The two hour “Scream Queens” premiere aired Sept. 22. Two of the shows three creators also brought us four seasons of “American Horror Story,” and their upcoming fifth season has received plenty of buzz on the internet. Expectations for “Scream Queens” was bound to be high. It has dark humor, magnificent screams, gruesome deaths, and original scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis starring alongside new scream queen Emma Roberts. It all sounds like a winning combination, and it couldn’t possibly go wrong. But the premiere fell short of being truly great.
Various reviews on the internet will give different reasons for why the premiere could have been better. Personally, this reviewer thinks the show was too self-aware. That tactic can be funny (it worked in the first three “Scream” movies), but it was overdone in “Scream Queens.” The evil sorority girl routine can be funny, but it just feels insulting to sorority girls when it’s overused. Seeing some nuance, rather than just a series of stereotypes, would have made the premiere more than one long attack on the Greek system.
Even the “Scream” movies, which were all hyper-aware of the rules and stereotypes of horror, were able to tone it down enough to give the characters moments that felt real. “Scream Queens” is banking on the notion that the characters are extremely contrived and audiences will easily respond to recycled ideas about cliques from movies like “Heathers”. For those that didn’t see “Heathers”, the girls in the clique were all named Heather (like how the “Scream Queen” minions are all named Chanel).
This reviewer has never been in a sorority and is not obsessed with being politically correct, but the show’s portrayal of the sorority girls as being almost universally psychopathic or stupid quickly became old. Roberts plays sorority queen Chanel #1, who has the same personality as Roberts’s old Madison Montgomery character from “American Horror Story: Coven.” Montgomery was a little easier to take, because she was a side character. She embodied every stereotype anyone ever had about young, self-entitled teen girls who are too beautiful and popular for their own good. If Montgomery had grown up and left the coven for a university, she very well might have become a Chanel #1. But “Coven” seemed to understand that viewers didn’t necessarily want to see Montgomery grow up to be the same heartless witch that she was in finishing school.
The difference between “Coven” and “Scream Queens” is that the Madison Montgomery character was just a part of “Coven”. In “Scream Queens,” Chanel #1 is the show, and her handpicked sorority minions aren’t much better. Grace and the other pledges are there to balance this out, but they cannot dominate the screen in the same way that Chanel, her narcissistic boy toy, and her minions can.