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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  • tereliz

    My first word watching this episode was “Lola?”

    For the rest of the hour I was pretty much speechless. 

    • schadenfreudelicious

      yup, Run Lola Run indeed, yikes!

    • MilaXX

       She’s also on the BBCA show Copper. It’s a good not great show so I typically record ad end up marathoning to catch up.

  • Sister Jude: “I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately, Sister, but it’s a decided improvement.”

    • tereliz

      This was probably the best line all night. 

  • krelnick

    I was really impressed with how the special effect made James Cromwell look like he was in his 20s in the Nazi scenes.  Then I read the credits and young Dr. Arden was played by John Cromwell.  Kid is a dead ringer for his dad.  

    Do Zach Quinto’s eyebrows get their own trailer on set, do you think?  (Someone should start a “Zach Quinto’s Eyebrows” Twitter account…)

    •  We were wondering how they did that. He really is a dead ringer.

    • Leah Burns

       I wish every actor had a doppleganger son. I love watching Jessica Lange tear up scenery, but I was having a hard time figuring out how old she was supposed to be in her dead little girl flashbacks.

      • JosephLamour

        Agreed. They successfully made her look younger last season too ,for those flashbacks where she killed her husband. In related news: her character is going to murder someone every season, huh? 

  • snich11

    Totally agree w/you, this ep left me queasy too and not in a good way. They have gone all misogynistic and the nonstop mindless gore and evil is making me lose interest rapidly. Big letdown after last season!

  • Believe it or not, I’m getting bored with this show. They started to lose me with the Boxing Helena treatment of Shelly last episode. Then this episode with the Anne Frank, the Auschwitz, the aversion therapy and Lana touching herself while touching the other guy and sobbing (which was the absolute low point for me)…when everything is shocking, nothing’s shocking. And especially with this episode, it does seem as though the show’s a little heavy on the lady hate. Then again, these are the guys who brought us Nip/Tuck. 

    Still in it for the long haul, though. I want to see what sort of Twilight Zone-ian moral there is to this whole season.

  • MilaXX

    I liked this week’s ep a whole lot more than last week and I can honestly say it’s because of Franka who I have loved since  Run, Lola, Run.

  • My DVR didn’t record it last night and I can’t navigate the FX site – anyone know where I can watch it online or if it airs again? Thanks.

    • krelnick

      If you have OnDemand, it’ll show up there.  

    • Google “American Horror Story tv-links” and click on the first link. From there, click on the episode and then “All Search Results.” Putlocker and vidbux usually work well for me, as long as you can get past the vulgar pop-ups!

  • Yasmin Perez

    Well, this season sure as hell hasn’t been the kind of fun last season was… But the acting is really great, so I guess that’s something. What bothered me (aside from the obvious) was that they had Anne Frank pronounce her name the english way. 

  • MaryAtRealityTea

    Yeah, I agree – this show has lost its humanizing qualities and considering it was always about ghosts and murderers that’s kind of an odd thing to say. But last year’s “downtime” along with it’s family drama made it more than a horror story. The show has also lost a lot of the Ryan Murphy campy funness that last season had. You know, Constance’s outrageousness, complaining about aesthetic details of a kitchen, whiny bitch fits. Now it’s all creepy, macabre, ruthlessly cruel WHAM! story points one after another. The show needs to slow it down a bit, give us a little fluff, and also give us some humanity. 

    • What about Lana’s situation and Kit’s struggle to figure out if he was really abducted or crazy?  Is this not humanity?  I think they’re also showing a fair amount of humanity in Jessica Lange’s character.  Granted, she seems to be wildly oscillating between sadistic nun and concerned care giver (she’ll willing imprison Lana and blackmail her lover, but she’s SOOO conflicted about Arden???), but she has definite moments of humanity.  

      • Sobaika

        There is a major difference the balance of normal/batshit that we saw last season and this episode in particular.

  • Carolyn

    I am just hoping that the women get their own back in some way. All of them. Perhaps Sister Mary Satan will cast off her own demon.

  • DeebaCee

    I loved last season, but I think last night’s episode may have been the end of the AHS ride for me. Last season was crazy and ridiculous in a campy fun way. I enjoyed trying to pick up on all the horror stories that they referenced. Even if I didn’t catch on to the classical horror references, at the core of the show was still a good old haunted house story. Maybe I’m wrong, but at least last season, by this time you could start to try and predict where things were going (though you’d likely be very very wrong). At least there was some direction. I’m just seeing no direction this season. So far they’ve introduced aliens, demonic possession and an exorcism, antiquated psychological treatments, potential zombie-like beings, a present day monster, and Anne Frank….. I have no earthly clue how this can all fit together. At this point, I think I’d rather just continue reading TLo recaps to see where it’s going rather than watching for myself. Thanks for taking one for the team TLO!

  • I hope this doesn’t give Quentin Tarantino any ideas for a Anne Frank revenge exploitation flick…I can hear the voice over now “She’s BACK! Anne Frankly, this time she’s PISSED!”

  • fallen_ikon

    I thought the introduction of Anne Frank was just tasteless. I rolled my eyes last year when they did the whole Black Dahlia thing, but this was just a bit too much.

  • cellarxdoor

    I do believe Kit and Alma were abducted by aliens. Why else would Arden have found the strange chip thingy on Kit’s neck? And let’s not forget Sister Jude actually seeing the alien (though, that sighting could’ve been caused by the communion wine).

    • RocknLox

      I wonder why they didn’t make anything of that or even go back to it? 

  • No disrespect meant to any commenters… But I not finding any of this hard to follow at all.

    The arden nazi thing makes sense, and it explains the experimentation (Shelley is obviously being turned into one of this weird forest creatures), and there is obviously knowledge of his past higher up since Joseph Fiennes character warned him at the end. Whether or not the new patient is really Anne Frank or either crazily thinks she is or is just claiming to be remains to be seen, but I’m not offended by it either way.

    Quintos character obviously has something going on. He tells Lana that kit isn’t bloody face while trying to convince kit that he is… For what it’s worth, my mom thinks Quinto is bloody face (and she’s very good and seeing plot twists coming a mile away). What his motives are with Lana are unclear, but something is obviously up.

    And since when has horror not exploited women? Who are we kidding?

    There are lots of loose ends, but it’s only the 4th episode! I think we all need to just chill and let the show unfold. There is plenty of time for all this to come together (if it does…)

    Personally, I enjoy the audacity of mixing so many elements and look forward to seeing what they do with it. It may end up sucking, but I think season one showed that they can take a lot of story lines and make it work in the end. I’m not ready to start wringing my hands just yet.

    • Amy

       I have been thinking Quinto is bloody face too which is kind of a bummer but he has such great potential to be hiding a dark secret. Maybe he wants to get Lana out so he can make her a victim?

      Another approach might be the priest is bloody face since he has an evil alliance with Arden.

    • Leah Burns

       I actually thought “Oh, that explains everything” when I heard Arden was a Nazi. They were pretty fucked up. But I felt a bit sick at the Anne Frank reveal. She was a real murdered 14-year-old girl. It might not actually be her though– it could also be another concentration camp survivor that has delusions of being her. It would explain why, if she’s been in the country for 15 years or so, she didn’t just give her assumed name she’s been using all this time instead of getting herself stuck in a mental institution and having people immediately discount her claims.

    • tereliz

      It wasn’t necessarily that it was hard to follow, just hard to swallow, and not just the exploitation of the female characters. It’s hard to willfully suspend disbelief when they keep throwing one crazy/impossible scenario at the viewer after another.

      I agree they made it seem like Quinto’s character might be Bloody-face, so I’m hoping that he isn’t. 🙂

  • It’s pretty amazing to be laughing at y’all’s comments after actually watching the show last night.  Maybe not.  I thought last night’s show, for all the gore, puke and torture, was probably the campiest episode so far.  I don’t have the background of seeing last season, so I can’t say whether this season is better or worse, but parts of the show last night reminded me of some Hammer films I’ve seen, only with better effects.

  • Amy

    First off, I learned 2 episodes ago not to eat dinner before or during this show. And after…well, let’s just say I’m losing weight.

    Secondly, thank you for complaining about all the female suffering! As if the gore wasn’t enough, seeing Kit beat the hell out of his wife? Seeing Lana go through “therapy”? That’ not entertainment folks. That’s just sad and beyond uncomfortable. I’m really missing Connie and Tessa and Frances right about now 🙁

  • Sophia Vaccaro

    Absolute agree. This was the first episode I have been able to watch all the way through, so maybe it was more apparent to me than most, but something was so off about this episode and I had trouble putting it into words.

    Honestly, it just felt way to much like every single other horror movie ever made, where the torture of women is highlighted (just look at any poster) and basically a genre expectation. Some parts even had a bit of a “rape-revenge” movie feel to them. And the reconditioning part was AWFUL. AWFUL.

    People have made me feel like a screaming feminist for saying these things about the episode, so thank you for putting it eloquently on my behalf.

    And, as a Jew, the Ann Frank part seemed a cheap shot at first, but I will admit it was a bit of a thrill to see her gun down Mengele or whatever they call him.

    Anyone else feel me?

  • Sobaika

    I really REALLY didn’t like the Anne Frank bit. I wish they’d just made her an Auschwitz survivor and left it at that. And yes, way too much gore. It was intense scene after intense scene. Connie Britton brought a bit of relatability to last season, here there’s just buckets of crazy.

  • ZnSD

    Hmm. I guess on a really gut human / political level I was glad to see a tv show depict just a snapshot of what gay people have had to endure over the last 50 years.  That aversion therapy scene could have been so much more graphic and horrifying. So yeah, TLO, y’all are wimps. If you talk to anyone who has actually gone through some of that, you’d have a different perspective methinks. But I will say, seeing Chloe like that just makes me sad and is NOT good television. Put her out of our misery, I say. 🙁

    • Are you serious? Do you honestly think we’re ignorant of the history of aversion therapy?

      • ZnSD

         lol no. I was poking fun at you about being wimps. pardon my failed attempt at humor over a horrible issue. I actually think it should have been more horrifying was all. cheers-

  • “whose appearance has ensured that we will never, EVER order pizza on AHS night again.”
    I always watch the show online during lunch the next day, and I keep having to remind myself NEVER EAT WHILE WATCHING AHS! This episode was pretty gross for all the reasons you said. I’m not into torture porn either and I hate feeling like I can’t unsee something. not a fan.

    • You watch online?  Please tell me where!  I’ve searched and searched and haven’t been able to find it anywhere.  I would be eternally thankful to you.  🙂

  • I hear you guys with all the women torture stuff beginning to be too much.  It feels almost like Ryan Murphy’s beginning to channel Lars Von Trier or something.

  • I am SUPER torn on the whole Anne Frank thing on this show. On one hand, I’m really interested where it will go, and I like the idea of showing Anne Frank as a real, fleshed-out person instead of the saintly martyr she’s normally portrayed as on film. (If you read her diary, you get a much fuller picture of her, but in movies and TV shows and stuff, they tend to take out some of the humanity.) But it’s such a fine line between thought-provoking revisionist history and just being crass and cashing in on the victim of a huge tragedy, and I don’t really trust the American Horror Story people to walk that fine line, since they tend to take everything to the tacky extreme. However, I am definitely reserving judgment until I see what they do next.

  • It is now so stupid, and just like Glee, I cannot watch it anymore.

  • Terrie_S

    Nazis, the Catholic Church and out-dated views of homosexuality. Well, I guess we can’t accuse them of failing to tap into some of the current cultural conflicts.