'American Horror Story: Cult' Takes Inspiration From Real Life

Each season of American Horror Story is built around a specific theme or setting that determines all of the action that follows. The seventh season has been dubbed Cult, though it's not clear after one episode just how that idea will unfold over the course of the season. More than any other season of the show, Season 7 is set in our current time and draws on current fears by utilizing the influence of real people. But how far does that inspiration extend? It's easy to source some of the season's real life backstory, but what cult is American Horror Story Season 7 based on?

The new season doesn't appear to be based on any particular cult, instead taking notes from several different cults throughout history and exploring the similarities in how those situations played out. Series creator Ryan Murphy was interested in the qualities many cult leaders shared and how those men took advantage of the fears of their specific time. "It really is about the cult of personality that can rise in a divisive society," Murphy said at a press screening for the season, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "That's what this show is about. And I hope that people can figure that out."

Though real life cults did impact that decision, the final product promises to be more of a mélange. While Evan Peters will be taking on several real cult figures like Charles Manson, David Koresh, and Jim Jones, the fictional Kai is a blend of all of them. He has a dark charisma and passionate (as well as totally unhinged) philosophy that he's able to make sound convincing, especially when the people he's preaching to are looking for any port in a storm. Murphy said to The Hollywood Reporter that the theme for AHS: Cult came from "mixing the idea of the Manson cult of personality" with "somebody who rises like that within a disenfranchised community."

The emerging cult of Season 7 looks like it will be led by Kai Anderson, with followers that may bear a resemblance to the Manson girls and terrifying clowns acting as enforcers, but it's not based on any specific group. Instead the rise and fall of many real cults have lent this season of American Horror Story its theme, their commonalities blending together to create something new. There is plenty of real inspiration in AHS: Cult, but it's manifested mostly in fiction.

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