Emma Roberts Is the Ultimate Mean Girl in the Bloody, Funny Scream Queens

23 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Before Scream Queens, These TV/Movie Sororities and Fraternities Ruled the School.

Scream Queens, Ryan Murphy’s new festival of blood, fun and cruelty, doesn’t pitch its tent too far from his American Horror Story on FX, except that he’s smart enough to have eliminated the churning psychosexual undercurrents that can make AHS so strangely unsettling.Ryan Murphy’s latest candy-colored romp, Scream Queens debuts on Fox Tuesday night, and while the horror-comedy – which stars Emma Roberts, Jamie Lee Curtis and Lea Michele – is uniquely fresh ode to slasher flicks, it follows in the footsteps of many films and TV shows that paid homage to college Greek life.

Premiering on Tuesday, the horror-comedy anthology will introduce an exciting cast of characters — and some of the faces will be familiar to most viewers.STORY: Twenty years after an unfortunate event at Wallace University’s Kappa Kappa Tau house, the sorority becomes the target of a serial killer in a red devil outfit. Queens will make you laugh and maybe squeak with surprise from time to time, whereas AHS is a good argument for providing trigger alerts for TV shows.

Described by star Emma Roberts as “Mean Girls meets Friday the 13th,” EW has compiled a study guide to keep you informed on all the interviews, trailers, plot tidbits, and big-name casting you could need as we head into the premiere. While there’s a rich history of sororities as horror settings (consider Black Christmas, Sorority Massacre, Sorority Row and The House on Sorority Row), we’ll let you explore those ill-fated organizations on your own – if you dare. Instead, in the darkly humorous spirit of the Queens behold some of our picks for favorite (and funniest) members of film and TV’s Pan-Hellenic Council. Curtis has acted in a number of box office hits during her illustrious film career, including “Trading Places,” “A Fish Called Wanda” and “True Lies,” the last of which she won a Golden Globe award for with her performance.

If your memory goes back far enough and low enough, you may find yourself even thinking of the 1973 TV movie Satan’s School for Girls – or, more recently, the 2000 remake with Shannen Doherty. The part also allows her to pay homage to her mother, Janet Leigh, whose iconic death scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho has become one of the most enduring images of the genre. Actress, singer, and author Lea Michele, otherwise known as the ever-ambitious Rachel Berry on Fox’s hit series “Glee,” was once a Broadway child star. In a tumultuous period of change—the dean wants the sisters to let everyone who’s interested join the sorority; the horror!—someone has decided to pay the Kappas back.

During her interview with Gifford and Kotb, Curtis – who was wearing a tiara given to her by a close friend because “every queen needs a crown” – also revealed that she didn’t see Ryan Murphy’s script before she decided to sign on to the project. “I got a call from Ryan Murphy, and I actually didn’t read [the script] until two, three weeks before we started shooting,” Curtis said. “So there were six months where everyone would say, ‘How’s the new show?’ and I’d [shrug]”. “It is the genre they gave me my career, and I am therefore respectful of it. On the “Great White Way,” Michele tackled the roles of Young Cosette in “Les Miserables” at the age of eight and Wendla in the revival of “Spring Awakening” in 2006. Ariana Grande, Billie Lourd and Abigail Breslin are her beleaguered minions, Chanel Nos. 2, 3 and 5. (Something happened to 4.) Lea Michele, Skyler Samuels and Keke Palmer play misfit pledges. The same goes for the sisters who slavishly do her bidding (one of them is an unrecognizable Abigail Breslin, who strikes just the right note of smudged kittenish prettiness).

For the first time in forever, we’re seeing that kind of quasi-glamorized, quasi-villified mean girl again, on Fox’s new horror-comedy Scream Queens. Oliver Hudson, brother of Golden Globe winner and fitness brand founder Kate Hudson, has made a noteworthy mark as an actor in many film and television shows, namely in the successful country musical drama “Nashville.” The former “Saturday Night Live” cast member shined on the long-running sketch comedy show with her celebrity impersonations (M.I.A; Kim Kardashian; Arianna Huffington; Barbara Walters) and recurring characters (Bedelia; Pippa; Shallon). It bogs down, though, when it deals with “identity entertainment” — the creators’ penchant for making every story about gender, sexuality, race and class. Of course, that doesn’t mean that other scaredy-cats should avoid the show themselves: “It really has become a hybrid where you provide big comic element with really scary elements,” she says. “And I think that’s not necessarily unique anymore but when you add Ryan Murphy through it, it becomes a wicked social satire.”

It follows blonde-haired, black-hearted sorority fascist Chanel No. 1 (Emma Roberts), who’s been forced by the university’s Dean Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis) to open Kappa House to all students — even “fatties and ethnics,” as Chanel calls them — while a devil-masked killer knocks off pledges and Kappa sisters alike. The Iranian-American actress has mainly starred in other comedic television shows such as “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “New Girl.” Nash also has experience as a television host on the the once-labeled Style Network for “Clean House,” a role that helped her snag an Emmy award in 2010. She refers to them, instead, as Chanel No. 2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel No. 3 (Billie Lourd), and Chanel No. 5 (Abigail Breslin). (Chanel No. 4 left college and died.) Chanel is vicious and mercenary, a former nice girl who learned to throw acid, literally, in order to become a queen bee. The pilot flashes back and forth between 1994, when a sorority girl died mysteriously at Kappa House, and the 20th anniversary of her death — a savvy way to appeal to both college-age viewers and their parents, who will recognize many of Scream Queen’s pop-culture references. Her acrid, racist, classist narration introduces audiences to the twisted world of Scream Queens, where Chanel plans events like a “side-boob mixer” and a “white party” at which “everyone is encouraged to wear and be white.” She tell the audience “Life is a class system,” before introducing the sorority housekeeper Ms.

When a security guard (Niecy Nash) lists all the ineffective ways she’s prepared to protect Kappa House, she’s winking at the self-aware genre comedy of Scream. Worse – and yes, this is worse than being killed by an unknown Satan whose weapons include a ride-a-mower – Kappa is being required to open its admissions process to anyone on campus.

Chanel has to put up with the likes of newbie Hester, whose neck brace pushes up so tightly against her jaw it seems her head might pop off like a champagne cork. (She’s played by Glee’s Lea Michele, so I would bet the brace is removed at some point.) There’s also some loser whose hobby is blogging about candles. The two-hour premiere does a good job of putting these circles of hell in working concentric order, and the actors all arrange their performances – stamped with varying degrees of camp, dunder-headedness and hysteria – around one central, unstated but obvious principle: People are sadists. Chad Michael Murray (be still, our One Tree Hill-loving hearts) will play Brad Radwell, the older brother of frat star Chad Radwell, played by Glen Powell. This kind of steroidal mean girl is a favorite type of Murphy’s, all the way back to his show Popular, but she is not usually the initial POV character, what with being a heinous racist and all. Still, watching the Chanels work their magic, it’s obvious why this vintage mean-girl archetype is not as popular now, in this It Gets Better era when every queen bee from Jennifer Lawrence to Taylor Swift claims she was bullied in high school.

Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels) is a bright-eyed innocent who wants to rush Chanel’s sorority because her mother, who died when she was 2 (she thinks anyway), was also a Kappa. Yes. “Whoever survives — and there will be people who survive — they will go on next season to a new location and a new terror,” Murphy told EW in April.

But with its sharp wit and rat-a-tat dialogue, Glee sometimes sounded like it was longing to laugh at these nerds as often as it laughed along with them. When Chanel walks in on them and freaks out, Chad gets angry at her for being a “spoiled homophobic girl” who can’t understand that everyone wants to get with Chad.

The most interesting characters are the misfit pledges: Grace, her black roommate Zayday (Keke Palmer), a deaf woman named Tiffany (Whitney Meyer), the neck-braced Hester (Lea Michelle), the lesbian “Predatory Lez” (Jeanna Han), and Jennifer (Breezy Eslin), a “candle vlogger” who reviews candles on YouTube. (“I call this one the Nancy Meyers Experience, because it smells like creamy couches and menopause.”) These women get all the best one-liners, and they also serve up the smartest meta-commentary about race, gender, sexuality, and class, which might make you assume that the show sides with these so-called losers. In the first episode, the killer, who dresses as the school’s red devil mascot, kills at least three people, but those looking for any real shivers in their comedies should probably rewatch Scream. But that’s not the case when Scream Queens pushes easy shock value for its own sake, as when Chanel repeatedly insists that Kappa’s maid call her “white mammy” and the other sorority sisters force the poor woman to say she “don’t know nothin’ bout birthin’ no babies.” (Also: today’s sorority girls still quote Gone with the Wind? It’s not that the deaths aren’t theoretically gruesome— someone’s head gets taken off with a lawn mower—it’s that Murphy does not linger on any of them. One scene finds Tiffany mistaking her fellow Kappa pledges’ screaming for a Taylor Swift sing-along — a joke so tasteless, I almost turned off my TV.

And yet, thinking about these scenes later, I wondered whether outright cruelty might be slightly more thought-provoking than the type of facile anti-bullying message that allows viewers to pat themselves on the backs. Just compare Scream Queens to AHS: Coven, which also featured Roberts and a group of college-age female outcasts: Screams Queens is younger, much less frightening, just about as funny, and more superficial, relying almost exclusive on Chanel’s stank mind for its shocks. Still, there’s a reason Fox keeps hitting up Ryan Murphy: Even operating in his comfort zone—the world of bitchy teenagers—his product is polished, sharp and full of one-liners that leave a mark. When local news reporters descend upon Dean Munsch, questioning her about the devil-mask killer, tearful students lurk in the background, taking selfies and giving faux-devastated interviews about a victim they’ve never even met. “I’ve got news for you, self-involved junior,” the Dean thinks to herself. “Just because you know a guy who was in a class with the dead girl’s roommate does not mean that it could have been you.” The idea that empathy might stem from self-interest also feels like a sly indictment of the viewer.

But for me, its critique extends to viewers of all ages. “My shrink says these kids are the most messed-up of any generation they’ve seen because their parents made life so easy for them,” says the sorority’s attorney Gigi (Nasim Pedrad). “It’s like they can’t handle adversity.” Sometimes I worry about that same weakness with viewers, too.

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