The Delphine LaLaurie Rubric for Ethically Compromised Women of Color Characters (SPOILERS for last night’s American Horror Story: Coven)

Previously I came up with the Walter White Sliding Scale of Sympathetic Villainy and the Tony Soprano Litmus Test for Morally Dubious Main Characters as a way of putting the actions of female characters doing dirt into some perspective.

The gist of it was this: if you didn’t say anything about a fictional cishet white dude doing bad shit, you can STFU and sitcho ass down when a fictional woman does bad shit.

But if the reactions to last night’s episode of American Horror Story: Coven is anything to go by, we need to add to the Walter White Scale and the Tony Soprano Test.

I’m gonna call it the Delphine LaLaurie Rubric for Ethically Compromised Women of Color Characters.

It goes like this.

When you see a woman of color do something that would be deemed unethical, immoral, or just plain wrong, ask yourself this question:

Did she kill a baby and use its blood for beauty treatments?

If you can sympathize with someone who murders an infant and uses its blood for beauty treatments (to just name one of the many people Delphine LaLaurie tortured, mutilated, and murdered for shits and giggles), you have no business coming for Marie Laveau, Queenie, Regina Mills, Olivia Pope, or any woman of color who does bad shit.

“What she did was wrong!”

So is killing a baby and using its blood for beauty treatments.

“But she killed–”

Was it a baby?


Come back when it’s an infant.

“What if she killed a child in a drunk driving accident?”

Did she use its blood for beauty treatments?


*Kanye shrug*

Nobody is saying that we should ignore or overlook the bad things people do.

At the same time, it really is something when every time a woman of color does bad shit, people (read: male people and white people) come out the woodwork to bash us over the head with how badwrongevil that character is, how monstrous they are, and how undeserving they are of anything good.

If you have sympathy for Delphine LaLaurie but none for women of color who do bad shit, you have some self-examination to do.

Is it really about standing up for doing the right thing?

Or is it about keeping women of color in our place?

15 thoughts on “The Delphine LaLaurie Rubric for Ethically Compromised Women of Color Characters (SPOILERS for last night’s American Horror Story: Coven)

  1. Very much so. I especially hated how the show itself seemed to be encouraging us to think that Lalaurie was being terribly betrayed and the mean Queenie and perpetually angry Marie Leveau were being so awful – screw that, I was standing and cheering Queenie!

      • Frankly, it was ridiculous how long she’d been kept around and Queenie was expected to tolerate her presence. Why fiona didn’t put her back in the ground the minute she learned she didn’t have the key to immortality, I do not know – or post her to Marie Laveau “Sorry, Marie, I dug up this vile excuse for humanity not realising you’d put her there for a damn good reason. Please accept her back, this angry possum to play with her an an offer to bury her in a cesspit of your choice.”

    • This. So much this. Delphine LaLaurie’s redemption arc is annoying as hell, no matter how well Kathy Bates can pull off a miserable, confused, and hurt puppy face. “It was a different time/world?” Are you kidding?! I don’t even care if what she did was an everyday every household thing; rendering humans into raw materials is fucked. You don’t get to invoke some sort of immunity from responsibility that way.

      Meanwhile, Laveau is treated as murderously bitter and unwilling to let go of the past when what she’s talking about is not the past. Though it would be hard to tell, with the show’s insistence on reframing racism as a solved and archaic problem. The show very much seems to want us to think: yeah so Marie Laveau’s actions were okay back then, because, racism was a thing, but now…

      Also, do the writers think having Fiona give Delphine to Queenie, with the words “There’s nothing I hate more than a racist,” is anything other than a bad joke given Fiona’s demonstration of racism while talking to Marie Laveau? Did they not catch that she is racist herself?

      And let’s not even get into the fact that apparently, in a universe in which voudoun is central to the ability to practice any magic, santería either doesn’t exist, or doesn’t matter. (Same for candomblé, and macumba. Santería is just the one I have the most familiarity with.) Also, it would seem that we Latinos have no place in any of the in-universe historic tensions being shown. I guess afro-latinos and/or caribeños as a whole also don’t exist, or have no stake in this conflict. Which is odd, because given the shared history that created the above mentioned traditions, I think we just might.

      Lemme stop rambling for now. I could go on forever.

        • That argument is such bs. It’s not all that difficult to “get better” when she no longer has the resources to keep up the same pace for committing attrocities as she had in the beginning. Let’s be honest for a sec: her entire “redemption” required her to be placed in a position where she could no longer act on her racist — and, I’m inclined to say even though she hasn’t explicitly said it, exterminationist — impulses with impugnity.

          Even then, it still required Queenie’s death.

          Why should we be moved?

  2. Is there any universe in which Marie Laveau is not clearly the most heroic of the characters on this show? She punishes evildoers without requiring them to do anything personal against her and in a precise way (unlike Madison) though Heaven help you if you hurt someone she cares about. She has full control of her power and is very careful in not doing anything stupid (unlike Zoe). She welcomes Queenie and though she uses her and Fiona’s daughter for her own (pretty fricking justified) ends, she also kills them with kindness rather than threats. The only person she is controlling through outright power is a piece of shit serial killer. Nothing she has done is any more morally questionable than every other character besides Nan and several of the other characters have done much worse (see: Fiona, Delphine obviously, Spalding, and Myrtle). It doesn’t hurt that Angela Bassett is killing it in the role but from the first, I’ve felt like (and hoped) Marie would turn out to be the more benevolent witch leader with Fiona as the Big Bad.

    • Well, you do have people mad as hell at Queenie for what she did on this week’s episode while flat-out ignoring the shit the Salem witches have done this season.

    • This is what is really annoying me about this show. Marie Leveau has ongoing legitimate grudges, owes the Witches nothing and has not acted except when they broke the treaty and dug up one of her worst enemies – the witches have made zero attempt at reconciliation or restitution or even gestures of apology….

      But the show continues to present her as an angry enemy who is so angry and sinister and angry and dangerous and angry and frightening… While at the same time HUMANISING Delphine Lalaurie and painting Fiona as a tragic figure

  3. Like I said on Tumblr, the only reason why people are not cheering Marie Laveau on like she’s the Bride from “Kill Bill” is because they have been spoon-fed stories about humble, forgiving, saintly Negroes responding to atrocious White bullshit with friendship and loyalty.

    • So, basically, the role they’ve been repeatedly putting Queenie in — and will again, if the trailer is any indication. Queenie legit died for Delphine. Died.

      But, you know, she’s a horrible person now.

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