In the Critics this week

Bryan Appleyard on Evgeny Morozov, Gabriel Josipovici on Thomas Bernhard and Will Self on eels.

In the Critics section of this week's New Statesman, Bryan Appleyard considers Evgeny Morozov's angry polemic against political evangelism on the web, while T G Rosenthal explains the origins of his book in defence of L S Lowry.

Geoffrey Wheatcroft is enchanted by David and Gareth Butler's weighty tome British Political Facts and concludes that "every politically conscious home should have one". Olivia Laing's low expectations for Claire Dederer's yoga memoir Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses are exceeded, thanks to the writer's wry style. And Jonathan Beckman is grateful to the translator of Antal Szerb's Love in a Bottle for resurrecting the Hungarian writer's short stories from the 1930s. Marc Stears is not convinced by James T Kloppenberg's attempt to uncover the intellectual roots of Barack Obama's aversion to political conflict, while our Critic at Large Gabriel Josipovici extols the comic virtues of the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard.

Elsewhere in the Critics, Ryan Gilbey is unshocked by the climax of Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. Rachel Cooke wishes the casting of BBC1's Zen had been as imaginative as the Michael Dibdin book it is adapted from. Andrew Billen finds farce meaningful in the Old Vic's production of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear. Brian Dillon reflects on the Korean artist Nam June Paik, who turned television sets into art, and Antonia Quirke appreciates the fun James Naughtie has with the King James Bible. In his Real Meals column, Will Self talks pie, mash and jellied eels.

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Scream Queens: a melting pot of visual references to teen movies and horror films

The TV show’s parodic tone is mirrored in its knowing references to classics of the genres.

The American series Scream Queens is a strange beast: part college drama, part horror, part black comedy, it follows teenagers at a sorority house as a disguised serial killer begins a murderous rampage on campus, picking off a handful of characters each episode. The result: a parade of mean girls in prom dresses, covered in blood and guts. The makers of the show are keen to pay homage to the classics that have influenced them, and many viewers have pointed out deaths that reference major horror films: whether it’s freezing to death in a maze à la The Shining, getting a Hellraiser-esque makeover, or being hacked to tiny pieces in the style of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
But the show takes its teenage dream aesthetic just as seriously, and frequently acknowledges and subverts the tropes and quirks of the high school movie genre, from implicit nods to direct parodies.


Heathers (1988) is an obvious source for Scream Queens: following two outsiders as they systematically murder the most popular kids in school, it’s sardonic, garish and brutally violent. Sorority head Chanel forces her minions to call themselves Chanel #2, Chanel #3, and so on, an overt reference to Heathers's three queen bees (all called Heather). The makers of Scream Queens also repeatedly play with the film’s opening croquet scene in the show’s first episode.

The Craft

Only witches and ritual murderers are that into candles. The teen witch aesthetic of The Craft (1996) continually seeps in to the show, even if it’s at odds with the usual sugary-sweet palette.


It’s hard to think of pretty blonde girls in prom dresses covered in blood without thinking of Carrie (1976). The opening scene of Scream Queens sees a girl in a trance-like state with bloodied hands walking through a pastel party. But in Scream Queens, no one’s that bothered: “I am not missing 'Waterfalls' for this. 'Waterfalls' is my jam.”

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl (2007-2012) spawned a thousand glossy, bitchy children, and Scream Queens could be its slightly unhinged niece. Chanel #1's silky, preppy wardrobe calls to mind some of Blair's pristine outfits (even if she'd never be seen dead in a pink faux fur jacket), and the sorority house, with its sweeping staircases, soft carpets and luxurious flower arrangements, is strikingly similar to the Waldorf’s apartment. One of the most obvious references to the show is Mrs Bean, Chanel’s maid, who follows in the footsteps of Blair’s maid Dorota, (right down to the old-fashioned uniform). While Blair grows incredibly close with Dorota (she’s maid-of-honour at her wedding), Chanel burns Mrs Bean’s face of in a deep-fat fryer. Lovely.

Mean Girls

Makeovers, hazing, and neck braces: there are several obligatory references to cultural touchstone Mean Girls (2004), including matching pink outfits and vengeful collages

The Powerpuff Girls

What happens when you mix sugar, spice, and all things nice with a mysterious and explosive chemical? Either the Powerpuff Girls, or the Chanels.

Now hear Anna discussing Scream Queens on the New Statesman’s pop culture podcast, SRSLY.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.