American Horror Story: Coven, FX Network’s latest iteration of the hit anthology series, this time set in the world of New Orleans witches, is, quite simply, the gayest horror/fantasy genre show ever made. What’s funny is, if you’re not gay, or don’t have any close gay friends or family members, you might watch this show and not ever even realize it. After all, unlike the past two seasons of the show, American Horror Story: Murder House, or American Horror Story: Asylum, both which had prominent lesbian and gay characters, this season only has one small part for a gay role.
So if the show barely has any gay characters, just what makes it so gay? How about everything. While this season might not have a prominent LGBT character (yet) it is seriously overflowing with queer sensibilities, humor and references. Openly gay creator Ryan Murphy’s other show, Glee, the one about musical theater and gay bullying, has nothin‘ on this show when it comes to gayness. American Horror Story: Coven is gayer than the entire LoGo Networks and Project Runway combined, and here are but ten reasons why.
1. All The Fierce Divas
Historically speaking, since time immemorial, gay men have always loved their strong female divas. In the music world, we’ve long been supporters of icons who are so fabulous and famous, we refer to them without even needing last names (Barbra, Judy) or they are simply are so fabulous they don’t even have last names (Cher, Madonna, Gaga) Diva worship is just a part of gay culture, whether one likes it or not.
It’s not just music divas we love, though; ask any gay male between the ages of 25 and 50, give or take, who their favorite actresses are, and you’re not going to get the standard answers of the likes of box office favorites like Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz or Sandra Bullock (although she was amazing in Gravity). No, we’ll likely name actresses who have portrayed strong women who faced adversity with strength and poise, like Jessica Lange when she played troubled starlet Frances Farmer in Frances, or country singer Patsy Cline in Sweet Dreams. Just as beloved by many a gay man is Angela Bassett, mostly for her Academy Award nominated turn as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got To Do With It.
American Horror Story: Coven is a showcase for powerhouse acting divas, many of whom have been pushed out of mainstream Hollywood fare, since for the most part, unless you are Meryl Streep, once you reach a certain age you are stuck playing “the mom” or “the boss” in every movie. (Even the minor parts on this show are filled with legendary Broadway divas like Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersol.) All of these women are way too fierce to be stuck playing Channing Tatum’s mom in some stupid romantic comedy, and Coven gives them the juicy goods to sink their teeth into.
And while I don’t wish to presume to speak for my lesbian sisters, they’ve simply gotta be loving a show where 90% of the principal cast are strong women, and storylines mostly revolve around their relationships with each other and the world at large, and not “which boy do I pick? The hot male vampire or the other hot vampire? Or maybe the hot male werewolf?” Bad or good, the women on Coven all have agency, and mostly have bigger fish to fry than “how do I make this boy like me?”
2. Delightfully Bitchy Dialogue
The writing on American Horror Story: Coven isn’t usually what one might call “good” in any traditional sense. If you’re looking for the nuance and layered subtlety of dialogue seen on shows like Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones or something, where people say one thing, but subtextually they really mean something else, well…you just might wanna look elsewhere. Coven just doesn’t do subtext, they just do text, in big, bold bitchy letters. The first episode of this season was called “Bitchcraft,” after all. So yeah…not subtle.
Coven puts everything out on Front Street: the characters have no filter, and usually what comes out of their mouths are things no real human being would ever say. Unless those human beings happened to be drag queens. Seriously, this is a show where Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe, when questioned about the (SPOILERS) possible death of her classmate Madison Montgomery, says “Madison Montgomery is a stone cold bitch who loves hard drinking, big dicks, and trouble. If she’s dead its probably because she got wasted and offered the grim reaper a hand job or something.” And she says it all with a straight face. I heart this show.
3. The Younger Witches Are Almost All Outcasts
Of the four students who make up the class of Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies, three are hardly what you’d call “insiders”. You’ve got Zoe (Taissa Farmiga), a somewhat mousy girl whose power causes instant death to anyone she has sex with (think the X-Men’s Rogue, but taken to the next level. In fact, the whole “Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies” thing is all kind of a knock off of the X-Men’s Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, really.) Then there’s Queenie, a rather large African-American girl played by Precious actress Gabourey Sidibe, who is a human voodoo doll. And finally there’s Nan, a young psychic with Down’s Syndrome. With the exception of Emma Roberts’ thinly veiled take on Lindsay Lohan named “Madison Montgomery,” none of the main girls are like the perfectly chiseled, beautiful model types who make up the casts of seemingly every teen supernatural drama on the CW network.
Which is another reason why LGBT fans are so drawn to it. If you look at the genre properties that LGBT fans are most often into, things like the previously mentioned X-Men or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they are usually about a group of outcasts trying to get by in a world that rejects them. American Horror Story: Coven is but the latest addition to that long list. Until the world changes in how it usually treats us, we are always gonna side with the misfits and the underdogs.
4. All the John Waters References
Since its first season, American Horror Story has been like a virtual buffet of references to famous horror movies of the past. As much as I love the show, the horror movie fan in me cringes just a bit whenever someone talks to me about how “original” the show is. American Horror Story can almost be summed up as “what horror movies does creator Ryan Murphy like?,” because the references to old horror movies are usually that obvious and on-the-nose. But in a way, that’s been part of the fun: watching Murphy and company take all these references to classic horror and spin them into a serialized, over-the-top soap opera.
But this season, it’s not just old horror movies they are referencing, but we’ve had at least three references so far to movies from the oeuvre of gay cult filmmaker John Waters. Spaulding the butler (Dennis O’Hare), ever faithful to his beloved mistress Fiona Goode (Jessica Lange), secretly plays dress up in the attic with what appear to be Fiona’s old clothes. This is a direct nod to John Water’s Pink Flamingos, where Connie Marble’s butler Channing also liked to play dress up in her clothes in secret. Speaking of Connie Marble, the character of Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy) with her bright red hair, sixties cat glasses and penchant for losing her shit and screaming when things don’t go her way, seems to be another homage to Pink Flamingos. Finally, poor Cordelia got acid thrown in her face in a recent episode, which just makes me think of what happened to poor Divine in Female Trouble. Ryan Murphy seems to be such a Waters fanboy, I can only imagine if Water’s main star Divine had lived, he’d have a staring role on the show this season.
5. These Shoes
These glittery fuck-me-pumps, worn by Madison Montgomery, and later Madison Montgomery’s corpse rolled up in the carpet, are like, super-mega fierce.
6. Totally Gratuitous Male Beefcake
The horror genre is replete with totally gratuitous examples of female sexuality and nudity on display; franchises like Friday the 13th and Halloween and countless others are filled with shots of T&A just for the sake of it. I’m not here to judge that – that’s another article for another day – but I will say it shows that the people in charge of making those movies are straight men, catering to an audience which they assume are also primarily other young, straight men, and to hell with everyone else.
Which is why even if I didn’t already know it ahead of time, by watching a few episodes of Coven I’d know this show is made by gay dudes, or at least that a gay dude was in charge of the whole thing, just from the generous amounts of shots of actor Even Peters’ bare ass, or the rippling arms of Bastian the Minotaur, or the slow mo shot of hottie next door neighbor Luke taking his shirt off and showing off his bod. Ordinarily I see this much beefcake on display and I’d assume a woman was in charge behind the scenes, but there are woefully few female showrunners in television, so I kind of know it’s a gay guy in charge. Also, it would all be done more tastefully if a woman were in charge. Not that I’m complaining here.
Seriously though, check out the guns on that Minotaur. Damn.
7. Leslie Jordan as Quentin the Warlock
For a show co-created by a gay man, which has tons of gay sensibilities on display,you’d think there would be more major LGBT characters on it. Sadly, at least so far this season, there isn’t. But there is one relatively minor character, Witch Council member Quentin, played by actor Leslie Jordan, who (God bless ‘im) couldn’t play butch on his best day if he tried.
You probably recognize Jordan from his constant television work over the past twenty odd years, most notably on Will & Grace, usually playing a short, Southern queen, just like he is in real life. Like the late Paul Lynde before him, Jordan just is who he is, and it always comes through in whatever role he’s playing. In a tribute to Lynde’s role as Samantha’s flaming Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, Leslie Jordan plays Quentin as a Truman Capote style author, the only male witch we’ve seen so far on the show, and a member of the all powerful Council of Witches. How gay is Quentin? When Supreme Witch Fiona Goode is being questioned by the Council on her vain and lustful ways, his only response is “you go girl.” That’s how gay.
8. All the Campy Names
Half the main cast of characters on this show have names that sound like drag queens. Names like “Misty Day,” “Cordelia Foxx,” “Myrtle Snow,” “Fiona Goode,” “Madison Montgomery” and “Queenie” all sound like they could all potentially be contestants on next season of Rupaul’s Drag Race. Only Taissa Farmiga’s character of Zoe Benson seemingly has a normal name, and that’s because she’s supposed to be the boring, normal one in a house full of fabulous freaks. Kathy Bates and Angela Bassett’s characters are based on actual historical people from 19th Century New Orleans, so they’re kind of stuck with slightly less flamboyant sounding names. Oh well, there’s always next season ladies. Start working your Drag Queen Name Generator now.
9. Frances Conroy Uses the Alias “Jennifer Wooley” From I Married A Witch
In a recent episode of the show, it was revealed that Frances Conroy’s character of Myrtle Snow stayed at a motel under the alias of “Jennifer Wooley.” So who the hell is Jennifer Wooley, you might ask? It’s the name of actress Veronica Lake’s character from the 1942 movie I Married A Witch, which would later serve as the loose inspiration behind the classic television series Bewitched. in the sixties. I Married A Witch is the kind of campy, old black and white movie that runs on Turner Classic Movies late at night, the kind that no one but gay people and your grandma still know about, much less watch. And if you’re reading this and are straight identified and are saying “But I love that movie and I’m straight!”, chances are you’re just a little bit gay. Just sayin’.
10. Stevie Nicks
Technically, this could fall under the first entry on this list, as Stevie Nicks herself certainly falls under the category of “fierce diva”. But in my opinion, her spirit permeates so much throughout the series that she needed her own entry on this list. Stevie Nicks is of course a legendary songstress and member of Fleetwood Mac, and a successful solo act in her own right; Stevie has had a sizable following of gay men and lesbian women for decades now. Back in the day, Stevie dodged rumors that she practiced witchcraft, partially due to her song “Rhiannon”, which she introduced as “a song about a Welsh witch” in concerts during the seventies, not to mention her whole gypsy/witchy image of shawls and black cloaks.
On the series, the character of bayou witch Misty Day, played by Lily Rabe, idolizes Stevie, dresses like her, and plays her music constantly. Misty also refers to Stevie as “The White Witch.” Creator Ryan Murphy has stated recently that he licensed the rights to seven Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac songs for the show. And then last week came the news that Stevie Nicks herself is set to join the cast of the series in what will be her acting debut. This officially seals the deal; American Horror Story: Coven is now the gayest show in the history of history.
Previously by Eric Diaz: