Michael Langdon, the breakout character of American Horror Story’s eighth season, Apocalypse, is proof of the enduring appeal of bad boys. Played by Australian actor Cody Fern, Langdon is no ordinary bad boy, though: He’s the show’s Antichrist. Introduced as a baby in AHS’s first season, Murder House, Langdon is now back as a full-grown man.
The fact that his character is completely bad news hasn’t stopped AHS: Apocalypse fans from going nuts for him, with his blond locks, black cloaks, and penchant for velvet. And viewers aren’t just rooting for him; they also want to look like him, a man who draws on his masculine and feminine traits to enthrall friends and foes. The AHS fans he’s enchanted are copying his red eyeshadow, styling their hair like his, and finding designer clothes that resemble his black-and-oxblood looks.
michael langdon : a fashion icon. pic.twitter.com/iuFgo8GDt9— -;ani (@tweestonurface) October 13, 2018
Blame Langdon’s appeal on Fern, who infuses the character with a palpable sensuality, earning him the dubious distinction of being TV’s “sexiest Antichrist.” While Langdon isn’t above using violence to get what he wants — he is the devil’s son, after all — in the show, he often relies on his powers of seduction. The way he fixes his gaze on a target, circles a room, starts a conversation, or discusses a massacre oozes sexuality.
“He pushes people’s buttons,” Fern told Variety about the character. “He tempts them and seduces them and brings out their greatest fears and desires, and then they go about enacting horrific evil while he watches. He acts as a conduit for other people’s evil.”
Langdon’s sole purpose may be to “steal, kill, and destroy,” but because he looks so good doing it, there’s no shortage of fans urging him to slay, in both the fashion and felonious sense of the word. The character’s popularity is a reminder that despite rigid gender roles that have framed men as objectifiers and women as objects, men willing to trade on their sensuality to gain power have long proven enchanting — be it literary heroes like Don Juan, or musicians like Elvis Presley or Prince who swiveled their hips and writhed around onstage to captivate audiences. Langdon is part of this tradition, which explains his cult following among viewers who don’t just lust after the character but are aping his distinctive sense of style.
“You see I have a talent, call it a kind of night vision of the soul. I can see into the dark places that people desperately try to keep hidden...”— Madison Montgomery (@classyxale) October 11, 2018
Okay here is my take on a “glam” version of Michael Langdon from #AmericanHorrorStory Apocalypse! pic.twitter.com/CmHGq7n1s9
Michael Langdon’s style even appears to be rubbing off on Fern. The actor has been spotted off set with red eyeshadow and black clothing that give him the same air of mystery his character has. Langdon has been compared to vampires like Lestat from Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire. Both Lestat and Langdon are among a long line of men, including David Bowie, Robert Smith, Michael Jackson, Boy George, and Freddie Mercury, who’ve defied gender presentation norms while enticing their fans.
But Langdon in particular belongs to an era when gender fluidity is increasingly accepted, with more American men than ever signing up for cosmetic procedures and experimenting with makeup. Next year, Chanel’s first cosmetics line for men, Boy de Chanel, hits the United States, and since 2010, sales of men’s beauty and fashion products have seen more growth than women’s sales, according to a 2016 report from the market research firm Euromonitor.
“They’re now rethinking what masculinity means, what it means to be a guy, and painting your face or using skin care doesn’t make you any less men,” David Yi, founder of the men’s beauty site Very Good Light, told Vox in September.
Not only is the sight of men in skirts and makeup no longer necessarily considered “emasculating,” it can be considered appealing, especially to women. A viral tweet declared Fern a “whole man” for rocking red eyeshadow while out of character, and the adoring fans mimicking his look are largely women.
The character also illustrates that neither black clothing nor men’s apparel has to be boring. Langdon’s wardrobe is peppered with velvet, leather, chains, and heeled boots. The clunky rings on his fingers add to the perception that he’s a boss, and his layers of clothing emphasize how his character is multidimensional but ultimately unknowable.
Like his makeup, Langdon’s taste in clothing is having a cultural moment. In recent years, high-fashion brands like Balmain, Saint Laurent, Versace, Gucci, and Givenchy have introduced men’s clothing that appeals to the senses, such as vinyl pants, silk shirts, steel-toed boots, and velvet and leather jackets. These garments are often black, throwbacks to the cyberpunk look that dominated 1999’s The Matrix. But they also come in dark blues and reds, the bloody hue that accents Langdon’s closet.
It took a team of three professionals — costume designer Lou Eyrich, makeup artist Eryn Mekash, and hairstylist Michelle Ceglia — to nail Michael Langdon’s look. Fern had some influence as well, he told GameSpot about his character. But Langdon’s masculine and feminine qualities were built into the character by design.
Chains for Michael pic.twitter.com/utk36Pe7cX— g | michael langdon's wig stan (@GBinEP) October 9, 2018
“He needs to straddle the fence between what is considered feminine and what is considered masculine, between how he dresses and how he presents himself,” Fern told GameSpot. “... He doesn’t have a sexual orientation. He is the embodiment of something sexual, so whatever that is in a person, whatever their deepest desire is, he’ll draw out.”
While the Michael Langdon character is coded as male, his gender fluidity is at the heart of his appeal. He’s not just a handsome devil; he represents the person of the future, one who embraces the male, female, and nonbinary parts of himself unabashedly.
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