Friday, October 9, 2015

Scream Queens is Stereo-tacular!

I love American Horror Story. Well...most seasons. Freak Show was a bust, but seasons 1-3 were spectacular. So when I found out the creators were doing a new show called Scream Queens with the star being the same lovable bitch from Coven, I thought my October TV was going to be amazing.

Nope. Absolutely wretched.

...yeah, okay, I've checked my teeth using a knife, too. That's accurate.

I get some of the humor. The oversensitive dad, Chanel 2's murder dialogue being all text and tweet, the awkward gay guy, etc. And I love Dean Munsch. She's nasty and mean and sleeping with her students is a gross abuse of power, but she's got such a badass personality that I love her all the same.

But that's what makes this so disappointing. The writers have talent, they have amazing actors, and an intriguing concept. But the writers went way off the deep end and worse, they got lazy. Really, really lazy. You can barely go ten seconds without falling into a stereotype. And some of these are insulting. I'm pretty sure they're just using the guidebook below:

Scream Queens' Stereotypes (Your Guide to Superficial Characters)

1. Sorority is a Synonym for House Full of Narcissistic, Rich Bitches


Even though sorority girls are college students--and therefore, broke--of course they live in huge, extravagant mansions and pay several hundred dollars of fees. Because that's what parents want their daughters to have in college: a fancy house, lots of casual sex, and Prada shoes. Grades and work are second to getting shit-faced every weekend because, hey, everyone knows Greek life is basically the rich college students' version of AA. So have fun, bitches!

Okay, I say this as a sorority girl: sororities and fraternities are philanthropic networking organizations. The whole point is to make academic and business connections and to provide service for the community. Hard to do that with a hangover and $500 heels. Oh, also, Greek houses aren't run by rich jackasses. Mine has eight rooms, with a tiny kitchen and the worst heating and AC imaginable. (Did you think I knitted blankets just for fun?)

Are there some bitchy sororities? Yes, of course there are. You get bad apples in every group of people. But first Coven and now Scream Queens? Does Ryan Murphy seriously think that every time a bunch of women get together we immediately start clawing each other's eyes out? Study after study has shown that women work better as a team than men. (I assume it's for the same reason that men hesitate to ask for directions when they're lost: "No, no, I know where we are! We don't need any help. Now, this next left is either going to take us to the highway or a haunted forest where we'll probably die a horrible, screaming death." Hey, look! Another stereotype.)

Granted, being hunted by an anonymous serial killer is fairly stressful and even the calmest and most timid person is bound to lash out. But why does every Kappa girl have to be a complete and utter nasty unless it's the Nice New Girl and her friends? (We'll visit that cliche later.)



2. All African American Women are Sassy Black Women


Need a Black woman to make the show diverse but don't know how a real Black woman talks? Make her the Sassy Black Woman! The SBW is guaranteed to be not only sassy and fun, but to make the audience laugh with ridiculous comments and an exaggerated yet simple personality. Easy to write and fun to play! 

Be sure to get two or three SBWs, so you can have the first death be the African American (adhering to the rules of TV horror) and still have the proper amount of tokens on the show. 

Wow, I feel racist just writing that, even with satire.

With Coven, there was a racial divide between the descendants of Salem (the White witches) and the descendants of African slaves, now led by the immortal Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. Queenie, who was a teenage Black girl and a member of the predominantly White coven, had some serious soul-searching to do as she tried to figure out who she was, what her place was in which coven because of her race, talents, and other people's opinions of her, all while trying to de-racist an immortal woman from the early nineteenth century who had been a slave-owner and torturer. The writers did that so well!

Even Coven's minor Black characters with less than five minutes of collective screen time had layers and questions and depth that is sadly missing in Scream Queens.

Scream Queens' Black characters are as shallow and superficial as the stereotype the writers assigned them. That goes for all the characters, but now it's gone from bad writing to bad racist writing.

I don't even want to know what they'll do to an Asian or Hispanic character. Oh, wait, but I do know, because they're using racial stereotypes.



Cliches (Your Guide to Lazy Writing) 


The Nice New Girl 


Played by Skylar Samuels. You're instantly rooting for her because she's nice and new. She's pretty but doesn't care about fashion and clothes like all rich bitches do. You don't ever see her have casual sex, because the Nice New Girl is never promiscuous. You can't wait for her to usurp the bitch queen ruling the sorority (played by Emma Roberts).

Well, would you look at that. The one picture of the Nice New Girl where she doesn't look nice. Someone call the presses! 



The Distracting Romantic Subplot


The romance drama between Chanel and Chad...which, now that I reflect on it, was probably over-dramatized in a middle school fashion explicitly for the purposes of humor and making fun of distracting romantic subplots.

...well played, Ryan Murphy.

But did you have to make Chad so damn annoying? Every time he opens his mouth I want to strangle him (with one exception and one exception only: when he let his roommate cuddle him because he was scared of the serial killer).

I can't laugh if I'm grating my teeth and resisting the urge to throw something at the television (or, in this case, my iPad) just to make him stop talking.

The one time I don't want to strangle Chade to shut him up.



The Sex Jokes


What are we, fourteen? On and on about sex and vaginas and gay groping.

And every man we meet--with the (possible) exception of the Nice New Girl's dad--is trying to get into a woman's pants. Or they're talking about getting into a woman's pants. Gross.

--

"Christina, why are you taking this so seriously? It's just a dumb show. It's not meant to be taken seriously."

You're right. It's not. I know that. But its messages will be taken seriously.

Some people are going to watch Scream Queens and they're going to listen to its messages and take them to heart. Some people who watch this are going to think that all sorority sisters--possibly all women in general--are stupid bitches and it's funny when they die. Some people are going to think that the only acceptable personality for a Black woman is a stereotype. Some people are going to think that the only thing men want from women is sex.

Bad writing still sends messages, and when this is the message, then we have a problem.

So my advice would be not to watch Scream Queens, if for no other reason than it's a bad show. You deserve better television.

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