American Horror Stories: Bestie
November 25, 2023 2:19 PM - Season 3, Episode 1 - Subscribe

After the death of her mother, a teenager struggles to find acceptance and friendship.

After Shelby's mother dies, her father moves them someplace new for a "clean slate." Unfortunately, the popular kids start to tease Shelby right away. She finds the acceptance in form of an online friend who she calls "Bestie." Using the posts of influencer drag queen "Anna Rexhia" (Amrou Al-Kadhi) Bestie encourages Shelby to "face her fears." While initially freeing, Bestie's requests turn darker and more dangerous for others as well as Shelby herself.
posted by miss-lapin (4 comments total)
Considering the focus of this and the following episode Daphne, it feels like American Horror Stories is trying to take things into Black Mirror territory this season.

This episode is predictable, but still compelling. How Anna Rexhia's encouragement to face one's fears can be so easily twisted to manipulate a vulnerable and isolated teenager seems pretty real to me. There are questions I have like why is Bestie living in a house in a locked enclosure? How would she get that equipment to the house despite the enclosure with no help? How did she get the key to the enclosure to River? But I guess I should repeat to myself "it's a just a show and I should just relax."

Jeff Hiller as Mr Nevins, a grief stricken singing teacher, and Amrou Al-Kadhi are Anna Rexhia are great despite the brevity of their roles.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:38 PM on November 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

I think this is the best episode of this short season (abbreviated because of the strikes?), but I'll admit it does bother me that Bestie fits into the trope of ugly = evil. It's easy to see why she would feel so aggrieved at the world, but it still bothers me. On the other hand, Shelby dismissing her as "this weird loser girl" or words to that effect near the end of the episode does feel very realistic, as does the casual homophobia she treats her teacher to in (imo) the episode's most shocking scene. (It wasn't clear to me if Shelby's teacher, who mentions his wife, actually is gay, or if Shelby is just being cruel because the teacher is a sensitive soul, or if this was just a riff on Anna Rexhia's song, or...what, but whatever was going on there, it was really Not Cool.) Shelby is put-upon by her peers, but when she tries to assert herself she often kicks down, not up, and that's a sad but extremely common thing.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:07 PM on November 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

Yes I wasn't sure if Shelby was insulting the teacher or simply trying to parrot Anna Rexhia. It's important to note everytime we see Shelby "assert herself" at that point it's at Bestie's encouragement and as her avatar. Shelby is so intoxicated by finally finding acceptance that other people become NPCs. She realizes that Bestie really doesn't see her as a person when commanded to hurt herself. Once free of Bestie's influence, it seems in the very quick montage we see of her post-Bestie life, she's able to assert herself (performing in Pippin) without hurting others and even helps healing Mr Nevins.

I have to say that part of the connection between Bestie and Shelby is Pippin cracked me up. As a former theater kid, I hung with so many people who LOOOOOOOVED Pippin and absolutely DREAMED of being in that show. I was always more of a Sondheim girl myself. It was one of those details that made this episode work fo rme.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:32 PM on November 25, 2023 [1 favorite]

I did not expect the ending.

Good points kittens on ugly=evil default, with the modern nuance of fighting back against ableism and -phobias (I think we need to rename them as odios*) and the like.

Bullies - and can it go too far/ can bullies be a "kicking down" target?

But Shelby never bullies Allius directly other than for, not noticing them/ acknowledging their looks? fwiw, in retrospect, Allius' interest-/ looks- early was kind of a hint.
posted by porpoise at 6:36 PM on November 26, 2023

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