Dead End

As part of our contemporary media portfolio, this is the final part of Connor Taylor’s four-part review of American Horror Story.  The review continues to address certain aspects of fear that relate to the show and this time, it’s metathesiophobia.  Connor is studying his final year in English and Creative Writing.

 

We have reached it. This is our final descent into the exploration of fears behind AHS’s early episodes, concluding with Episode 6. These episodes are perhaps the most terrifying as they unnerve us, twist us, and break those expectations and scepticism coming from a state of ‘ordinary’. Nothing is ordinary here, nothing is the norm. Everything is different, everything is beautiful, everything is, feared.

 

Our fear this week, and our last one in this series, is one which taps very deeply into the human psychological condition.

Metathesiophobia

“This specific phobia can reduce one’s will to live; Metathesiophobes often feel that they have no control over their lives owing to constant changes. People with this phobia tend to live in the past and may also be depressed. The fear of change is evolutionary in humans. Since times immemorial, man has liked routine. Our internal predispositions (heredity and genetics) teach us to resist change mainly to ‘always feel in control’.” (www.fearof.net, 2015)

 

As a fear which arguably sprouts from our deepest, cavernous, sections of ourselves.  It isn’t surprising that at some point, everyone fears a branching path that takes us away from a state we have come to call normality. This norm does not have to be serene, picturesque, or in any way associated with a state of safety.  It is just the ones we find ourselves so tightly nestled in. What AHS has brought to light are the extremes of these states.  The aspects of our lives when we simply exist and feel no need to surpass or change because we have grown comfortable.  Even the thought of shifting away from that, away from the stagnancy of our existence, is one which can be quite terrifying.

 

Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) is by far one of the most interesting characters within American Horror Story. It is interesting to see how O’Hare has progressed across the American Horror Story seasons: a small and frankly peculiar role in season one as a frightful and deranged burn victim, a minor ‘set dressing’ and terrifyingly unsettling mute butler and eventually a character as graciously endowed as he was tediously villain-ish. In season 5, however, O’Hare has finally stepped up to the mark. In earlier episodes Liz brought nothing but a selection of witty and snappy remarks, yet unlike other characters within the show Liz’s development has not come from multiple episode exposures. We have seen O’Hare in scene after scene and yet the ambiguity of interest has allowed our eyes to slip away to find a focal point elsewhere. Yet the accumulation of gradual change and insight has had us seeking out the best until we were granted an audience with a true queen.

 

Liz of course is the first transgendered character to step foot into American Horror Story and offers us such reality about the human mental process. Of course Liz would suffer with metathesiophobia and fear change.  Fear of moving out of that internal true self and exposing to the world, as equally for judgment as for praise, a true exterior. Most of us cannot understand, or even adequately comprehend the courage and fear one must feel having to go through this.  To overcome such a change and combat their fear is redeeming and allows us to realise that everyone deserves that one true love.

 

Consider however comparing one Queen to a Countess

Episode 6 showers us with a parallel.  The meeting and relationships of, Liz and the Countess. Within this parallel we see how true stagnancy is inhuman, in fact it’s vampiric. To exist without moving, adapting or changing whilst clinging on without feign of forgetting makes us more than human, it makes us a monster. It makes us appear human, when we are not. We see in the episode Gaga’s portrayal of the Countess as a mother and witness how beyond everything else it is those inner most human of qualities that are monstrous. I have to hand it to the director for not turning the Countesses malformed murderous child into a cheesy 80’s joke but instead giving us a true reflection into the macabre. To put it simply, we see how the Countess mothers her child, yet they both are equally as gothic. They are removed so far from the actual, from the ‘true’ and subverted and at the point of being ludicrous. We get a very classic gothic feel here which comes from that stark comparison, duality if you will, of the episode. Liz’s softness and reality is brought into a dark light with an inhuman mother and twisted child. Without one element to balance the other it would be nowhere near as frightening.

 

We see one aspect passed through metathesiophobia and one entirely consumed, defined, by it.

It’s all brought to a close however when these two threads meet. Tristain (Finn Wittrock), Liz’s true love and the Countesses current toy, comes to a cut-throat close and the shock of the scene is wrenched deeply within us. In true AHS fashion, we are reminded here that vampires are not human and that life is not fair. It’s all so terribly drab and sad. But we have come to expect it.

 

We look forward to this each and every time and continue to do so from one episode to the next. What more can this season bring? What can top a tragic love and an inhuman maternity?

 

***

 

To say farewell to this little venture I’d like to share with you a quote which summed up a universality in all people. Regardless of our crisis, of the monsters we run from or search out, we are one in the same.

“I can see the pain in your eyes. It’s very familiar. You’ve lost something. And now you’re frozen in time. Can’t move forward. Can’t go back.” (AMH, 2015)

We are all trapped in the coil of existence, stuck so tightly within a temporal gap. But the best of us, well you fight hard you inspire, you create… you live on beyond your time.

 

Reference List

Room 33“. American Horror Story. Loni Peristere and John J. Gray. November11,2015

http://www.fearof.net/fear-of-change-phobia-metathesiophobia/ accessed: 07/12/15

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About spectralvisions

Spectral Visions is an annual Gothic conference hosted by the University of Sunderland. It explores the dark, the decadent and the terrifying aspects of Gothic literature and language. This blog is a student-run initiative, where Visionaries showcase their creative talents and learning in short stories, poems and essays on the Gothic. You can follow us on Twitter at @spectralvisi0ns or like us on Facebook at facebook.com/uosgothic
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