Seriously. If you haven’t watched Scream Queens yet, don’t bother.
It’s the worst sort of unfunny, “ironically” racist, tacky crap that I’ve seen in ages, and I’m so disappointed by basically everything about it. I didn’t expect this to be a good show (I mean, Ryan Murphy is also responsible for perennial turdpiles Glee and American Horror Story), but I did expect it to be entertaining and fun (in the vein of Glee and AHS). Mostly, it’s just cringe-inducing.
The thing about horror comedy is that it has to be funny in order to work, and the biggest problem with Scream Queens is that it’s just not, so it doesn’t. While there are a couple of amusing scenes in the first two episodes–most notably security guard Denise (Niecy Nash) explaining how to notify her in case of an emergency and, surprisingly, Chanel #2’s (Ariana Grande) death–it’s mostly just a constant stream of hatefulness or stupidity (and hateful stupidity) from all of the characters except for good girl Grace (Skyler Samuels), who is just boring.
Sorority leader Chanel (Emma Roberts) is a caricature of a rich bitch sorority girl, but she’s just so over-the-top vile that it’s hard to stomach. A conversation between Chanel and Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) suggests a sort of self-awareness about this, and Dean Munsch’s assertion that “out in the real world, people just don’t talk that way to other people. It’s not normal,” seems to be a wink to the audience to show that writer Ryan Murphy knows how awful his characters are. However, the Chanel/Munsch conversation doesn’t herald any character development for Chanel, and we later find out that Munsch is just as awful in her own way.
I was ready to turn the show off the first time I heard the phrase “white mammy,” but I didn’t. It turns out that it only gets more racist from there. Chanel’s blatant and incredibly hateful and mean-spirited racism seems intended to be amusing, but it’s not. It’s just a drag. Even worse is the stereotyping of Zayday (Keke Palmer), the show’s token black girl. The biggest disservice done to Zayday, though, is that she’s sidelined from the majority of the action, only appearing to show how nice and not-racist Grace is and popping up occasionally later on to exclaim colorful lines like “Y’all’s ratchet!” Zayday is, so far, less a character than a prop or a background decoration in a story that’s really about the white girls.
While I suppose good for Ryan Murphy for casting a deaf actress (Whitney Meyer) to play “Deaf Taylor Swift,” I feel like the progressiveness of that decision is undone by the choice to use the character’s deafness as the punchline of her jokey death.
The show also shortchanges Sam (Jeanna Han), a character who is still alive (for now) but just doesn’t make sense. The “Predatory Lez” moniker is as aggressively and offensively unfunny as any of the other nicknames on the show, and I just will never understand why the trope of the obviously hostile radical feminist lesbian sorority pledge even exists. I also don’t understand why Ryan Murphy would utilize that trope for comedy only to play it entirely straight. Apparently the joke here is that this character exists. Also, that feminism is hilarious.
Speaking of making fun of feminism, Jamie Lee Curtis deserves so much better than Dean Munsch. I feel like as second wave feminists get older, this type of character–the dreary, failed feminist with nothing to show for herself in middle age except a divorce and a job she despises–gets more popular. I hate it so much, and it just seems to reinforce that Ryan Murphy can’t stand women or feminism. Even the “best case scenario” feminism depicted on the show–Grace’s dream of a sorority as a real sisterhood where she can connect with her mother’s memory–is shown as silly, childish, and naive.
I have no desire at all to keep watching a show where the biggest “joke” seems to be about how stupid feminism is and how awful women are.