Kathy Bates is killing it this season playing a demented sociopath on American Horror Story: Coven.
Her character, Madame LaLaurie, is a complete bigot; she's clueless, racist, and outrageous. She's almost borderline likeable, especially after she apologizes to Queenie after saving her life. But maybe this is a problem. The characterization of Madame LaLaurie (who was a person who actually existed in 18th century New Orleans) is embodied demonically but perhaps not as demonic as the woman may have really been, considering she was practically the spawn of Satan back in her heyday.
American Horror Story is available on Amazon Prime.
Madame LaLaurie tortured her slaves, mutilating their bodies by starving and flaying them. By the end of her life, she was notoriously known throughout New Orleans as a monster. When Fiona Goode resurrects her from the un-dead, LaLaurie is still adamant about her views; she still believes African Americans are slaves and is shown crying after she finds out America has its first black president.
The writers of AHS are definitely trying to humanize Kathy Bates' character. This may very well be because they don't want to kill her off right away and viewers might as well have an enjoyable character to work with. However, Ryan Murphy is making Madame LaLaurie into this historically misplaced cartoonish figure who doesn't know what a car is and refers to the television as "the magic box." This is hilarious and entertaining, but it also suggests that LaLaurie is a redeemable person. Which she really shouldn't be.
There are heroes, and there are villains. Villains sometimes have the chance to redeem themselves, like Queen Regina in Once Upon a Time or Despicable Me's oafish Gru. But these are fictionalized stories; there really is no correlation between how many people they have wronged or killed and their ability to overcome their evil nature, and this is widely accepted in storytelling. However, if American Horror Story has chosen to work with a historical figure and bring her back to life for the show, then they have some serious responsibility with this.
Madame LaLaurie is simply not redeemable. The show-runners can make her as loveable as they want, but it should go without saying that her character should be punished for her heinous acts. I know we're talking about a fictionalized version of a historical figure, but it doesn't matter. The message AHS would send to their viewers if they kept her alive by the end of the season would not be taken very kindly. Ryan Murphy has to punish Madame LaLaurie.
A great example of a well-done revenge fantasy is Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. By the end of the film, the protagonist and his side-kick are visiting one of the most ruthless slave plantations in the south under the guise as shoppers for slaves in order to rescue Django's wife (who is trapped on Candie's plantation). Leonardo DiCaprio does a fantastic job playing a blood-thirsty, pseudo-educated psychopath whose idea of fun is watching his slaves wrestle to the death. Candie, like Madame LaLaurie, is a monster who too, is hilarious. He's outlandish, and a completely exaggerated Tarentino villain. His character is extremely entertaining, but he also gets his brains blown out because he deserved it. Tarantino knew he had this obligation, even if his audience really loved the gregarious character. And after-all, it was a story of revenge.
Coven has this same a moral responsibility with Madame LaLaurie. The woman was a slave-owner, and a sadistic one at that. To bring her back to life and give her the chance to thrive in her new surroundings with absolutely no consequences (besides Fiona's occasional comedic insults) is not acceptable.
However, don't get me wrong. I ultimately have faith in AHS. Season after season, the writers understand how to deal out punishments and how to artfully kill off the bad guys. One of the greatest moments in last year's American Horror Story: Asylum, was when Dr. Arden/ Hans Gruper sent himself through an oven; the death was symbolic and justice was applicably served. Madame LaLaurie will die, and I'm guessing it won't be a pretty death. Perhaps Marie Laveau will have something to say on the matter, or perhaps Fiona will dispose of the Delphine herself.
"Fearful Pranks Ensue" ended with a surprising reunion between Madame LaLaurie and her dead daughters. Since LaLaurie is currently immortal, maybe there are fates worth than death or eternal life. Maybe we'll find out what Marie Laveau's plans are for Madame Delphine LaLaurie very soon.
American Horror Story: Coven airs Wednesdays at 10pm on FX.
(Image courtesy of FX)