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Only mild spoilers for the general feel of the season - their review was written before this past episode.

Illustration for article titled The Racialicious assessment of AHS: Coven

I've been waiting for something like this (and I'm sorry if it's already been posted to GroupThink - I miss too much!). I have really been enjoying Coven, largely because of the intensity, range, and depth of the female characters. But I am not equipped to analyze the racial implications of the show. I didn't want to come here crying "Tell me how to feeeeel, guise", but I did kind of feel that way. Because as a white woman, I certainly can't watch something and declare it not-racist.

The representation of Kathy Bates' character bothers me, but the rest of the racial things seem powerful and respectful and appropriate to me. I mean, is anyone portrayed as stronger than Marie Laveau? There is Zoe in her innocent-but-powerful-ness, I suppose.


Anyways. Here is the Racialicious review!* (There is one very subtle semi-spoiler for the latest episode that they injected later, but I don't think it ruins anything.) They pair it with a review of The Originals (because it is also set in New Orleans, and apparently does not handle race nearly as well) but if you, like me, are kind of wanting to see The Originals but haven't yet, skipping down to the AHS: Coven part doesn't ruin anything for you.

You should click over and read the whole thing, but here are some choice excerpts:

Instead of running away from New Orleans unique historical backdrop, he [Ryan Murphy] has instead used race as one of the main issues of conflict this iteration of the series taking on issues of female oppression, aging, racial appropriation, and racism all with a wink and a nod.

Murphy and his team constantly challenge what people have become accustomed to seeing whether it is centering three seasons of a successful show around a sixty plus year old actress who is portrayed as sexually appealing and powerful to showing Gabourey Sidibe (AHS's Queenie) maturbating in a green house with a bullheaded beast, AHS swings for the fences but it's portrayal of New Orleans does not exist in an idealized vacuum. The white witches in AHS live in the Garden District of New Orleans and enjoy comfort and wealth even as their coven deteriorates from the inside while Angela Bassett's Marie Laveau, though immortal and powerful, lives with her people in one of New Orlean's poorer black areas. As Kendra mentions, it is startling but refreshing, to see that Marie's power and talent is not depicted as translating into material possessions and wealth. Although the reason for this is not explained, it creates a character who is very much tied to the reality of the New Orleans. Unlike the The Originals, you get the sense that immortality has not made Marie immune to the struggle of her race, if anything, the flashbacks reiterate that she feels the weight of years of oppression more than others do because she has lived through our country's checkered past and the presence of Madame LaLaurie as well as her lover from those days keep these horrors fresh in her mind.

My only real beef with the way Coven's been run so far is the strange redemption of Lalaurie, a real historical figure who has, well, no redeemable qualities as far as I can tell given what we've been shown. I'm sure there's some endgame involved here, but the fact that she's been portrayed as almost sympathetic and her racism campy and relatively hilarious (no one hisses like Kathy Bates), is on the surface a questionable decision.


What do you think?

*FYI: I am not presenting this as "oh, yay, someone told me how to feel about race in this television show!", I just was looking forward to someone more educated than I am analyzing the use of race in AHS: Coven.

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