Guest Interview: Lynn Emery Talks the Historical Inaccuracies of American Horror Story Coven

american horror story coven cast a lI have been fascinated with American Horror Story Coven.  When the series launched, I must confess that I wasn’t so taken with it.  Was it a True Blood knock off? I was hanging out in the Reading in Black FB group, when my writing buddy, Lynn Emery made mention of the historical in accuracies of the show.  I’m always fascinated with Lynn’s work, especially when she discusses New Orleans so I gradually became fascinated with the TV series, just to find out what was going on…  Lynn agreed to allow me to interview her about the series.  Here’s our discussion:

 

Lynn, thanks so much for agreeing to interview with me. I love your work and I also love when you start discussing New Orleans(NO).  So my first question, what’s up with the opening of American Horror Story Coven and the white women witches wearing what amounts to pointy KKK hoods?  Is there some symbolic reasoning for this from NO or did the TV producers do this for impact like the racial images from True Blood?

So I can’t speak to the intent of the producers of AHS Coven. But that is just as plausible an explanation as any. The witch hats resembling KKK hoods could suggest the conflict between white and black witches. Especially since the setting is in the deep south. Interesting symbolism. The first KKK chapter in Louisiana was organized in New Orleans in 1920 I’ve read, but we may be going too deep. Witches hats have been shown like that for years and years. It may just be what it is.

There is an obvious segregation between the white coven and black Voodoo priestess.  In fact, Angela Bassett’s character (Marie LeVeau) makes mention to Jessica Lange’s character (Fiona) that the white witches derived their powers from Africa and they should pay homage to that fact.  Then there’s the scene of course, where the two white girl witches, create a Zombie. Is a Voodoo priestess the same as a witch? 

No, the history of witchcraft different from Voodoo. In Louisiana Christianity and voodoo rituals are intertwined, not so in witchcraft. Altars and the statues of saints are used. I’ve never seen or read of witchcraft invoking Christian saints (or any other major established religion for that matter). Even basic research on true historical websites (universities, etc.) would show that.

Race plays a strong role in this TV series, whether direct or indirect, Kathy Bates’ character (Madame LaLaurie) is one of those directly racist themes, is she historically accurate or has the TV producers taken a detour with her character. Could she really have been such a racist, sadistic, dark, evil witch? 

The story doesn’t follow the real Madame LaLaurie, though of course she would likely have had the typical racial views of her time. That’s not a stretch at all.

The eye of the camera is obviously following the white coven line, in my eyes, there is definitely some racial unbalance.  The producers added Gabourey Sidibe’s character (Queenie) as a bridge between these two.  She is supposedly descended from Tituba but I was confused.  Why wouldn’t she have found a home with Marie LeVeau’s character instead?  Is there some missing historical connection between Tituba and Voodoo?

Tituba’s ethnicity is a mystery, and there is no mention of her and Voodoo until decades later. That leads me to believe no one really knows the truth. The producers are creating the story that they want, not trying to follow historical fact.

Angela Bassett’s character (Marie LeVeau) is very compelling.  Is the character that she plays based upon historical inaccuracies as well? Also, they’ve chosen to center her base of operations in the Ninth Ward, in NO, is there spiritual or sacredness about the Ninth Ward for African descendant people?

The Ninth Ward is famous because of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. It was a swamp that was drained, not a pleasant place to live. Therefore working class blacks and Irish immigrants could find affordable housing close to where they worked in New Orleans (1920s). It’s a geographical and political division, nothing to do with spirituality in it’s creation.

Is there any more that you’d like to say about this TV series, particularly about the historical inaccuracies as well as the racial disparities?  Also, do you see this series surviving with the way that the plot lines have been conceived i.e. do you think it will be as successful as True Blood? 

I don’t think the producers of the show simply didn’t know or research history, so they took license with history for dramatic effect. Writers have done this for generations. I don’t have a quarrel with AHS because it’s entertaining and well done. I missed the third episode, so it’s tough to judge on just two episodes. Trying to match the huge success of True Blood will be hard. Not because of the story line, but just the odds of reaching that kind of success are slim under any circumstances. But anything is possible. So far I don’t see the kind of big stakes you have in True Blood – the plot of Coven is pretty constricted to the battle between three people in New Orleans. There are no high stakes for the world revealed (not yet at least) like in True Blood, where vampires are all over the country and the governor is involved, there is international trade in “true blood” to prevent vampires from preying on the world population, etc. You see the big difference? There is a much smaller scope to Coven. But with the right plot development it could catch fire.

Lynn, thanks for interviewing with me. BTW, I think you are awesome! 

Lynn EmeryMix knowledge of voodoo, Louisiana politics and forensicLynn Emery Books social work with the dedication to write fiction while working each day as a clinical social worker, and you get a snapshot of author Lynn Emery. Lynn’s latest novels include a paranormal thriller series based in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana. A Darker Shade of Midnight, Between Dusk and Dawn are on sale now. The third in the series, Only By Moonlight will be available by Christmas 2014. Visit Lynn’s Amazon Page:

 http://www.amazon.com/Lynn-Emery/e/B001HMLDEC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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