लेकिन मैं वो माँ के पास देता हूँ, छिपा कर रखने के लिए| वरना सारे बाप के शराब-सुट्टे में ही खर्च हो जाते हैं| बस्ती में मेरे जैसे और भी लडके हैं, ये देखिये ये चिंटू है, और वो राखा| लडकियाँ भी हैं, पर बेचारी माँओं के साथ चूल्हे की राख में खाँसती रहती हैं, तो उन से ज्यादा बात नहीं हो पाती|

राखा की माँ कल मर गई, बीमार थी बेचारी| लेकिन उस का बाप अब तक घर नहीं आया| तो सोचा, तीनों मिल कर आज के खाने का इंतज़ाम करें, मछली पकड कर| मैं ने और चिंटू ने राखा को दाँव बनाना तो सिखाया, पर उसे लग रहा है कि हम ने गलत सिखाया| उसकी भी गलती नहीं, आज पता नहीं क्यों, सिर्फ पलास्टिक की थैलियाँ और फूलों के हार ही निकल रहे हैं|

वो सूंड वाले भगवान कब आने वाले हैं? मेरे खयाल से दो महीनों बाद.. उन के पिछले साल के मंडपों से बहुत सारे हार इस तालाब में मिल रहे हैं| मुझे तो लगता है कुछ दिनों बाद यह पानी का नहीं, फूलों का तालाब बन जाएगा! “सडे हुए फूल और कूडे का तालाब” को आप की अंग्रेजी में क्या कहते है? जवाब ढूँढ कर मुझे ज़रूर बताना..

फिलहाल तो मुझे मछली पकडनी है, उम्मीद है, रात होने तक कुछ न कुछ तो ज़रूर मिलेगा..

The Ultimate Question of Existence

Recently, I watched the newly released movie in theater-Jurassic Park: The fallen kingdom. Overall, it was a good movie, technically and otherwise. The usual plot of any Jurassic Park/world movie is almost the same, someone gets greedy and wants to use genetic technology and the dinosaurs for some purpose. For example, John Hammond wanted to create something very amazing with his money and influence so he built the theme park to astonish the world by having living dinosaurs in it, the next part has his son bringing out the T-rex for selling it to a park, the third part deals with adrenaline junkie kids to visit the island for adventure. Then there is ‘Jurassic world’ series, where the park is rebuilt and we see two parties- 1] park’s founding body who thinks that dinosaurs are just another toy to show in the amusement park & 2] The military who wants to create dinosaur species to hunt given target. In the end, everyone learns his lesson in the end in his own way.Jurassic-World-Fallen-Kingdom-Poster_opt

The latest sequel talks about one more problem-the volcano on Isla Numblar getting more and more active, and having the potential to burn the island completely which would cause the elimination of all the dinosaur species from earth (once again). This starts a conflict, whether to let mother nature rule (let the dinosaurs die) or to meddle in her business (and save them by displacing them to a new island). Immediately there are two groups, those who want to save the dinosaurs and those who don’t want to take any additional actions. There is a third hidden group of the opportunists, who deceive the first group to track the dinosaurs on the island and capture them for experimentation and military purposes.

2018-06-12
The lone diplodocus on Isla Numblar

There is one incident in the movie where, from the island, military men rescue as many dinosaur species as possible and take them on their military ship. The time is critical and the volcano is on the peak of destruction. Everyone reaches on board and suddenly they all hear an excruciating sound, the sad cries of a giant Diplodocus (sort of), who was left behind, standing alone on the deck. As if she was calling them to come back for her, or saying her goodbyes, no one would know. No one could do anything. They didn’t return for her, maybe because she was just a harmless herbivore, who took too much space, and couldn’t be a killer. In seconds the lava erupted and poor dinosaur, who was once the crown jewel of the park and the epic magnanimous creature of the planet, was embraced by the flames. This triggers something in the viewers, that they can describe with no locution.

The senate witnesses a debate between first two groups-whether or not to save isla numblar’s dinosaurs from volcanic eruption? Tough question, because it starts its own list of questions-Who has more right to live than others? Who is the better one? Who has the right to decide that someone is better than others? Who gets the authority to decide everyone’s net worth? Is there any measure, any unit to describe that? How many units is good and how many is bad? What is good and what is bad?

SpecialNeedsThis reminded me of another movie, ‘The Oxford Murders’. In that, the protagonist-Martin, a university student, unravels the mystery of his landlady’s murder, while being fooled by his idol-Arthur Seldom-who is actually, trying to cover the murderer because of some guilt from past. Seldom makes Martin believe that a serial killer is challenging them by giving them a mathematical problem. But his puzzles are used as a cover by a desperate father of a seven year old girl in need of a lung transplant and he murders next few (who are already on the verge of dying). He plans to blow up the school-bus of differently abled kids and use one of their lungs for his daughter’s transplant. He dies in the ordeal, but the curious thing is, why did he think it’s appropriate to take lives of those kids? Because their consciousness was not as developed as ours? Does it make them insignificant? SnowpiercerThe French graphic novel Le Transperceneige (on which the movie Snowpiercer is based) shows the struggle-to live on the same footage, in the ice age caused by a failed global warming experiment, done by humans of course-between the high and low classes of humans-not caring about the whereabouts of other elements of the planet’s biological sector. It, therefore, indirectly shows the narcissistic human nature-how little we care about others, may they be other humans or creatures.

There are many movies and fiction shows that show similar line of existential crisis. It’s funny how the production houses for such movies (which are mostly Hollywood, Marvel or Warner Bros, etc.) keep their own countries at the center of the decision making body in the movie and still make money on an international level. Even in kid’s cartoon, Doraemon shows Japanese earth’s representative in outer space, the Potterverse mentions the magical population from only Europe. This is of course obvious, everyone favors their own troupe. We naturally feel safe in a familiar environment with people we know. This natural instinct-a characteristic feature representing our animalistic lineage-is interpreted by human population as a license to berate the unfamiliar.

In his book Sapiens-A brief history of mankind, Yuval Noah Harari has beautifully given account of the socio-psycho-biological evolution of mankind. There were more than six species under the category of ‘Humans’ (under the genus Homo) one of which are us, Homo sapiens. What made the others decline making us the only human species? Or the question should be, what is so special about sapiens that they are the only lasting members of the said genus? evolutionThe answer is cognitive evolution, which involves more than just communication skills. Many animals and humans (other than sapiens) could say ”Careful! A lion!”-to make others aware and run or to fool them away from food. But a modern human-sapien-can tell her friends that this morning near the bend in the river, she saw a lion tracking a herd of bison. She can then describe the exact location, including different paths leading to the area. With this data, they all can discuss whether they should approach the the river, chase away the lion and hunt the bison.

This cognitive revolution also allows Homo sapiens to acquire the ability to say ”The lion is the guardian spirit of our tribe.” Only us sapiens can construct and believe in a world based entirely on fiction. This enables us to cooperate on a massive level-using one faith system, we just have to believe in the guardian spirit of lion-even without forming intimate bonding with each other, which is crucial in animals to trust each other. This is our secret behind the dominance over other species.But this comes with a great responsibility, because we live in a world that has a huge number of elements connected by webs intermingled in each other in a complicated fashion. It needs to be intact because we can’t afford any single thread in the web to be broken.

I’d say in accordance with the cognitive revolution theory, our current behavior-showing favoritism towards the familiar/useful ones and thrashing others-is very ‘un-sapien-like’. We are supposed to be cooperating with everyone of us, so that the web is not disturbed. That’s the ultimate purpose of our existence, looking at the history of evolution. If everyone understands this, it’d be easier for us to decide what to do with the dinosaurs in Isla Numblar.