Thoughts on “Scream Queens”

So while I was cleaning things out while making plans for what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it, I found that I had a number of small little DVDs that I wanted to watch at some point, and decided that I’d start off the new schedule by watching them. There are a number of reasons for this. First, since I was starting “fresh”, as it were, there really wasn’t a better time to fit them in. Second, I’d be able to get them done quickly and hopefully wouldn’t be stuck on them by the Scotties when I hope to be off again. Third, then they’d be done and I could put them away and forget about them if desired. And third, it would start off my new schedule on a high note by getting lots of things completed early in it.

So, I started with the first season of “Scream Queens”. I found the first season — thirteen episodes — cheap in Best Buy because the premise sounded interesting. Or, rather, the genre sounded interesting: a mix of slasher horror and sorority comedy. And after watching the series, that is definitely what they tried for and it works out pretty well. The entire series, for the most part, takes a lot of refuge in audacity and the bizarre. Things are, in general, just plain weird. But it’s like that from the get-go and so you quickly settle into the series and just go with it.

I’m going to talk about the series including the mystery and ending, so if you don’t want to be spoiled don’t continue past this point:

It’s actually difficult to say who the protagonist of the series is. The series starts by presenting that as Grace, a young woman off to university who wants to join a sorority because her mother joined it and then died young (which, I just realized, is very similar to the plot of the “The Row”). Her father is introduced as being protective and concerned about her and tries to discourage her from trying to join, and she probably wouldn’t have been accepted except the Dean, in an attempt to get the sorority shut down, forces them to accept anyone who pledges. When the killings happen, she takes the lead in investigating it along with a student journalist who hates the sorority and thinks they’re doing something shady (again, this is really like “The Row”) which theoretically puts her in danger. And so she’s the obvious protagonist except … she becomes less important as matters come to a head. Her friend becomes co-president, not her. By the end, the mystery loses focus and is mostly used as a means for people to accuse each other of things. She really becomes more of a secondary character rather than the lead, as what she does doesn’t have much of an impact on anything.

This isn’t really a problem, though, because the protagonist or at least viewpoint character seems to work out to be the person who got lots of voiceovers and flashbacks: Chanel, the vain and sociopathic president of the sorority. Much of the series had already focused on her and her slightly less sociopathic minions — named “Chanel” followed by a number including, yes, the number 5 — as they seemed to be the main targets, but by the end and especially in the ending it becomes clear that this is more her story than anyone else’s. And what the series does well is make them so unlikable that you can hate them along with most of the characters, but also gives them at least somethings that make them a bit sympathetic. Chanel reminds me a lot of Tre from “Happy Death Day”, someone acting sociopathic but who might not actually be that way deep down. Chanel comes across as someone who plays the alpha bitch role to the hilt but mostly because she wants to be popular and sees that as her way to get to be popular. In a flashback, we see that just a few short months before the start of the series she was a more pathetic sycophant to the old president than any of the Chanels. That’s a short time to go from doormat to alpha bitch if her personality itself had actually changed. It’s also behind her constantly breaking up with and forgiving the decidedly unfaithful Chad, as he often threatens her with losing her popularity which causes her to cave. The series doesn’t really develop this, even at the end, but it’s present and can make us more sympathetic to her.

Chanel #3 is in general more apathetic than sociopathic, and is given a number of hidden secrets and flaws — including a latent bisexuality — that make her more sympathetic. The series also gives her an explicit scene with her parents at Thanksgiving that shows that she isn’t treated very well by them (one of her secrets is that she’s a member of the Swanson family, of the TV dinners, which is what they have for Thanksgiving dinner) up to the point of being blamed for a duel — yes, a formal one — that her brother initiated, which makes us more sympathetic to her as well.

Chanel #5 is also sympathetic, but in a way that marks one of the issues with the series. She is dumped on by pretty much everyone. She’s considered so unattractive that no one will even swipe her on Tinder, despite being played by Abigail Breslin and maybe being a bit heavier than the others but still attractive. I noticed that she might have been heavier at the end of the series — which is when the worst comments are made — but still she wasn’t that bad looking. But the worst is that everyone seems to hate her personality when she’s at least slightly nicer than the rest of them. It gets so bad that at the end the killer goes to her parents to get them to claim — falsely — that she’s adopted and disown her and her parents say that they were already planning on doing that so they’d go along with it. This is so extreme a reaction to her that it’s mind-boggling. Overall, she’s so picked on without any real merit that it seems like the show is trying for that, but the criticisms are just credible enough to make that explanation a bit implausible. If they wanted to subvert that and show her as someone being criticized for things that were clearly not valid, then they should have made that more clear by, say, having her being clearly incredibly attractive — the most attractive of the group — and clearly the nicest and most personable of the group, because in a show like this trying to be subtle will clash with how over-the-top everything else is. Otherwise, they should have made the criticisms more believable. It doesn’t really hurt the show overall, but it is something noticeable.

Another note on one of the characters is that Chad has no redeeming qualities. He’s often funny, but not at all sympathetic. Fortunately, he becomes less prominent as the series heads towards its conclusion, and since he’s Chanel’s boyfriend his prominent presence early only further supports the idea of Chanel as protagonist.

The ending also supports this. The killer turns out to be Hester, who worms her way into Chanel’s group as Chanel #6, and then frames the three of them as the killers — through insane and contradictory logic, but in a show like this it working actually makes sense — eventually getting them assigned to an insane asylum for life. Which they all love, for various reasons. Chanel turns it into another sorority, Chanel #3 gets a girlfriend, and Chanel #5 gets some drugs that according to Chanel actually make her an interesting person (see what I mean about it being overdone?). So they get a happy ending, except for the surprise appearance of someone in the killer’s outfit right at the end.

I have some problems with the ending. First, the most annoying Chanel with no real redeeming qualities wins in the end over ones that we probably would like better. Second, the purported motive for the killings is revenge against the sorority because a sorority sister had twins in the bathtub at a party and her sisters let her die while they were dancing to “their song”, “Waterfalls”, but those three had nothing to do with that. At least framing Grace could have fit since her father fathered both the twins from the woman who died and Grace from the woman who left her to die, but there was no connection there. Third, they were going to be judged “Not Guilty” until Chanel goes off on a rant about how the members of the jury were not her peers which gets the forewoman to change the verdict on her own, which gets the judge to sentence them to the asylum. It would have worked better for her to have gone off not on how terrible the jury members were but on how great she was during her summation and then have the jury, at that point, all without even leaving the room judge her insane with a succinct line of “Because these are the three most crazy-ass bitches we’ve ever seen!” instead of having the judge rant at them after they were judged guilty. This also could have had them drop the “for life” line and use instead “Until you learn to function in society!” which then — since the show had already established that you could stay in the asylum even if you were deemed cured — could have them staying willingly because life without all the pressure was so much better for them, which would have driven that point home even stronger. Still, the ending works for the sort of show this was.

I also love the soundtrack, which seems to be mostly 80s and 90s songs that I remember and liked.

The show also takes some political and social potshots from a progressive viewpoint, but for the most part they are funny and do take on things like “cancel culture”. Most of its satire consists of putting specific viewpoints in the mouths of totally self-centered and terrible people, so it’s more of a backhanded satire. But the show doesn’t focus on that very much so even those who would be offended by the slurs on their ideas can easily ignore them as they fade into the background behind the rest of the humour and sometimes horror.

The show is pretty good. I think that this is one of the shows where the first season would be used to learn what worked and what doesn’t because at times the show is too serious and at times the humour is inappropriate given what they’re talking about. The show also seems very much like a movie at times, but I do feel that it works best as series, although it is faced with the issue that the premise isn’t one that can really work for season after season after season. Killing them all again and again would work for a movie franchise, at least for a while, but multiple seasons would have it get old very quickly. The best best would be to do something like “American Horror Story” and maintain the style and cast but tell different stories. There is a second season, which takes some of the original cast and reboots it into a hospital, but I can’t find that one on DVD and as far as I know it was never released on DVD after the series was cancelled. It was just announced that there will be a third season in fall 2020, but I have no idea where that one will be available yet or what they will do.

I definitely could watch this season again, and I might look into the new season if I can get it.

7 Responses to “Thoughts on “Scream Queens””

  1. Thoughts on “John Woo’s Once a Thief” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] serious parts it works really well for that. The second is that I think that I want to binge it like “Scream Queens” to really immerse myself in the weirdness in a way that watching two episodes a night for four days […]

  2. Shallow Thoughts on “Paradise Hills” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] originally because it starred Emma Roberts and so might be a horrorish type movie in the vein of “Scream Queens”, and it was cheap to boot. It’s not really like that. And it’s not even clear that it […]

  3. New Year Accomplishments Update | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] new schedule. I’ve watched a number of the shows that I’ve always meant to watch, like “Scream Queens”, “John Woo’s Once a Thief”, and “Alien Nation”. At the same time, I […]

  4. Thoughts on “Rat Patrol” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] find it fun enough to schedule in for a week when I could watch things like “Crusade”, “Scream Queens”, and “Space:  Above and Beyond” instead.  I could stick it into a collection of short […]

  5. Thoughts on “American Horror Story: Coven” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] could have had a better redemption arc.  Emma Roberts plays the Hollywood starlet, whom I liked in “Scream Queens”.  She’s the character that was raped at the frat party, and while she’s a spoiled […]

  6. Thoughts on “The Bionic Woman” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] to dive back into watching things from my stack of shows that I hadn’t watched.  Like when I watched “Scream Queens”, I found that I had a short series to watch and wanted to start with it to be able to get through […]

  7. Thoughts on “Scream 4” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] but she puts in a wonderful performance as the purported victim who might not be one at all and is another name that I recognized and also have made a bit of a mistake of buying something because she was in […]

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