American Horror Story: I Am Anne Frank, Pt. 1

Posted on November 08, 2012

We’re not sure if putting an adult Anne Frank in your story and placing a gun in her hands is a bold narrative move or merely a tasteless one.

Our first impulse is to go with “offensive,” but then we wouldn’t have gotten the awesomeness of casting Franka Potente, who really knew what to do with the character and ran with it, in the role. And besides, it’s a little late to complain about the show being offensive, what with all the murder and torture it’s been trading in since day one. Still, for whatever reasons, this episode left us queasy and uneasy. You could argue (and you’d be right) that good horror stories are supposed to make you feel, at the very least, queasy and uneasy, but last night’s episode had a disturbingly high number of “women being tortured” scenes and we found ourselves longing for the days of campy fun this show used to trade in. Can’t we sip coffee in the kitchen with Constance and listen to her rail against the Koreans and the developmentally disabled like the good old days?

Which isn’t to say that we’re unhappy with this season; just that we’re wimps. We don’t enjoy torture porn and we don’t enjoy stories where one group of people (in this case, women) seem to be singled out for all the worst the story has to offer. It’s not enough that Shelley got mutilated to the point where she no longer seems to be human and begs for Anne Frank to take her life (a string of words we never thought we’d see ourselves write), we also get to see Kit beating his wife to death and Lana get subjected to the very worst forms of aversion therapy the early ’60s had to offer. This doesn’t even touch on the evil of Nazi Dr. Arden picking girls out of the bunks of Auschwitz to perform experiments on, returning them as burnt-out husks. We feel like we should be almost grateful that Grace turned out to be the Lizzie Borden-style murderer she’s accused of being. Sure, she’s been subjected to more than enough torture, but at least she’s a gal who took the matter into her own hands (so to speak). We suppose it says something about the gleefully twisted nature of this season that we were actually sort of relieved to find out that she had made some form of active choice on her part, which isn’t something you can say about a lot of the women this season.

But then, her admission that she did kill her family means that we can’t really take anything for granted in this story. That may not be Anne Frank wielding that gun. Dr. Arden may not have been a Nazi torturer. Kit may actually have done the things he’s accused of doing. Sister Jude may not be the evil harridan she’s sometimes portrayed as. Dr. Thredson may not have Lana – or anyone else’s – best interests at heart. And Lana? Well, it’d be hard to claim her tale isn’t what we’ve been led to believe, since her story has mostly unfolded in front of our eyes, but with everything else going on here, it’s getting harder to accept anything at face value anymore.

One thing’s for sure: We can’t really complain too much about a story that has a character utter the line “Try to relate the pleasure you’re feeling to his tumescence,” with a straight face. Sure, this episode was more nausea-inducing than most, but our major complaint is the lack of Sister Mary SATAN, who brings the campy evil that made us love the show in the first place. More of that, please. And maybe a little less of stumpy, bubbly-skinned Shelley, whose appearance has ensured that we will never, EVER order pizza on AHS night again.

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