Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mob Scene: American Horror Story

The season of the witch (21 more days 'til Halloween, Halloween...) usually brews up some frightful television programming, but no show promises to deliver as much delicious wickedness this year as American Horror Story: Coven.  "Bitchcraft," last night's debut episode of the third iteration of the FX horror series, offered a spellbinding cast (Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett), heaps of witty dialogue, and more than a dash of grue.  The episode also featured not one, but two mob scenes.  In the first, the bloodthirsty, torch-lofting Puritans of Salem boisterously cheer on their magistrate with cries of "Hang her! Drown her! Burn her!" as they gather around the scaffold upon which Mercy Osborne awaits execution.  This black-and-white flashback is matched by the scene where a modern-day Louisiana girl is persecuted (because of her unusual talents as a healer) by a group of religious zealots; Misty Day certainly suffers a dismal fate--dragged, bound, doused with gasoline, and then set ablaze.

The parallel angry-mob scenes serve as a grim reminder that the American capacity for irrational violence has not waned in the three centuries since the Salem Witch Trials.  Such ignominious ganging-up on the perceived Other could easily be witnessed again on AHS: Coven this season.  Because as the schoolmistress Delia forewarns her sorcerous wards: "We are under siege, ladies.  Our lives, our very existence is always at risk.  Know this or face extinction."  Unfortunately, prejudice's torch-bearers are legion, and for those marked as witches, a flash mob signals a terribly incendiary event.

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