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The Artistic Cannibalism Of Ryan Murphy

The mind behind cult series as ‘American Horror Story’, 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace' and the latest ‘Hollywood’

The Artistic Cannibalism Of Ryan Murphy The mind behind cult series as ‘American Horror Story’, 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace' and the latest ‘Hollywood’

On May 1st, 2020 Netflix released its umpteenth original production: Hollywood, a miniseries about the incredible adventures of a group of aspiring actors, directors and professionals of the entertainment trying to make their dreams come true in Hollywood in the early 40s (nss magazine already gave you some advices to get prepared to binge-watch it). Despite a Tarantinian re-writing, the series immediately got into Netflix' Top 10. Why? Because it was produced by an important name: Ryan Murphy.

Ryan Murphy is one of the most interesting media cases of the past few years. Screenwriter, director and now mostly producer, he's the mind behind some of the greatest cults of contemporary television: Nip/TuckGleeAmerican Horror StoryScream Queens, and now - with his latest deal with Netflix (the most expensive ever closed by the streaming service, a $300 millions contract) - Pose, The Politician and Hollywood. In his career he won 6 Emmys (over 28 nominations) and many other awards as a Tony. Today, he's the most powerful man of television.

Mostly celebrated for giving voice to a public of outsiders, particularly to the LGBTQ+ community and the queer media scene, over the years he worked with the greatest actors in Hollywood: JJulia Roberts, John Travolta, Jessica Lange, Lady Gaga, Matt Bomer, Angela Basset, Neil Patrick Harris, Kathy Bates (and the list goes on and on), but he also discovered many of the greatest emerging talents: Darren Criss, Evan Peters, Emma Roberts and Cody Fern (who recently starred in the "horror" Louis Vuitton campaign), David Corenswet, Taissa Farmiga, Lea Michele and Sarah Paulson.


Blame it on Steven Spielberg

Born in 1965 in the suburbs of Indianapolis from a catholic and conservative family, Murphy is the typical child grown up watching movies with Barbra Streisand while his schoolmates were playing football. His grandmother always encouraged him to be proud of his diversity: and so, when he was a young journalist working at The Miami Herald, in 1999 he found the courage to send on of his scripts to him to send a script (Why Can't I Be Audrey Hepburn?) to Steven Spielberg. What happens next is history: Spielberg read the script, liked it and purchased it. That was the first step of Ryan Murphy's unstoppable rise. And if his experience on the big screen is limited to only two movies (Running with scissors and Eat, Pray, Love) - to be fair, they're not much interesting - is in television that he found his Eldorado. 

From the airing of his first show Popular, his "creatures" have run through the little screen mixing different genres and styles (from comedy to horror, sometimes even erotic) and developing a radical artistic language, always blinking his eyes to pop culture. All of his titles are very recognizable: he was able to mark a well-known sign that immediately ensured him the love of the public.

The Road to Excess

The "Murphyan" universe is regulated by two great laws: excess and inclusivity. Hopelessly devoted to exaggeration, Murphy suffers of a sort of "glamour perversion": his style is cannibal and he loves to take celebrities, gossip and star system, throwing them into a giant pot with cliff-hangers and civil rights, adding a spoon of splatter and voilà, his latest incredible series is ready to be served. And the public goes crazy. Though, it's his schizophrenic attitude that always betrays him: his need to say always something more is the flaw shared by all of his series, that inevitably go towards their self-destruction.

His biggest fetish is the figure of the diva: he made the first attempts with Jessica Lange in American Horror Story, then he exaggerated it in the transgender "mothers" in Pose and especially in the Countess of American Horror Story: Hotel played by Lady Gaga (whose reputation perfectly served to the purposes of the producer, who lately throw her away after two seasons). Though, the Muphyan diva found her exploit in Feud: a miniseries about the historical rivalry between Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) exploded on the set of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), a cult of queer cinema (the second season was supposed to focusing on Carlo & Diana royal marriage, but the project has gone to trash).

A New Mythology of Losers

Speaking of inclusion, just think for example at series like GleePose or the most recent The Politician: whether they are underdogs in high school or transgender Ball queens in the 80s in New York, without forgetting to mention the black and gay actors of Hollywood, Ryan Murphy compiled a real mythology of "losers", stories of revenge and social justice for characters that are often oppressed by the society they're living in, but who are somehow destined to make it.

This myth doesn't find its happy ending only in The Normal Heart, a little gem that Murphy wrote and directed for HBO with Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer and Julia Roberts about the first HIV victims and the struggling of the health system to find financial helps for the research against the virus.

Chanel #0

In his productions, fashion is fundamental: not only because Murphy was one of the first men who wore the skull scarf by Alexander McQueen, but because fashion always made its way into his creativity. Just think to some of Scream Queens outfits, with its protagonists named “Chanel #1”, “Chanel #2” etc, or the 80s style seen in American Horror Story: 1984. Though, the biggest climax was reached with the second season of American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, with Darren Criss, Penélope Cruz, Ricky Martin and Edgar Ramirez, about the tragic killing of the Italian designer, who was murdered on the front-steps of his house in Miami on July 15th, 1997. Penélope Cruz is playing Donatella.

“I am the male Lady Gaga. Please write that.”

Ryan Murphy guided a real revolution on television and he's proud of that. His attitude is almost annoying and users on social medias bet on how he's going to destroy each one of his new series. But his rise is not over. Netflix already ordered him the second season of The Politician and another three original productions: Ratched (with Sarah Paulson), Halston and A Chorus Line, then two other films by the end of the year: The Boys in the Band, from the homonymous play with Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto and Matt Bomer, and The Prom, a musical with Meryl Streep, James Corden and Nicole Kidman. And as Twitter keeps on waiting for a failure, it's time to face the truth: chapeau, Mister Murphy.