Honestly, I am far from up to date on pop culture and the latest TV series, but I just finished watching Scream Queens and am shocked that no one is talking about it or, at least, very few people. This series warrants much more attention that it has thus far received and I truly believe that it is the most feminist, socially critical, and funny series of 2015. By this time you have probably correctly assumed that I am a big Ryan Murphy fan (loved Glee!), but I never really saw this coming from him and on a channel like Fox (in many instances the series is explicitly liberal). The series somehow manages to combine bitchy and witty in a new and exciting way while at the same time poking fun at social cliches and commenting on real social issues, such as contemporary female stereotypes and college life. As a millennial, I have to confess that much of what is portrayed in the show is not far from the truth (dating, Tinder, and girl-on-girl hate), especially what so many people have critiqued. First off, pretty girls DO curse, a lot! The prettier they are, the dirtier their mouths tend to be and the crazier their antics. Women ARE extremely competitive and we ARE each others’ worst enemies. What my high school girlfriends said to me about my weight and my looks hurt more than what any guy has ever said, which, by the way, very few guys would go so far as to insult girls to their faces the way that these girls do to each other. The humour in the show and the perfectly timed and well-concealed comments on political and social issues (gay rights, catcalling, campus suicides, police ineptitude, etc.) saves it from being just some other crude remark on how my generation sucks. If anything, I felt, watching the show, that it redeemed eighteen to twenty-something-year-olds all across America. Because, yes, we have too much sex with both random guys and each others’ friends and or boy/girlfriends (half the time I believe that if one person in my social circle had a STD we would all have it within a month), we make rampant use of social media to air each and every one of our grievances and our thoughts on things that no one cares about, we are starved for attention and obsessed with our looks, and we all crave to be rich and famous (even the hipsters), BUT we are also smart, determined, strong, and aware of the things going on in the world around us. Somehow we manage to balance school, family, love, and friends without losing our minds. Or, maybe like the show states, we are all freaking insane but we can’t tell because we’re surrounded by equally insane people. The fact that the girls are still thinking about their social reputations, their looks, and their boyfriends in the midst of a serial killer’s murder spree is a clear critique to our self-centered contemporary culture. On a daily basis we hear or witness mass starvation, murder, and brutal wars across the globe and we still go on dieting, shopping, and partying with maybe a day a month dedicated to some charitable cause, which is always some huge social event where we make sure everyone knows we attended.
I have heard many times that the show represses women and maintains the stereotype that we are overly emotional and unstable, but I have to disagree. Yes, the girls are running around screaming and making irrational decisions constantly, but this does not make them weak or dumb. Most of us would run and scream if we saw a friend’s dead body and a murderer chasing after us and most of us would jump to insane conclusions trying to figure out who the killer was but the fact that they even stayed to figure out really says a lot. I feel the show is extremely feminist in nature (just listen to their dialogue and their speeches on women’s rights and social expectations)
Excerpt: “I recently took a women’s studies class, yes, because it was a requirement, but I learned a lot anyways. Like the culture that says its ok for a man to objectify a woman for her appearance is the same culture that pressures girls as young as ten to have eating disorders.” – Chanel Oberlin
These words out the mouth of a female character that appears to be too stupid and shallow to have ever read a book or be even slightly aware of the consequences of the insane diets she subjects herself and her friends to (cotton balls?!) Besides, despite witnessing multiple murders, the female characters remain strong, smart (mostly), and determined. They do not allow anyone to bully them into abandoning each other or their house and they face off with authority figures and male characters with confidence and a good dose of bad-ass bitchiness. Even the characters who are meant to be dumb demonstrate moments of profound depth and intelligence when they comment on the way women treat each other or society (hidden behind stupid actions and irrational logic, but that is kind of the whole point of the show and gives it humour). The Chanels represent, in every way, the epitome of what contemporary society demands of young women: to be skinny, beautiful, dumb, overly confident, narcissistic, trendy, and willing to do anything to be with the guy they want. The lengths to which Chanel Oberlin would go to keep her boyfriend, Chad, who was himself the epitome of young millennial men (misogynistic, rude, narcissistic, and selfish), are really what most women contemplate doing or actually do to keep the men they believe they love. And Hester is, at the end of the day, the product of a system which teaches young women to care only for themselves and to climb over each other to be the prettiest and most desirable object of male attention. Each and every one of the female characters in this show is redeemable by the simple fact that they are behaving the way that society has taught them to behave and that they are not at all as stupid as they feign to be (it’s almost like they pretend to be stupid so they are more attractive…hmmm). They are the perfect product of contemporary American culture, everything America has to be proud of: rich, pretty, and competitive.
College is hard. If a college student nowadays wants even the slimmest chance of being someone someday they are expected to have a perfect academic record, an active social life with membership in multiple student organizations, and to be physically healthy and attractive. Scream Queens represents these facets of college life quite well and the fact that many students end up dropping out or not really going far in life because of the mistakes they make in college. When we go off to college we get little to no guidance on what we should do or how we should behave, but by the time we get out society expects us to have achieved amazing feats of academic performance and social commitment. There is no guidebook to surviving college and this show does well in showing the pressures that students are under because, honestly, my four years in college probably felt a lot like I was constantly being chased by a serial killer; anxiety, depression, panic, fear, and a desperate need to bond with others and not feel alone. All of this in a world driven by the need to obtain the latest expensive gadget or fashion trend.
Finally, the shows’ cast is mainly composed of amazing actresses, which makes the acting on this show beyond stellar. Jamie Lee Curtis is always amazing and her role as a sort of mentor to the deranged sorority sisters, while herself portraying the same level of narcissism and female competitiveness, is wonderful. I have to give props to Emma Roberts, who appears to be a very intelligent and caring young woman, for perfectly portraying a selfish and idiotic Chanel Oberlin. Abigail Breslin is amazing as Chanel #5 and Billie Catherine Lourd is a very funny and strangely identifiable Chanel #3. Of course, I adore Lea Michele since Glee and her embodiment of Hester was just outstanding, but I feel that the former three are really the stand-out stars of the show. I would definitely recommend every woman watch this series immediately. It is, if nothing else, highly entertaining. Before judging, sit through a couple episodes and you will see that the writers and actresses successfully pull of a biting criticism of contemporary social standards on how a woman should look, feel, think, and act and a dire warning of what happens when women actually do as they are expected to. Well, we go a little crazy and we start killing people. In all honesty, this isn’t where our world is heading, this is how we live now.