Warning: This recap of the “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” episode of American Horror Story: Cult contains spoilers.
Imagine your very favorite food — french toast, macaroni & cheese, a Cornish game hen — served on an upturned frisbee and tossed onto your placemat. Almost nothing seems appetizing when it’s served so disrespectfully. That’s how something as delightful as Evan Peters doing an impression of Andy Warhol somehow isn’t fun. This week’s episode of American Horror Story was so bad it was actually embarrassing. God, remember when everyone was mad at Freak Show for not being good enough, yet it had that amazing Pepper episode, sumptuous production design, moving musical numbers, and Jessica f***ing Lange? Cult is worse than mere garbage, it’s a betrayal of American Horror Story‘s fans (and apologists) and it’s time we finally admit this to ourselves. What a blunder this season has turned out to be.
Stunt-casting Lena Dunham as Valerie Solanas was an okay enough concept — this show has dabbled in true crime before — but there are so many ACTUAL historical cults to draw upon, so why did AHS need to posthumously slander this (mentally ill) woman by suggesting she and her militant feminist friends were behind the Zodiac murders? Are we to believe that the Zodiac killer featured in Hotel was Dot-Marie Jones under that hood? And is the overall message of this season that leftists, feminists, and gays are the ones who’ll truly resort to murder for their politics, but Kai is merely a clever opportunist? And why is this show content to simply TELL us that people join cults without convincing us why they’d resort to murder? And what are any of the characters trying to do anymore? And as viewers of a horror show, what are we supposed to be afraid of here exactly? Exactly none of this is working. “Valerie Solanas Died for Your Sins: Scumbag” was a true low-point for this series, a dreadful episode of what is officially American Horror Story‘s worst season. Hey let’s talk about it if you want!
We began with a homely woman angrily turning a trick in an alley for $5 and then using the proceeds to angrily buy bullets for her pistol.
Meet Valerie Solanas, the real-life radical feminist lesbian who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and became infamous for attempting to murder Andy Warhol.
He did not die from this attempt on his life, but it’s widely believed he was forever traumatized by it. Solanas, meanwhile, spent time in prison and later died in obscurity nearly homeless. OR DID SHE? (She did.) But this episode of American Horror Story: Cult would have us believe that Solanas’ mental illness-hastened actions were merely the beginning of an actual crime spree that would be so nightmarish it would later be attributed to one of the most-feared serial killers of modern times. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile in 2017, Michigan was reeling from the mass shooting at Kai’s political rally by Mary Cherry, his secret cult member. In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Sarah Paulson had been dragged away to a facility, Kai was projected to win his City Council election, and best of all, the publicity allowed his cult to add a few dozen HUNKS to the roster.
As one can see, things were really working out for Kai! Especially the dudes in matching chambray shirts slapping each other for sport in his living room. Beverly, however, was not so pleased to see Kai assume the power position within the cult, as she had been promised equal say and had NOT signed off on the new hunk militia. That night she found herself pouting a ton, and was approached by a very mysterious lady with very mysterious intentions!
It was Frances Conroy, as herself. Wearing a Bettie Page wig underneath a green cloak, Frances Conroy beckoned Beverly to her waiting bosom. She had a tale to tell.
Because Winter and Ivy were also sensing trouble within the cult (specifically how the boys weren’t allowing the ladies to hang out in the headquarters anymore) they agreed to sit and chat with Frances Conroy about her experiences with a murderous cult back in the ’70s. Just going to level with you: Her experiences were not great.
First of all, the cult was led by Valerie Solanas, who had only grown more and more bitter toward men and sought to eradicate them from the earth entirely! Now, I know what you are thinking: Shouldn’t cults have charismatic leaders, and not shrieking nightmare banshees at the fore? You would think!
Fortunately Solanas’ cult included this lady, played by the great Jamie Brewer (a beloved AHS regular), so that was one point in this cult’s favor.
She was joined by this hard-drinkin’ mama played by Glee‘s Dot-Marie Jones. So here were at least two fun people to make up for Solanas’ decidedly unfun leadership. But the true fun was soon to come, as Solanas decided they should topple the patriarchy by straight-up MURDERING innocents. And due to some very sketchy logic, she decided they should murder both men and women to, uh, scare men and women into equal rights? It was not a great plan, most likely because she was actively schizophrenic.
So yeah, next thing we knew, kissing couples in the Bay Area were soon getting offed by a gaggle of be-cloaked murderesses.
If you were starting to think that these murders were looking A LOT like the Zodiac Killer’s crimes, then you have great instincts!
Because, yes. The Solanas gang had decided to collectively become a masked serial killer calling him/her/itself the Zodiac Killer. How did this play into their plan to frighten the populace into a matriarchy? Unclear. But in one fell swoop the makers of AHS bastardized several unrelated histories for no good reason! Certainly not entertainment value.
Because one of the (gay) male members of Solanas’ gang had the bizarre notion to send coded messages to the police, an enraged Solanas instructed her followers to murder him and display his dismembered body in an unusual configuration. I was not aware of this particular element in the Zodiac killings, but I guess I learn something false every day!
Years later, the cult had had enough of Valerie Solanas, and she ended up living in squalor where she did little else but bang her potato fists against a typewriter, leaving her with pages upon pages of unreadable drivel, possibly even disappointing than the Girls finale script. That’s when the ghost of Andy Warhol returned to deliver a few more put-downs and Valerie Solanas had no choice but to trip and fall down and die. A moving life story portrayed accurately and tastefully.
Returning to 2017 now, Kai hinted to Winter that he knew she’d been having secret meetings with the ladies, but he pretended to be cool with it. He also let slip that Billy Eichner had been saying hurtful things about female-kind, which put the idea into her head that it was time to start reducing the number of men in this darn clown cult!
Next thing we knew, Beverly, Ivy, Winter, and France Conroy were whacking Billy Eichner over the head with a wrench and hog-tying him in the walk-in freezer! But when he couldn’t bring himself to soothe the ladies’ fraught nerves, Ivy had no choice but to fire up her Williams-Sonoma chainsaw!
Goodbye, Billy Eichner! May your flesh be safely prepared, spiced, and consumed by the citizens of small-town Michigan.
When Beverly delivered a near-gloating news report about the discovery of Billy Eichner’s (scum-covered!) body parts, we saw Kai change the channel indignantly. Had his cult begun to turn on him?
No they hadn’t, because Frances Conroy was in league with him. But why? To make them mad, I guess. But here’s another question: What? Third question: Who even cares? Who cares why any of these people are doing anything, or what their plans are, or what they’re even trying to do. Does any of it make sense? Is it even entertaining? These are all questions I have.
Anyway, there are three more episodes of this season left. Dare we hope that this story goes somewhere interesting? Or at the very least we get more slanderous portrayals of historical figures? Fingers crossed! I’m sad.
American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.
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