American Horror Story: Cult: “Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins: Scumbag” Season 7 Episode 7 Review

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Lena Dunham guest stars on an American Horror Story that merges fact with fiction.

Love her or hate her, you’ve got to admit that Lena Dunham is pretty captivating. The Girls creator’s guest-starring role on Cult became divisive before the season even began, but now that it’s aired, I can’t say I wasn’t entertained.

Dunham plays Valerie Solanas, a writer and radical feminist who is perhaps best known for authoring the SCUM Manifesto….oh, and for trying to kill Andy Warhol. What does Valerie have to do with Kai and his clown cult, you ask? The answer is both a lot and a little. Cult deviates from its central storyline this week to give us a “revisionist history” lesson. It’s interesting and fun and Evan Peters does a sublime Warhol. Yet, I couldn’t help but think about what this mean’s for the season’s overall narrative.

Valerie’s story is told to us by her old girlfriend Bebe Babbitt (played by the lovely Frances Conroy), who seeks out Beverly after she realizes that Kai’s recent city council win isn’t leading out to the “equal power” she was promised. A new group of goons is hanging around the house, and they look like they were lifted from a white supremacist Abercrombie. Bebe offers Beverly a way back to the top…but first she has to explain where she’s coming from.

Valerie’s plotline takes up a majority of the hour, and starts out sticking mostly to real events. Valerie works as a prostitute in New York, tries to get Andy Warhol to publish her script, and when he coolly refuses, she decides to buy a gun and shoot him. Peters plays Warhol with the perfect level of mellowness, while Dunham infuses Solanas with a vengeful rage. Her performance is almost satirical in a way, since she essentially turns herself into the man-hating, radical feminist that so many misogynistic losers on the internet seem to think she is.

The narrative starts to exhibit some creative licenses when Bebe reveals that Valerie formed her SCUM group of women (and two gay men) so that they could eradicate the male race from the face of the earth. They also come up with the guise of posing as The Zodiac Killer in order to ward away any suspicion from the police.

This is a ridiculous, but pretty hilarious, leap, and it gives Valerie more of a connection to Kai…or so it seems. Bebe’s story—told to Beverly, Ivy, and Winter—causes the desired effect. These women are pissed that Kai seems to have shunted them to the side for some boys’ club as soon as he got his first taste of power. They feel cheated and used and so they decide to take back some of the power into their own hands by killing Harrison.

Of course, this is all part of Kai’s plan. The end of the episode reveals that he and Bebe are in cahoots with each other. Bebe might not actually be who she says she is at all (more on this in my notes at the bottom), which means the whole Valerie story was just a way to get the girls riled up, and a bit of a distraction for us as viewers.

Still, it wasn’t a terrible distraction. Last week I bemoaned having to sit through Ally pleading with the police to believe her, so it was nice to have an episode without her. And the look into the past was highly engrossing. But if this means that the show is just putting off the inevitable, then I’m starting to feel a little cheated as well. I’m all for this show taking an interesting new direction, but I wish it would happen with the present-day characters it’s already established. Grade: B-

 

Some Other Notes:

  • The biggest clue that Bebe is not who she says she is actually comes from American Horror Story: Hotel, which featured the real Zodiac Killer. Which means the story of Valerie being a killer could have totally just been made up. I’m aware that this is an anthology series, but Ryan Murphy has stated several times that all of the seasons are connected, so I assume this fact would carry over into Cult. Now the question remains, who is Bebe?
  • Beverly is as good as a reporter as Winter is a babysitter. Basically, I’m very curious at how either of them got their jobs.
  • RIP Harrison. He ended up being a huge dick, but I’ll definitely miss Billy Eichner on this show.
  • It appears that this season will also see Evan Peters playing Charles Manson, which I’m excited for, but also have the same issues there as I did with this episode.

 

By Mike Papirmeister

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