I might’ve mentioned a time or two, here and there, that I’m a big fan of horror films, literature, and TV. When Sourcerer was up and running I was its resident horror blogger, and I’ve written a lot of content here about horror and monsters. And so it should come as no surprise that I’ve been watching American Horror Story since its first season. While that first season was my favorite, I’ve enjoyed watching the other seasons, especially Coven. While the season had some less-than-stellar moments, I couldn’t resist a show full of witches that included Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Basset, Sarah Paulson, Jamie Brewer, Frances Conroy, Lily Rabe, Jamie Brewer, and Gabourey Sidibe. And there were some fantastic moments—which tends to happen when you put a lot of talented women someplace they can work together. It was also interesting to see the interpretations of local folklore, and watch something that was being filmed in places that I pass every day, sometimes featuring local performers. But out of it all I think Queenie was probably my favorite character.
Gabourey Sidibe has a lot to do with how much I enjoyed the depiction of Queenie’s character. She is incredibly talented, and her performance in the series was spectacular. In particular, the scenes she shared with Kathy Bates were some of the most compelling of the show. Sidibe’s character Queenie is a descendant of Tituba (of Salem witch trial fame) and a witch who enrolls in school at Miss Robichaux’s Academy; Bates plays Delphine LaLaurie (based on a very real, very murderous 1830s New Orleans socialite), who has been tricked into drinking a potion for eternal life and buried alive by Marie Laveau (Angela Basset) for torturing her boyfriend and killing so many of her black slaves. She is dug out of her burial by Fiona (Jessica Lange), the coven leader, to use as a bargaining chip in her current feud with Marie Laveau. At first Fiona tries to hide Delphine, but then she works as a maid in the house. When she refuses to serve Queenie because she is black, Fiona forces her to be Queenie’s slave. Over time, a bond begins to form between the two, but eventually it is broken by Queenie, who betrays LaLaurie to Marie Laveau.
Add Queenie’s power to the mix–any injury inflicted upon her rebounds and hurts the aggressor–and all of this makes for absolutely fascinating viewing and for very real comments on not just America’s history with slavery and racism but its current problems, too. Queenie, the descendant of a black slave, is quite literally surrounded by white women. The other girls studying at Miss Robichaux’s Academy are all white; the authority figures in the coven are all white. And then Delphine LaLaurie, who spent much of her adult life torturing and killing black slaves as part of her witchery, appears on the scene. While it might be true that Fiona abhors LaLaurie’s racism and requires her to make reparations by acting as Queenie’s slave, binding the two together, it is nevertheless true that Fiona and the other woman cannot understand Queenie’s experiences. It is this point of tension that Laveau exploits, pulling Queenie into her own group.
Eventually, though Queenie returns to the Robichaux coven and away from the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau. She competes for the supremacy of the coven, but she is unsuccessful. She does exhibit numerous other powers, and eventually she earns a seat on the Witch’s Council, the tribunal that governs the various witch covens.
Queenie reappears in another season of the show–American Horror Story: Hotel, if only briefly. She’s gone to a showing of The Price is Right, and Supreme Cordelia has enchanted her ticket for a big win. She visits the Hotel Cortez, where she has an altercation with Ramona Royale (also Angela Basset, though Queenie doesn’t appear to notice the similarities between the vampire and Marie Laveau; suspension of disbelief and whatnot, I suppose). Just as she is about to overpower the vampire, she is stabbed by James March. Unfortunately, it is here that her powers find their limit–because March is a ghost, Queenie’s powers don’t work as they usually do, and she receives a mortal wound from him. She is then killed by Royale. And I was very sad to see her go. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t be popping up in the show again. Even dead characters have a way of finding their way back into the show.