Dennis Cozzalio and I are going to recap American Horror Story's first season at our respective blogs. Each Monday, one of us will will start the discussion and we'll go back-and-forth on our respective blogs. I am posting my second post on "Halloween, Part 1" here, but you can also follow along with our conversation at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule. Read on for some more of my thoughts on the fourth episode of season one.
Hey, grrl, hey.
Again, I agree that in theory, Constance's actions make sense given how she has so far been defined on the show. It's in her character to show her love in that way. But that doesn't mean I need to appreciate it on said level. Constance's identity is so loaded with portentous bathos, the kind typified by the tacked-on Southern Gothic atmosphere provided by the "Stay away from my boy toy!" sub-plot in "Halloween, Part 1," and earlier in the AHS's second episode. The crude way that Constance is established as a monstrous parent are just cheap enough to be in a Charlaine Harris novel.
I admit I'm making the Harris connection so I can go back to the Alan Ball-esque quality to American Horror Story that I find so risibly obnoxious. Falchuk and Murphy have this nasty habit of tonally front-loading their material so we know exactly how we're supposed to feel all the time (hence the declamatory speechifying). If we're meant to jeer at certain characters, they pour it on thick, and if we're meant to like a character, they pout it on equally thick. And in the case of Constance, that thick-ness is a prime example of why more is not more. More specifically: I disagree that there is as much of an interior life to Constance as you imply.
Context is key when it comes to horror, as it does with any genre, but material actions of characters almost always stand in for and establish a character's identity in American Horror Story. I have yet to see Constance act as anything more than a pathetic monster, someone that sees the flaws in her character but has only spite for people that see her good qualities. This, apart from the clunky dialogue, is why I didn't really take much away from when she shouts about how being brave in the eyes of strangers (certainly strangers to us, as we've never seen them on the show!) means nothing to her.
I don't see the film's directors or writers penetrating Constance's character in these first four episodes because I don't think they don't give themselves a reason to really care until they kill off Addy. Which sounds bitterly cynical but I think Falchuk and Murphy are just that cynical, as is shown with the ridiculous "fluffer" joke. I really do believe that Constance only comes to life as a character after Addy's death because Addy brings out the character's suffocating mean-ness, her limiting sense of empathy, and her admittedly sometimes entertaining cattiness. With Addy gone, she can really grow as a character and revel in the emotions that have only heretofore been hinted at through cryptic dialogue. Which is a good part of why I like her one emotionally big scene in "Halloween, Part 2." But we'll get to that soon enough.
I guess what I'm trying to say is: as in the first one-and-a-half seasons-worth of the Ball-run True Blood that I've seen, a typical episode of American Horror Story (up until this episode or so) relies way too much on dialogue and situations that are, as you put it, "strident." You said that that "stridency reveals itself in big moments" but I feel that the show's writers are constantly revealing that stridency. They're like that one Gremlin that flashes us in both Gremlins and Gremlins 2: enough with the flashing! No mas flashing! It gets tiresome real quick. Which is another reason why I found "Halloween, Part 2" to be as relatively rewarding as I did. But again, we'll get to that. See you back here in a couple days, Dennis.