Weekend Binge

The real horror of ‘Ratched’ isn’t madness; it’s being queer in a straight world

RATCHED (L to R) SARAH PAULSON as MILDRED RATCHED and CYNTHIA NIXON as GWENDOLYN BRIGGS in episode 106 of RATCHED Cr. SAEED ADYANI/NETFLIX © 2020

Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every Friday, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.

The Crazy: Ratched

In the lead up to Halloween, we’ve scoured our streaming library to come up with a great queer-themed horror series, suitable for binging during the witching hours. Funny enough, one title keeps rising to the front of the pack: the recent Netflix series Ratched.

The new show reimagines the origins of Nurse Ratched of One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest, catching up with her in the late 1940s as she joins the staff of a seaside insane asylum. By now you’ve probably heard a good deal enough about the plot (and if not, check out our recommendation). What makes the show stand out in our mind–more so than the amazing cast or production design–is that, at its heart, the show is really about living as an LGBTQ person, and how, in a certain time, that was considered insane. Ratched preoccupies itself with the nature of insanity, and begs the question: does madness result from the pain of being misunderstood? For queer folks prior to 1973 when the APA declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder, the answer seems to be yes. LGBTQ characters in Ratched undergo torturous experiments to “cure” their sexuality. Of course, none of it does any good, which begs another question: are the medical staff crazy for even trying?

Rached channels all types of horror, from high brow titles such as Suspiria and The Shining to low brow shlock. References to the gimmicky horror movies of William Castle (Straight Jacket, The Tingler) abound, but that only adds to the fun. For all the Grand Guignol outrageousness and genuine scares, however, Ratched tells a story of pain and trauma, fear of being different, and how society tortures what it does not understand. For those reasons, we rank it ahead of other LGBTQ horror series–notably American Horror Story, which Ryan Murphy also created–as a great way to welcome scary season, and enjoy a thrill ride into the dark corners of the human mind.

Streams on Netflix.