When Satire is Too Satirical for Mass Consumption: Scream Queens Cancelled

It goes without saying that if you’re going to give any Ryan Murphy show a chance, you’re going to need to come armed with a certain sense of humor–a somewhat macabre sensibility. Those who tuned in to Scream Queens when it first premiered on September 22, 2015 might, however, not have been prepared for just how full-tilt Murphy was planning to go. And over time, the dark nature of Scream Queens may have even eclipsed Nip/Tuck for some. This is, most clearly, the reason why the show, a gem among gems (exceptionally among the other Fox riffraff), has not been renewed for a third season. Which is to say: that’s over, it’s cancelled.

After what we thought was merely its season finale, “Drain the Swamp,” on December 20th, it’s not too surprising that the network powers that be were hesitant to give the show another chance after the more than somewhat repackaged plotline of the Green Meanie, yet another sociopathic, bloodthirsty serial killer to one-up the Red Devil from season one that plagued the Kappa Kappa Tau sorority run by Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts), the proverbial rich, thin, blonde ringleader of a posse of other “Chanels,” chiefly Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) and Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin). Not so proverbial, however, was the dean of the school, Wallace University, Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis, a staple in any vehicle inspired by 80s slasher flicks). Her contempt for the Chanels–especially the main one–leads them all to, at one point or another, believe she’s the Red Devil trying to kill them. That is, when they aren’t speculating that it’s Boone Clemens (Nick Jonas) or Chad Radwell (Glen Powell), among many other possible guesses that may or may not turn out to be true (you’ll just have to fucking watch now that you won’t have much to catch up on seeing as how there’s only two seasons).

For those with a more literal preference of comedy (most), the often “hokey” narratives of Scream Queens aren’t likely to keep one gripped in between all the scoffing. As is the case with the final plot of the last episode, in which Chanel #5 miraculously aces the MCATs and figures out a way she can cure Cathy Munsch ergo prevent Hester (Lea Michele) and Holt’s (John Stamos) diabolical plan to run away to Blood Island together after siphoning all of Munsch’s assets for themselves once she dies and leaves everything to Holt. Nurse Hawful (Kirstie Alley, who hasn’t been cast as a diabolical villain nearly half as often as she should be) finally unleashes her revenge on Chanel for killing her sister, while Dr. Cascade (Taylor Lautner), Chanel #3’s ever-burgeoning love interest, does his best to defend his equally unhinged and vindictive mother from the fallout.

Polarizing from the outset of its premiere, Scream Queens accents the hollowness of being a product of the internet-pervasive, social media-baiting generation–often times making youths of America come across as automatons rather than flesh and blood beings–you know, as evidenced by tweeting about your impending murder as opposed to trying to call the police. And yet, those who have expressed contempt for the show, decrying it as only watchable for the inventiveness of the murders, don’t seem to understand or appreciate just how smart it is–if for Chanel’s one-liners alone (e.g. “First of all, I’m an American. I don’t have to understand anything”–some real dark foreshadowing in retrospect). But maybe casual watchers took it a little too seriously in just how extensively it pokes fun at our society–markedly the youths of it that are supposed to be able to run things later on, but seem ill-equipped to even handle a pumpkin spice latte that isn’t 210 degrees.

One can only hope Ryan Murphy and his co-creators, Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan, won’t give up altogether in trying to shill satire to the masses. Chances are, it will go down easier with American Horror Story: Election. In the meantime, take comfort in the episodes of Scream Queens you do have, cherishing the applicable gifs to your life for all eternity, or until you move on to the next season of Feud, a bit of camp that Murphy has seemingly managed to call a rather permanent success based on how many celebrities fucking hate each other.