Scream Queens (2015, Fox)
With the end of the Glee era for Ryan Murphy and Fox last year, a new and valuable time slot was left open. Murphy, who has gained monstrous success as the creator of both Glee and American Horror Story, has now created a hybrid between his two mega-hits in this latest endeavor: Scream Queens.
The series follows a sequence of murders that surround the sorority house Kappa Kappa Tau at Wallace Community. This sorority has an established past as the elite Greek house on the campus, accepting only the most impressive and beautiful women into their sisterhood. In 1995, a party was thrown at the house to celebrate the school year. During the festivities, a sister disappeared upstairs and was found in the bathtub with a baby – which she thought “was just the freshman fifteen! I thought I was having a bread baby!” Once the other sisters heard that TLC’s hit “Waterfall” was playing in another room, they excused themselves to dance. Following the song, they returned to find the sister, still with the baby, dead in the tub – still unsure of who the father was.
The show then cuts to 2015, leaving no answer to the question of what became of the baby. One thing is clear — the new Kappa house is just as brutal and dumb as the house of the 90s.
The new Kappa president is Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts, American Horror Story), who is beautiful, fabulously wealthy, and manipulative. She has selected a legion of followers whom she can’t be bothered to remember the names of, so instead she referrers to them as Chanel numbers 2, 3, and 5. As she says, “There was a Chanel number 4 but she got meningitis. She was like ‘I’m sick! I have to go home’ and I was like ‘no. stay.’ but she went home anyway and then she died.”
The main plot of the story is that KKT has become too elite and vicious, so the President of the University (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween) has made a new amendment to the bylaws of Kappa house stating that any pledge must be accepted into the sisterhood. This turns away a lot of elitist girls and leaves the new pledge class to a few misfits ranging from Hester, aka “neck brace girl” (Lea Michele, Glee), to a candle vlogger.
A sharp, self-centered wit is portrayed throughout the series by acknowledging and making light of the tropes that have been seen in sorority horror films mocking the millennial generation and obsession with technology. A prime example of this is in the very first death scene in the series. The killer, the Red Devil, comes to murder his victim and instead of attacking her right away he texts her, and she texts back. Eventually the iMessage conversation escalates to the Red Devil sending a knife emoji and then pulling a real knife on the victim. From this she eagerly texts him “please stop!” The scene culminates in her tweeting that she’s being killed and for someone to send help only to actually post the tweet in her last breath, symbolizing that the idea of “instant” in social media still isn’t fast enough.
Scream Queens also makes jabs at modern pop culture, which is why, I’d argue, it has made itself a staple in 2015’s television line up. The show is also just smart and funny – a rare combination in the world of regurgitated shows that oddly mirror Friends or The Office. A prime example of this is that one pledge is “lovingly” referred to as “deaf Taylor Swift,” being that the girl looks vaguely similar to the pop star and has a deep rooted obsession with her music – even though she can’t hear it. The Taylor Swift jabs continue and are blatantly mocked in the opening of episode 4, “Haunted House.”
At the end of 2014, Taylor Swift selected fans that she has come to know from concerts or twitter and sent them presents for the holidays. She wrote them personalized letters and picked out presents that made her think of them. She sent the boxes away and weeks later, the Tumblr world was flooded with videos praising Taylor for the generosity and they dubbed this holiday “Swiftmas.”
In Scream Queens, Chanel sends presents to “humpty-dumpty losers in trailer parks,” but instead of knitted sweaters or blankets like Swift sent, Chanel sends severed legs, razor apples, and rotten pumpkins. Stylistically, Murphy even had the opening of the show mirror Swift’s video (as seen below).
I could continue on and on about why this show is so absolutely brilliant. I could mention the phenomenal ensemble cast from Jamie Lee Curtis and Lea Michele to Nick Jonas and Niecy Nash, or talk about the way the cinematography only allows for the show to be taken to new levels. But I won’t elongate this post any more than I need to. Scream Queens has really stabbed my heart this season and left me craving more.
Scream Queens airs Tuesday nights at 8pm on Fox, and all previously aired episodes are available to stream for free at Fox.com
— Michael Cotter, Poetry Editor