American Horror Story, the new TV series from Glee creator Ryan Murphy, premiered on FX last night. The premise of the show revolves around a family moving into a haunted house. Now, I love a great ghost story as much as the next guy, but I didn’t watch the show and I don’t think I’m going to.
Why? Murphy’s very talented and the cast includes such heavy-hitters as Jessica Lange so I’m sure it’s a quality program, but I have a big issue with the premise. It’s an issue that I’ve blogged about before and that other astute non-white people like the young
and then funny Eddie Murphy have pointed out: why don’t white people who live in houses haunted by evil supernatural forces just move out?
With a TV series like American Horror Story, this issue is even more pronounced. It’s one thing to suspend disbelief and accept that a white family isn’t moving out of a haunted house in a 2-hour movie, but a successful TV show could run for years and years. Which means if the series is a hit, we could spend the next ten years wondering: why the fuck doesn’t that white family get out of the house already?
I’m sure the writers will come up with some clever ways to keep that family in that house, but I’m sorry—I’m not going to buy it. If that house is that haunted and that evil, no one will be stupid enough to stay there that long.
At least that was my thinking until I recently met an Asian American family whom we’ll call the Wangs (their real name rhymes with Wang, but has been changed to protect their identity). The family consists of the middle-aged immigrants Mr. and Mrs. Wang and their teenaged son. I met the elder Wangs at a family friend’s birthday dinner and after hearing their story, I’ve come to realize that I would indeed accept the premise that a family would continue living in an evil haunted house…if they were Asian American.
Why? Not because they’re stupid but because, as the Wang’s story will demonstrate, no evil entity can win in a test of strength against the iron will of the Asian immigrant spirit especially the spirit of an Asian tiger mom matriarch. Allow me to explain:
Two years ago, the Wangs bought a house in a quiet suburban San Gabriel Valley neighborhood about 20 minutes outside of Los Angeles. As it turned out, there was something supernatural and evil already residing in that house. Now, I don’t really know the Wangs so who knows how much of what they told me is true, but they seemed very sincere and their story was verified by others at the birthday dinner who had also witnessed strange things at their place.
The Wangs bought their house for dirt-cheap. This was when the real estate market had gone bust, but the sorted history of the house probably also contributed to its affordable-ness. Several otherwise healthy people had died in that house including the previous tenants—an elderly couple who had committed joint suicide for reasons unknown. There were rumors the place was haunted, but the Wangs didn’t care. It was cheap and in a good school district. Being Asian immigrants, that was good enough for them.
For the first month all was normal, but then weird things started to happen: lights that had been turned off would turn back on, doors that had been shut would suddenly be open and footsteps could be heard in the attic at night (which they originally attributed to rodents conveniently ignoring the fact that whatever was walking around up there was wearing shoes).
Then, things started to really escalate. During the middle of the night while everyone was asleep, the TV and stereo in the living room would mysteriously turn on. It got so bad that the Wangs would unplug the TV and stereo before going to bed, but sometimes they would still turn on, only to mysteriously turn off when someone would go downstairs to investigate. One time they were awakened by a loud banging on their kitchen window and the next morning found footprints of man-sized hooves leading up to the window, which couldn’t have been from an animal since whoever left them was walking upright. Another time, Mrs. Wang woke up to find a woman in a Victorian dress standing over her bed, silently watching her and her sleeping husband. The woman smiled; revealing her blackened and bloodied teeth before disappearing into thin air.
They continued giving examples of weird occurrences and even if a fraction of what they were saying was true, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t leave. “It was our house, why should we move?” was the response.
Well, did they try to get rid of the supernatural force in the house? Did they try to get help? No, was the response. They didn’t want anyone to think they were crazy. So did they try to do anything about it? Again, no. Weren’t they scared? Nope.
Really? Nope? Mr. Wang leaned in and whispered to me: “Hey, I’m married to an Asian woman. There’s nothing that a Satanic demon can do that I haven’t already been through.”
“I heard that!” Mrs. Wang bellowed from across the room.
But it turned out Mr. Wang was only half-joking. The reason that whatever was haunting that house couldn’t scare this family out or do anything to hurt them was because Mrs. Wang was clearly a badass tiger mama who wasn’t going to cower in fear because of some evil ghost or demon.
So while most people would freak out if their unplugged appliances turned on by themselves, Mrs. Wang actually thought it was great. “This way we save on our electricity bill,” she said. When their downstairs piano would start playing by itself at the stroke of midnight, Mrs. Wang simply dragged herself out of bed, stormed downstairs and started screaming at whatever invisible entity was playing: “You’re so awful! Where you learn to play? You should be ashamed!” When her son got a “C” in algebra, Mrs. Wang even tried to contact whatever was in the house to beg them to possess their son and make him do his math homework. When a new and very sharp knife disappeared from the kitchen, did Mrs. Wang think the evil force was going to use it to hurt them? Maybe, but what she did was leave a note on the kitchen counter that read: “I paid a lot for that knife. I will be VERY unhappy if I don’t get it back.” The next morning, the knife was back in its place.
And what of the Victorian woman standing by her bedside? Well, the moment Mrs. Wang saw the ghostly woman’s rotten and bloody teeth, she simply shouted out one bit of advice for the apparition: “You need to call 1-800-Dentist!” The ghost immediately disappeared.
Whatever the supernatural force in the house dished out, Mrs. Wang remained unfazed and gave back as good as she got. And then something even stranger started happening over time: nothing. The paranormal activity started to decrease until it all but disappeared. These days, all they get is an occasional light turning on by itself, which usually prompts Mrs. Wang to proclaim, “Isn’t that cute?”
I can only come to the conclusion that Mrs. Wang drove the ghosts or demons out through her…sheer Asianness. The same quality that led our parents to immigrate here with $10 in their pockets, work 15 hours a day and make a life for their families is apparently also an effective defense against evil spirits.
In fact, when the Wangs received their most recent electricity bill and realized how much their rates had increased, Mrs. Wang ordered her son to drive to Wal-Mart and buy a Ouija board. Her plan? To try to ask the ghosts or demons to return to the house so they could leave their appliances unplugged and have them still work thus saving on electricity costs. So far, the plan has met with no success.
“What’s wrong with these ghosts?” Mrs. Wang complains. “Where are they? They’re so lazy.”
And that, my friends, is a true American horror story.