In its past four seasons, American Horror Story has been home to the spookiest, darkest, most twisted characters television audiences have had the sick pleasure of getting to know. And while you may be so glued to your television set that you fully arrange your Wednesday nights about live viewing (just me?), what you may not have seen lurking in the shadows are fierce female-driven moments on the series. Sure that’s a controversial statement. As Jezebel’s Madeleine Davies noted, the show’s female characters are brutalized in a way that feels dark and imbalanced, but at the same time, she acknowledges, their fierce and repeated ability to fight back. Seriously, these women are strong and they don’t take crap from anyone for very long. In honor of the season four finale (TONIGHT) let’s take a look back at some of AHS‘ bravest, most badass female characters:
Lana Winters, or Ms. Lana Banana, as she more endearingly comes to be known, endures more horrors in one season than everyone else in the rest of the series combined. She enters the asylum as a curious and ballsy journalist, but stays as a patient, locked away and essentially tortured in order to be cured of her “disease” of homosexuality. Throughout the season, no matter what sickening twists of misfortune Lana encounters, she survives with her cunning and her courage, and in the end, her heroism pays off in a major way — she writes a tell-all memoir. Lana’s story is one of a survivor. She owns all of her experiences, and shares them in a way that exposes injustice and allows her to come out on top. IMHO that fully secures her a top spot in the Kickass Lady Hall of Fame. As she says herself, “I am tough, but I’m no cookie.”
From night-club singer to nun, Sister Jude’s storyline is an elaborate, ever-changing, but ultimately empowering one. As the practical but unofficial head of the asylum, Jude’s authority is feared and respected by everyone, except the men in similar positions of power. Not only does she have to consistently fight for external control over what is rightfully hers, she also must fight the internal, carnal urges she is forced to renounce as a nun. Like many of AHS’ women, Sister Jude is torn between her own desires and what is expected of her as a woman in power in the society of the time. She finds herself repressing her femininity and her humanity in order to gain respect, but soon can no longer curb her feelings, and must leave the church. In this freedom, she eventually finds happiness, and her long, complicated life as a woman who has been coerced and silenced by powerful men, ends with nothing but wisdom, empowerment, and finally, peace.
The Ladies of the Coven
What better arena than a witches’ coven to explore the competitive bond strong women often share? AHS’ female-centric third season focuses on a group of witches whose own bodies, the sources of their powers, are constantly threatening to betray them. As if that’s not bad enough, the ladies also must face off against each other and against outside evil forces. Just as an average, non-magic woman struggles to try to be something she is not in order to conform to society’s expectations of what a woman “should be,” the witches find themselves fighting their own urges and fighting each other in order to find balance and to reach an “acceptable” state of existence within the two worlds they straddle. They come to find that the only way they can protect themselves is to protect the coven, which means protecting each other. They put aside their differences, both petty and extreme, and fight as one. They discover that in accepting and celebrating their individual, unique powers, they are no longer at odds with their own bodies, with their society, or with each other. It’s no surprise that in this unity they’re able to kick total ass.
The not-so-subtle theme of feminism that underlies the season can be summed up with Cordelia’s line in one of its very first episodes: “You guys have got to start taking care of each other. We have enough enemies on the outside.” Although this statement applies specifically to the witches of the coven, it is in reality a perfect summation of the struggles of women across the board. It is a call to all of us, that instead of combating each other or ourselves in an effort to rise above societal constraints, we should fight the elements of society that are oppressing us — together.
So you’ve hidden under blankets and peeked through the cracks in your fingers watching American Horror Story for the past four years, but from here on out, poke your head above the covers and look a little closer at the tough and daring ladies on your screen this Wednesday night. Although you might be completely freaked out by Twisty the Clown or emotionally scarred by Bloodyface, nothing’s scarier than a show completely void of fascinating, complicated, sometimes broken but always staunch women.