In ‘The Curse,’ Rooster Anxieties Are Pushed to the Excessive

The satirical new Showtime sequence The Curse, created by masters of discomfort Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie, affords viewers many causes to squirm. However for its characters, it’s hen that serves as a persistent and unsettling specter: poultry is current the place it’s not alleged to be and absent the place it’s. It’s simply as eerie uncooked as it’s cooked.

The sequence, which can air its season finale on Sunday, follows actual property entrepreneur couple Asher and Whitney Siegel (performed by Fielder and Emma Stone) as they develop town of Española, New Mexico. They construct artsy “passive homes,” attempt to fill them with consumers, and try to inject new enterprise into the realm, all whereas hoping to remain on good phrases with the locals and — above all else — be perceived pretty much as good folks. They usually’re filming their work for a Fixer Higher-esque HGTV present known as Flipanthropy.

Rooster enters The Curse early. Within the first episode, Flipanthropy’s producer Dougie (performed by Safdie) instructs Asher to provide a younger woman in a car parking zone some cash to movie B-roll. Asher provides the woman, named Nala, the lone $100 in his pockets, solely to grab it again a second later. Upset, Nala claims to place a curse on him. At residence that night time, Asher is dismayed to search out his meal-kit dinner lighter than standard: His hen penne is lacking the hen.

The hen stays only a customer support grievance till the present’s third episode, when Asher is reunited with Nala and learns that her “curse” was for the hen to vanish from his dinner. He turns into satisfied that the curse just isn’t a TikTok pattern as her household explains it however an actual hex, and he begins to see hen nefariously, and in all places. He finds hen on the sink at a firehouse whereas filming a phase for Flipanthropy, and he will get Dougie on-board sufficient that Dougie tries to get Nala to curse him and make his hen dinner disappear too.

As foolish as hen is as The Curse’s boogeyman — and it’s foolish, providing some much-needed levity amid Fielder’s signature cringe — it additionally makes whole sense. It wouldn’t hit the identical if Fielder had been haunted by, say, a steak; it’s hen that manifests a really explicit nervousness within the cultural creativeness.

Starting within the 2010s, we had been haunted by city legends of hen nuggets produced from “pink slime,” placing forth a way that hen couldn’t be trusted. There are frequent instances and warnings about chicken-related foodborne sickness (a few quarter of Salmonella infections yearly are poultry-related, in accordance with the USDA). Our hen phobia has turn into so widespread that some folks have adopted the time period “hen nervousness” to check with their fears of undercooking hen or of contaminating different meals and their kitchens with the uncooked meat.

Rooster’s manufacturing would possibly make one additional queasy. Labor abuses, together with little one labor in poultry processing vegetation, have lengthy been documented. The chickens themselves, which have been bred to develop considerably bigger than they did lower than a century in the past, are additionally frequent case research when discussing the ills of manufacturing unit farming.

All these hen anxieties labored their method into popular culture lengthy earlier than The Curse. Take David Lynch’s 1977 surrealist horror movie Eraserhead. In a single scene, the protagonist is instructed by his host to carve a tiny hen on the dinner desk. Earlier than he even cuts it, the hen begins to ooze blood from its cavity and wriggle on the plate.

Equally, within the first season of Yellowjackets, the grim sequence a few highschool women’ soccer group that will get stranded within the woods after a aircraft crash, one of many women goals that she provides beginning to a rotisserie hen. She then takes a chunk out of the hen’s leg, which not solely speaks to her starvation and trauma but additionally reinforces Yellowjackets’s cannibalism motif.

All of that is additionally mirrored in how we speak about hen: To “be hen,” in spite of everything, is to concern, and as kids, we’re informed of Rooster Little together with his fixed fear as a cautionary story. In The Curse, what precisely is there to concern?

It’s not likely in regards to the hen as a lot because the hen has come to represent every little thing Asher and Dougie have performed mistaken of their lives and the disgrace they really feel for it. Within the present’s penultimate episode, Asher has a revelation: He’s been so fixated on shifting his issues to Nala’s hen “curse” as a result of it’s a straightforward scapegoat, that he’s failed to comprehend he’s been the issue all alongside. “I’m a horrible individual,” he admits. In the event that they had been higher folks, they wouldn’t need to be so hen.

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