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YMMV / American Horror Story: Cult

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  • Acceptable Political Targets: Social Justice Warrior liberals, Alt-Right reactionaries, and people who voted for third party candidates.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: In the final episode did Kai believe that he would get away, or was he attempting a Taking You with Me?
  • Angst? What Angst?: Despite having a closer relationship with her in the beginning, Oz doesn't seem that torn up about Ivy's death from what we've seen of him, and seems to like and get along pretty well with Ally's new girlfriend Erika.
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  • Author's Saving Throw: When Ryan Murphy revealed that season 7 would involve the 2016 election, he received a massive negative reaction from fans, many of whom wanted to watch TV to get away from the politics that had absorbed nearly every other piece of media the past couple of years. This led to Ryan going on multiple interviews explaining that the plot won't be about the election entirely, and saying that the original interview was him joking. Both he and actors of the show went on to explain that the season wasn't about what people assumed it would be. It was later revealed that the season premiere would take place on election night, and that Donald Trump himself would not have a huge impact on the story's overall narrative.
  • Base-Breaking Character: Lena Dunham's portrayal of Valerie Solanas, at least partially because of how controversial the actress is in real life. A significant number of viewers hated her, whether it simply be because she was portrayed by Lena Dunham or because they genuinely disliked the performance and writing. However, another chunk of fans felt Lena did a decent job and was amusing enough in the role. There are also those who hate Dunham, but tolerate her role here because she's portraying a particularly psychopathic Straw Feminist. Almost everyone agrees that far too much time was spent on her character that could've gone towards the main plot.
  • Broken Base:
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    • The decision to bring the 2016 Presidential Election into the mix — especially so soon after it happened — naturally caused a lot of division in the fandom on both sides of the political spectrum.
    • The abandonment of any supernatural elements for the entire season.
  • Catharsis Factor: After an entire season of getting away with everything, it's immensely satisfying to see Kai get knocked down several pegs in the finale, a process which includes having the FBI break into his cult before he could lead his followers to kill a hundred pregnant women, learning that Ally is running to take the senate seat that he coveted so much, humiliating him with the knowledge that Oz isn't his son, having his nihilistic and misogynist perspective exposed for what it is and refuted on live television, being outsmarted by Ally's mole into using an unloaded gun on her, and being killed by Beverly (who suffered almost as much as Ally), an action which ensures that Ally is elected senator.
    • On another note, there's also Ally getting back at Ivy for all the torment she'd put her through. It's just as satisfying for her In-Universe as it is for the viewers.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Harrison and Meadow Wilton, Ally and Ivy's deranged neighbors. Both for being incredibly creepy and crazed while simultaneously being two of the most hilarious characters on the entire show.
    • Winter is proving to be one as well, for her hilarious-yet-unsettling Soapbox Sadie personality. The fact that Billie Lourd was a fan favorite on her other Ryan Murphy show likely helps out.
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    • Mr. Guinea Pig is also fairly well liked.
    • Of the "guest" characters that Evan Peters portrays, his take on Andy Warhol was the most praised.
  • Epileptic Trees: There have been a bunch of theories about who is the cult leader; this include:
  • Fan Disservice: Evan Peters' natural good looks can be cancelled out by Kai's cult personality status, psychotic tendencies and stringy blue hair to most. Or at the very most it may give people conflicting feelings.
  • Foe Yay: Kai has this with literally everyone. Kai and Ally especially - they ooze this in "Drink the Kool-Aid," where he does things like rubbing up against her from behind and sniffing her neck, which seems rather creepy but she doesn't seem to mind. Interestingly enough, the Foe Yay seems to be mutual here despite the rape-y undertones on Kai's part (he also acts that way with literally everyone).
    • Winter and Ally had more sexual chemistry (and arguably a more interesting dynamic) than either Official Couple Ally/Ivy or Ivy/Winter.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment: When Kai starts to hallucinate Charles Manson in the final episodes of the season, Manson specifically denies being a Spirit Advisor, since he's still alive in prison. The real Manson died five days after the season finale aired.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • The sixth episode opens with a mass shooting... Something that hit harder considering this happened immediately after the Las Vegas massacre, the deadliest in American history. The showrunners released a statement that when the episode was shown on television, it would be edited down for this very reason, with the uncut episode being available on on-demand.
    • Oddly enough, the seventh episode has this too. In the episode, the female cult members are shunted out by Kai's "patriarchy" and, in flashbacks, Valerie Solanas loses her mind due to being subjected to sexual abuse and a lifetime of gender discrimination. In the week between this episode and the last, the sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein exploded and the Me Too hashtag started trending.
      • There's also the matter of Valerie's actress, Lena Dunham, having been accused of molesting her sister after describing in great detail in her autobiography how she would initiate and continuously seek inappropriate contact with her, with psychological abuse also part of the equation. This is made especially uncomfortable by Dunham's character claiming that sexual abusers are only men.
    • In the first episode where Kai Anderson hallucinates Charles Manson, Manson says that he's not a Spirit Advisor because he's still alive, and is still persisting eleven months later. A few days after the finale aired, the real-life Manson was put on his deathbed with an unknown illness, dying ten days after the character insisted he was still alive. Perhaps less "harsh" in the sense that Manson was a monstrous human being whose death was met with widespread celebration, but still.
  • He Really Can Act: Billie Lourd's previous role of Chanel #3 as well as her role here as Winter both primarily call for her to be non expressive and largely emotionless, but her acting in Winter's final episode as she cries in pure terror and agony as she is suspected by Kai of being The Mole and eventually murdered by Kai showed off that Billie is talented as an actress.
  • Heartwarming Moments: Oz apologizing to Ally for saying "I wish I could say my goodbyes to you" after she made him get rid of his new guinea pig. And for bonus heartwarming, despite being against it, Ally was going to let Oz keep him after all.
    • It was pretty sweet seeing Winter stand up for Ivy after Gary sexually assaulted her, especially when no one else did despite clearly witnessing it.
    • Harrison's a bit of a jerk, but he actually tried to help Ivy get out of danger during the infamous shooting scene.
    • After having a somewhat strained relationship with Ally for the whole season, in "Drink The Kool-Aid" Oz sweetly tells Ally that he missed her.
    • Senator Herbert Jackson trying to defend and shield Ally from Kai in the finale: he knows Kai is clearly unstable, but it doesn't stop him from trying to protect her, even if she's the one he's running against for Senator.
    • In a very odd and tonally dissonant way, Gary's death in the tenth episode. When he worries that he's done something wrong, Kai comforts him in a manner gentler than he's been through the entire season, allowing Gary to die with some semblance of happiness and peace. Considering all the other deaths, wherein people often die confused and terrified, it's strangely touching.
  • Jerkass Woobie: "Jerk" is putting it monumentally lightly, but Winter is a surprisingly tragic character, when one really considers her story. Her father was an abusive alcoholic, her older brothers are varying levels of sociopathic (see Fridge Horror for more about Winter's relationship with Kai), both of whom opt to hide her parents' death from her, with Kai revealing the truth to her by taking her to their already decomposed corpses, was traumatized by witnessing a sadistic serial killer's torture of several people (almost becoming a victim herself) and it's mentioned that she's self-harmed. In the present, her brother Kai is becoming increasingly psychotic and abusive, humiliating her and the other women with his misogynistic behavior, the woman she loved is missing and presumed dead (and she believes her brother murdered her in an especially brutal manner), she is framed to look like The Mole, and is slowly choked to death by her hysterical brother.
    • The show's depiction of Valerie Solanas. Yes, she's an unrepentant murderer with an especially deep hatred for men (even the gay men who were raped and victimized by other men like she was), but the way her life just kept getting worse over time and her increasingly unhinged state driving everyone she had been close to away (including her once loyal girlfriend) still stirs some feeling for her.
  • Magnificent Bitch: Ally Mayfair-Richards was initially The Paranoiac, but would become much more fearless and conniving. After being released from a psychiatric ward, she would soon seek vengeance on Kai Anderson and his cult for tormenting her. She integrated herself into the cult where she manipulated Kai into killing his siblings and his most loyal followers on the pretense that they were turning against him; Ally also kills her own wife for joining Kai's cult, partaking in her torment and taking her son away from her. She would then have the FBI raid Kai's hideout completely dismantling his cult and arresting Kai. Decided to steal Kai's plan to run for a seat in the Senate, Ally would then arrange Kai's escape from prison, only to have him publicly humiliated on live-television before having him killed. Winning a seat in the Senate and later starting her own cult, Ally Mayfair-Richard undoubtedly proves that there is something more dangerous in this world than a humiliated man: a nasty woman.
  • Memetic Mutation: A joke on Tumblr at the time about "Right in front of my salad?"Explanation  ended up tying into a scene in Cult where Ally walks in on two clowns having sex in the produce aisle.
    • When episode 7 aired, there were various jokes made about politician Ted Cruz seeking revenge against the SCUM organization when former member Bebe Babbitt revealed that they were responsible for the Zodiac killings and taking 'credit' for his work.
    • "Lesbians! We're under attack!"
    • "I put arsenic in the wine. And the pasta." Variants include "I put X in the wine. And the pasta," and "I put arsenic in the X. And the Y." Examples can be found here.
  • Mind Game Ship: Ally/Kai. Yes, there is fic for it. The fact that they have some serious Foe Yay in later episodes helps, and the relationship is placed firmly in this territory by him manipulating her in the first half of the season and her turning the tables on him and doing the exact same in the second half.
  • Narm:
    • The Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton masks in the opening can be this for some viewers. The bloodied American flag would've been fine enough without them.
    • Kai humping the television screen as soon as it's revealed Trump won the election (though this is likely intentional).
      • Immediately afterwards, Kai covers his face in Cheeto dust (a reference to a common insult about Trump's spray-tanned skin tone) and mocks his sister.
    • Ally's panic about Donald Trump can come off as this, especially if one doesn't agree with her politically. Suffice to say, the fate of Merrick Garland is not something that sends most people on either side of the political spectrum to hysterical sobbing.
      • The use of strawmen in general comes off like this. While it's a theme of the series that Kai's cult is little different from ones before him, and the show focuses on the cult's members over outsiders, it gets laughable that a) seemingly everyone's in the cult, b) Kai's open about his politics but recruits people radically opposed to them anyway, and c) not a single major character in the show is both post-pubescent and not a criminal lunatic of some stripe.
    • Gary cutting his own arm off in order to reach a poll so he could cast a vote for Donald Trump, dripping a trail of blood throughout the polling station.
  • Nightmare Retardant: The theme tune with trumpets and drums might make the opening less scary for some; it's reminiscent of political dramas like The West Wing, Designated Survivor, or House of Cards (US).
  • No Yay: Kai and Winter with their Incest Subtext. Not helped by the abusive undertones.
    • Kai and everyone he interacts with, really.
      • Kai has almost as much No Yay with Ally as he does with Winter, although the former definitely falls under Foe Yay as well. His behavior towards Ally in "Drink the Kool-Aid" was rather aggressive, such as when he rubs up against her from behind and sniffs her neck.
    • Ally and Ivy, all things considered.
    • Winter's interactions with Oz early in the season are disturbingly reminiscent of a sexual predator grooming a child.
    • Pastor Charles gave off a lot of rape-y vibes in "Winter of Our Discontent," particularly when he pins Winter against a wall and talks about how he is going to hold her captive.
  • One-Scene Wonder: Evan Peters as the other cult figures, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, and Jesus Christ. None of them are on the show for very long, but all of them end up being memorable performances for various reasons. His performance as Andy Warhol has also received a lot of praise.
  • Periphery Demographic: This season is quite popular with a certain subset of Trump supporters, who consider it a comedy more than a horror.
  • Squick:
    • The cult's clown sex.
    • Kai peeing into a condom that he then throws at a group of Mexican workers.
    • Kai nearly coercing Winter into having a quasi-incestuous threesome with Samuels, not helped by the heavy implication that if Winter hadn't protested to the incest, Kai would have probably tried to impregnate her himself. Yuck.
    • Kai humping his television in the first episode.
  • Spoiled by the Format: It wasn't hard to guess that the Kool-Aid wasn't poisoned given that there were two and a half episodes left.
  • Take That, Scrappy!:
    • Ally killing Ivy with poisoned food after Ally spends several minutes explaining how she began to plot revenge upon Ivy when she put her in the psych ward without a word, never visiting her, and never letting her see Oz.
      • To a lesser extent, Harrison calling Ivy out on her hypocrisy for trying to reprimand him about taking care of his wife.
  • Tearjerker:
    • Any scene that demonstrates the increasingly strained relationship between Ally and her son, especially Oz declaring that he wishes Ally were gone.
    • Winter's death, despite being Laser-Guided Karma to an extent, is just awful. Even Ally, who had in fact set her up for it and even rubbed it in to Winter before it happened, seemed to find it harder to watch as it dragged on. The sheer horror on Winter's face when Kai reveals that he knows that she tried to help Beverly as well as her desperate pleading to Kai as he has his minions drag her away was also gut-wrenching.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Twisty plays into the first two episodes for Oz's scenes, but he never physically appears for the remainder of the season.
  • What an Idiot!: Let's see, the babysitter dresses in some mildly unsettling gothic clothes, behaves in a somewhat condescending manner with the people whose child she's supposed be looking after, seems to care very little about said child, and he (evidently) does not talk much about her, which is frankly unusual... why, Ally and Ivy, does she strike you as good babysitter material? Ultimately subverted, as episode 4 reveals that Ivy met Winter beforehand, and episode 5 confirms that she's involved in the cult and is doing this on purpose.
  • The Woobie:
    • Oz. His moms are falling apart, his babysitter is making him watch gruesome videos on the internet, and he suffers night terrors. It gets worse when he witnesses his new pet being microwaved, and inadvertently causes his moms to fight worse when he sees a video of Ally apparently cheating and Ivy sees it. Poor kid...
    • Dr. Vincent's recovered patient in the opening of episode three. Her father locked her in a cupboard for hours on end as a child, this leaving her with a crippling fear of confined spaces even as an adult, and she finally starts to get better after her father's funeral, only to have the Clowns trap her and her husband in coffins, murdering her in the most personally horrific way one could imagine for her.
    • Poor Ally, who seems to have been targeted primarily for how easily she scares. Just about every episode is one long Trauma Conga Line for her.
      • To make matters worse, it turns out that nearly every one around her is involved in this Cult and are helping to terrorize and gaslight her. Her neighbors, the local news anchor, the policeman, the grocery store cashier, her babysitter, her own wife and the the man running for councilman are all in the Cult. Her son Oz is also growing more and more distant towards her, and she's only allowed to see him with Ivy's supervision.
    • Beverly's cameraman RJ also counts: sure, he was in the Cult, but he was the only member who knew what they were doing was wrong and wanted to free the couple they trapped in the coffins and this compassion is what makes the callous members of the cult deem him 'weak' and he dies in possibly the most gruesome death of the season by having all the cult members bound and gag him while they all use a nail gun on him all the while he's sobbing and begging them to stop. Poor guy.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Quite a few fans have taken issue with the fact that Chaz Bono — a female-to-male transgender person — is portraying a Trump supporter when trans people are among the marginalized groups that the show would typically focus on. However, the Irony of this may be intentional.

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