The veil has finally been lifted on Season 7 of Ryan Murphy's campy-scary anthology series — or as it's now known, American Horror Story: Cult — and it certainly seems to be tapping into a lot of America's fears right now. In addition to the season's subtitle and first promo, the official AHS: Cult poster has been revealed, and it's likely to make many fans squirm in discomfort. But it may also raise one key question: What exactly does it have to do with the 2016 presidential election?
Ever since Murphy first began talking about the follow-up to Roanoke, he has teased that AHS Season 7 would be inspired by the election that saw Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton in a horrifyingly unexpected turn of events. But ever since that initial announcement, very little information has been revealed about what that actually means. Instead, everything released about Cult so far — from the clues Murphy posted to Instagram to the official title to the first Season 7 teaser — has been about pretty much everything except politics: buzzing bees, creepy cults, and scary clowns.
The recently released poster doubles down on the bee imagery Murphy teased earlier, while adding in a healthy dose of nightmare-fuel for those with trypophobia.
While on the surface, the poster is just as disconnected from the season's electoral themes as the rest of the promotional material, it actually does begin to shed light on the connection Murphy is drawing between cults and politics. AHS could never be accused of being too subtle, and the Cult poster is a blatant, if effective, play on the phrase "hive mind." While hive minds have long been a subject of fascination in pop culture — from the Borgs of Star Trek to the Children of the Corn — the term has been increasingly applied to describe the American public in the lead-up to and the fallout from the 2016 election.
It's no secret that the American people are becoming increasingly divided on a cultural level, with extremes on both sides guilty of groupthink and doublespeak, regurgitating sound bites rather than thinking critically for themselves. Given this — and the constant comparisons of Washington, D.C. to a circus — it's no mystery why bees and clowns are the two most prominent images being used in advertising for AHS: Cult.
Still, the poster doesn't shed much more light on what the actual plot of Season 7 will be about beyond the previous revelation that the season premiere would begin on Election Night itself. Personally, my biggest hope is that Cult involves Sarah Paulson playing some variation on her Game Change character, which saw her going toe-to-toe with a Sarah Palin played to eerie perfection by Julianne Moore.
Viewers will find out what scathing political commentary Murphy has in store when AHS: Cult premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 5, but it already seems like it may be the show's most realistically horrifying season yet.