Friday, February 7, 2014

Season of the Coven

It's been a while since I've done one of my patented Polish+ posts, but at last I've got a polish and topic that are plenty exciting to fill up a post - today we're talking about witches!

I picked up Crow's Toes Season of The Witch quite a while ago, and while it's a really lovely polish, I didn't have much to say about it until the most recent season of American Horror Story rolled around. I've been a fan of American Horror Story from the first episode, and while the last season tried to jam about three times as many plots as would actually fit into it, I thoroughly enjoyed the most recent season, Coven. If you haven't finished it yet, maybe jump off after the pretty nail pictures because there will be spoilers aplenty!

Before you go though, be sure to stop and take a look at this beautiful polish, Season of The Witch. Crow's Toes Nail Color are known for their wide variety of stunning duochromes and multichromes, and Season of The Witch is no exception to the excellent I expect from this brand.

Like almost all duochromes it's a little sheer, but two coats over a plain black base allows the lovely green to burgundy colour shift to really shine. Because it uses a very, very small microglitter, it's also quite easy to remove. 

The colour shift is a tiny bit shyer on the nail than in the bottle, but it's still very plainly visible.

I bought my bottle from Femme Fatale Cosmetics, but since they're actually sold out of it now if you're looking for your own bottle you'll have to trundle over to Norway Nails. I actually originally bought this because not only do I love duochrome polishes, I also love completely tragic movies, and there is an AMAZINGLY tragic movie starring Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman as  medieval witch hunters (no, seriously) that is also called Season of The Witch. I was intending to write about it, because it's so delightfully, incredibly bad; there are even monks that turn into poorly computer generated demons at the end, so if you're looking for something hilarious I recommend it.

I promise you, Season of The Witch is every bit as dumb as it looks.
However once I started watching American Horror Story: Coven, I realised it would be MUCH more interesting to write about in tandem with this polish. While I love heaping praise on z-grade trash films, I also love praising TV shows full of interesting, powerful women, and I get a chance to do one of these things much more often than the other. While American Horror Story has often had surprisingly meaty parts in it for women (particularly for older actresses), what I loved about Coven in particular was that there was just so. many. women. In the entire show, there are maybe four substantial male characters, and all of them play a secondary role to the all female starring lineup. Just the simple fact that a TV show outside of a daytime soap was giving so much room to women was enough to get my attention - all the cool gross horror stuff I always enjoy was just gravy.

The Supreme witch, played by the amazing Jessica Lange, and her coven of young charges.
While I was watching through this season, practically hanging on each episode, I was utterly thrilled by how powerful, assertive, and whip-smart all the women being portrayed were. When there is only one or two female characters in a show, it's almost impossible to not interpret these few characters as trying to be representative of all women everywhere. This is, of course, totally impossible to jam into one character, and this is part of why I always find I'm much more picky about female characters in shows where there is only one or two of them -  the flaws stand out so much more clearly. But in Coven, there are women just EVERYWHERE. There are men around the place, but in the vast majority of situations shown it's the women making the decisions, getting the best lines, and moving the plot along. They're not even all carbon copy pretty blonde women either - there's big women, small women, old women, young women. They even managed to squeeze in a few black women, an apparently incredibly difficult feat in TV Land.  (Although to be honest I really would have liked to see quite a few more black women, especially black women with actual powers) The sheer number of powerful, assertive women in the one show is something I've never seen in a TV show that I enjoyed so thoroughly before, ever.

I still can't decide if I want to be on this throne, or at Angela Basset's magnificent feet more.
Not all the women portrayed are worthy of admiration - in fact, some of them are downright awful.  Madison, for example, is powerful and assertive, but also viciously cruel and borderline sociopathic. Fiona, the supposed leader of the coven, is completely self interested and only shows a mere glimmer of interest, let alone sympathy, for her own daughter. But I don't consider this a weakness in the show. The enormous volume of female space on the show, the variety of women on display meant that I didn't interpret either of these characters as being intended to showcase all women everywhere, and it would be wildly disingenuous to try and suggest that some women aren't in fact awful. It was clear to me that Fiona and Madison were just representatives of some women, somewhere, just the same as the other witches were representative of varying levels of kindness and compassion.

This is not to say there aren't some major, major problems with this season of the show. There are dozens of plot points that are either abandoned entirely or completely contradicted later on, and the inclusion of Stevie Nicks as a real life White Witch was pandering of the highest order. I didn't mind, because I love Stevie Nicks, but to be honest, her inclusion really didn't make a lick of sense. The writers seemed to lose interest in the whole race aspect of the show, and in fact the entire black section of the cast for a while, and as much as I love Angela Basset's performance as the Voodoo Queen, the depiction of Louisiana Voodoo isn't exactly what you'd call accurate. The perception that men are all awful is hammered home pretty hamfistedly at times - all the male characters have at least one major failing or flaw, and the vast majority are just out and out evil, which isn't entirely helpful in a show trying to portray feminism in a positive light. There is an attempted gang rape scene very early on in the show, and some pretty unpleasant sexual assault scenes later on, none of which are really what you'd call essential to the story. If you really feel like picking apart all it's failings, Buzzfeed has a pretty comprehensive roundup of all the problems. But the thing is, none of these issues even occurred to me until after the show was over, and I was discussing the finale with (much more perceptive) friends. During the last episode, Mr. Reluctant Femme jokingly mentioned a baby that had appeared several episodes earlier and never seen again, asking what had happened to it. This SHOULD have been a real what-the-hell moment for me, because losing a whole baby in the course of a story is pretty damn shonky. But it take away from how utterly delighted I was by the final sequence, where female characters who had previously not known how to take control of their lives step up, take charge, and start taking names.

I can't say American Horror Story: Coven was flawless: Angela Bassett and Jessica Lange's performances certainly were, but the show as a whole was pretty damn flawed. But as I've talked about before, women have so little visibility in the media that my excitement at seeing SO MANY WOMEN at the same time totally overrode my common sense. I wish I didn't have such low standards for television, or the media in general. I had a horrifying moment talking about this show with a friend where she rightly critcised the amount of rape portrayed, and I found myself thinking, "But there are girls in it, of course there's going to be rape." That is FUCKED UP. I wish it was better, I really do. I wish there were so many shows with a majority female cast that I didn't pee myself with excitement whenever I see two women on screen and they're not fighting over a guy. I wish I didn't assume that if there is a female character in a movie or a TV show, that someone is going to at least attempt to rape them at some stage. I wish that I needed two hands to count the number of shows on TV that have more than three women in the main cast.

I also wish I had a nice neat soundbite conclusion to this whole train of thought. I don't think people should stop talking about the crappier aspects of Coven just because of all the women in it - that kind of thing is ridiculous, and doesn't help anyone in the long run. But if it gets too much criticism, TV execs will take that as an excuse not to make any more shows with so many women in them, because when you're looking for a reason not to change the status quo, correlation ALWAYS equal causation.

In lieu of a conclusion, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this - should we support the show despite the crappier aspects, or demand better female centric entertainment? Can we do both? What do you think?


  1. You may remember me from being your name twin on Already Pretty. LOOK, it's WEIRDER THAN WE THOUGHT!

    I think we can do both. I loved watching this season of AHS and still felt completely let down by the end -- not who was Supreme (that was actually where my money was after Nan was rendered ineligible) but by the shoddy wrap-up of plotlines and etc. That said? I SO MUCH loved seeing so many women on TV, and I will watch as many seasons of that as they throw at me -- at least until there's something better.

    1. LOL! We truly ARE twins! I should go looking for any long lost relatives in your corner of the world.

      On the one hand, it frustrates me that the best woman-centric show around has so many issues - the plot holes just stack up and up and up, and while I didn't notice at the time, once people laid them out for me there was a HUGE pile.
      But on the other hand, this IS the best we've got right now, and damn if I didn't get a little teary when Cordelia and Co. open the doors and take charge.

    2. I'm with you -- I loved every episode as I was watching it, more or less, but found the problems disheartening in the longer story, and the resolutions for Misty, Laveau and Mme. LaLaurie particularly irksome. Amusingly, I was also saddened that they didn't do anything with the email address or phone number from Cordelia's interview -- that would have been a neat Easter egg!


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