About halfway through this episode of Scream Queens, I texted my friend Chris, who was watching at the same time, and said, “This show is either the most spot-on satire of political correctness and identity politics on college campuses, or it’s the stupidest thing ever.” Chris’s brilliant response was, “Can’t it be both?”
It totally can, and it totally is. This week, we got at least three (if not more) moments that were directly mocking the way we live today, and having some serious fun with all the people who will get up in arms that such a confection as this will go there. That’s because this show is stupid. As a devotee of Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta, I don’t mean that as a pejorative. I love its stupidity. The show is really just a loose collection of plot points, funny lines, and excuses for Denise Hemphill to crack me up like like a vase that got sat on by an elephant. Now there seem to be these new random, critical bits sprinkled throughout, raising the level of discourse a bit. Either that, or we’re all getting fooled and it’s just entirely stupid.
My favorite was the opening when Chanel goes around to her 752 Instagram followers (a paltry number, really) and gives them Chanel-o-ween presents so that they can feel a little bit better about their grubby little lives. This seems to be a direct swipe at Taylor Swift and any other celebrity who uses his or her Instagram to send things to a fan. As Chanel says, she’s doing it to look altruistic, but really, all she wants is the fan to post it all over social media so that she will get free exposure for her own gain.
Then we have the four Chanels attacking the annoying frat boy and his friend in the cafeteria after an aborted lunch of cotton balls. Chanel Prime decides she doesn’t want to live a joyless life and be some man’s sex fantasy anymore, and on their way to get some pizza, this frat boy whistles at them and asks which one of them wants to have sex with him. They turn on him and attack him, showing him all the ways that his male privilege is keeping them down and making them do horrible things to their bodies and minds. It’s almost enough to excuse all the awful stereotypes about mean girls that are packed into this show on a weekly basis. Unless we’ve been reading it wrong the whole time, and those stereotypes are actually a critique of the very culture itself. Deep, Ryan Murphy. Real deep.
The strangest for me (I hesitate to call it problematic because I did not graduate from Sarah Lawrence) was Zayday’s relationships with both Earl Grey and Denise Hemphill. It irked me a little bit that Zayday, the only black female student, has to have a romantic relationship with Earl, the only black male student. But if this thing is meant to lampoon the tropes of horror movies and other teen cinema, where there is always one black couple to add some flavor to all the white couples (see Dionne and Murray in Clueless), it makes sense that they would be attracted to one another. However, there is no subversion of that stereotype happening here, at least not yet. Since Zayday has apparently been kidnapped by the Red Devil, maybe that is going to change somehow?
When Denise Hemphill (#BAE4EVA) approached Zayday and accused her of being the killer, I thought it was unfortunate that the only black women on the show had to be opposed to each other. Then it became clear that Denise rushed Kappa in the ’80s and was turned away for being black. Zayday thinks she is jealous because she is finally getting to be the sorority girl that Denise always wanted to be. In fact, Zayday is trying to be the first black president. Is this some sort of commentary on prominent black philosophers like Cornel West criticizing President Obama? Earlier in the episode, when ranting about how Zayday will ruin the sorority, Chanel brings up Obama. Is that so we'll draw that parallel ourselves? Is this stupid show trying to be that intelligent? Am I just looking way too far into the void and coming out with some crazy American Studies bullshit that makes no sense? I can’t tell, and that makes this show either the most genius thing on network television, or so dumb that it’s come back around to smart again.
There was some major dumbness of the bad variety in this episode, too, and I don’t even mean the two awful hats that Grace wore once again this episode. What the heck was going on with Grace and Pete showing up at that trailer dressed as Kate Hudson and Matthew ICantSpellHisLastNameWithoutGooglingIt from How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? In the last episode, they were ten minutes away from the trailer, and they were wearing completely different outfits (I remember because Grace had on an ugly hat). So now they’re back, and it’s a different day, and they’re in Halloween costumes for some reason? Say wha?
Anyway, it did help to advance the plot nicely. The woman they found was one of the girls at Kappa the night of the Bathtub Baby, and she said that Dean Munsch told them they had to bury the body and never speak of it again. Munsch forced them all to leave school and not contact the others. Our trailer lady dropped some hints: that one girl changed her name, one killed herself, one was institutionalized, and one was doing quite well on Fox News. (Isn’t Elisabeth Hasselbeck about the right age?) She also told them that the Bathtub Baby is a girl, not a boy. That means it's not Chad Radwell. Duh. I think those ugly hats are cutting off the circulation to Grace's head.
Later, the Red Devil showed up knocking all the doors and windows of her trailer simultaneously because she lives in a house so small that the noise couldn’t come from inside the house like in every other horror movie, it had to come from everywhere around it. Nice touch.
To prove that she’s a good candidate for president, Zayday is going to throw a haunted house for charity. She decides to do it in this abandoned house on Shady Lane that residents claim housed the Hag of Shady Lane, a woman who lost all of her children, so she would sit up at night howling for them out of one of the windows. There were a number of sightings of her in 1995, a month after the Bathtub Baby incident, and she was seen stealing diapers and milk. Grace and Pete, brain surgeons, realize that whoever the hag was must have been raising the Bathtub Baby. But we don’t have to wait to find out, because it was Gigi! Dun dun duhhhhhhhhh, goes the organ.
Any other plot points we need to go over? Oh, all the dead bodies showed up in Zayday’s haunted house, which just made it even more popular, but Dean Munsch won’t close down the school because none of them were students (except for Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, who took an art-history class once). Hester is making a serious play for Chad Radwell because they’re both necrophiliacs, but ones who are shockingly scared of real dead bodies.
Right now that is all the stupid stuff. It’s the other brilliant bits that I’m going to come back for next week. Unless the brilliant is what is really stupid and the stupid is what’s really brilliant. Either way, this show is fumbling toward something, and either way, I’m happy with the result.
Random Funny Lines Taken Completely Out of Context:
- “I’m not a detective. Hell, I’m not even a cop. But what I am is somebody who watched every one of those Cosby mysteries.”
- “You have a squirrel. You don’t see that much anymore.”
- “When you live alone in a house full of Pottery Barn sofas and no integrity.”
- “Jennifer, can you hop off the spectrum for just one second?”
- “Are you on bath salts?”
- “A haunted party is like a buffet for murder.”
- “I’m as skinny as Karen Carpenter in the morgue and Chad Radwell still won’t commit to me.”
- “Cause of death: stabbed a whole lot all over."