‘AHS: Cult’ Has A Shockingly Familiar Villain In Kai Anderson
On American Horror Story, it can often be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction, as original characters rub elbows with infamous victims and perpetrators of real-life crimes. So which sort is the main character that Evan Peters plays in Season 7 of the anthology series? Is AHS: Cult's Kai based on a real person? Or did he simply spring from the fevered imagination of Ryan Murphy?
Peters is certainly no stranger to playing characters with parallels to real historical figures. The backstory of his AHS: Murder House character, Tate Langdon, seemed to be based on the Columbine shooting; his deformed Freak Show character, Jimmy Darling, was inspired by the real "Lobster Boy," Grady Stiles Jr.; and his devious Hotel character, James March, was an adaptation of notorious serial killer H.H. Holmes. But, at least so far, there's no indication that Peters' Cult character is based on anything other than Ryan Murphy's analysis of our post-election political climate.
The first episode of Cult is titled "Election Night," and (as can be seen in the Season 7 trailers) it starts with two polar opposite reactions to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election: while Sarah Paulson's distraught liberal Ally screams in despair, Peters' angry loner Kai screams in triumph and literally humps his television set in sheer ecstasy.
As IndieWire's Ben Travers put it in his review of Cult, "The delineation couldn't be more clear. On one side, you have the fearful, and on the other you have the person inspiring fear. All and Ivy are a modern, liberal family, and Kai is an isolated member of the far-right." Donald Trump may not be an actual character in Season 7, but there's a nod to the rhetoric that makes him so popular in Peters' character. According to The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Fienberg in his own review of AHS' latest installment, Kai goes "so far as to coat his face in ground-up Cheetos dust," (referring to one frequently used nickname for Trump) and functions as the epitome of the "angry white guy" trope.
So if Kai seems eerily familiar to you — despite the fact that he's not based on any one real person — it sounds like there's very good reason, as Peters' character seems to exist as an embodiment of a certain fringe portion of the populace, taking advantage of this climate of unprecedented fear to seize a modicum of power for himself.
But while Kai is undoubtedly an original creation of Murphy's, it's interesting to note that the AHS vet will actually be playing a real-life historical figure in addition to Kai; several of them, actually. Murphy revealed to Entertainment Weekly that, throughout the season, Peters will portray a number of leaders of groups that have been called "cults" by some. His repertoire in this season includes Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and David Koresh.
It makes sense that Murphy previously teased that Cult would be the "heaviest season yet" for Peters. Not only has the actor been tasked with resurrecting several strong personalities from the more terrifying annals of American history, he'll also have to stand in as the personification of our society's darkest impulses. Are you scared yet?