FX’s American Crime Story
Season 2, Episode 8: “Creator/Destroyer”
Directed by Matt Bomer
Written by Maggie Cohn & Tom Rob Smith
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Ascent” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Alone” – click here
1957, in Calabria, Italy. A little boy sketches a woman in a dress; it’s young Gianni Versace. He idolises his mother, though he keeps his drawings private. Except she knows his interest. “There is no need to hide,” she tells her boy. Afterwards, she talks of becoming a dressmaker instead of what she wanted to do – be a doctor – because it was, supposedly, a more womanly career.
It boils down to the fact Franca Versace (Francesca Fanti) would never tell her own children what to do for a living. Because it must come from your heart and your passion. Thus, a designer was born, as his mother began teaching him the trade. It was all the boy ever wanted to do. His teachers called him “pervert” and the other boys called him “pansy.” Yet he never lost sight of what he loved. His mother’s encouragement gave him life and ambition.
Jump to 1980 in San Diego, California. We’ll see an entirely different parent-child relationship. Particularly, when we consider where Gianni ended up, and where Andrew Cunanan (Darren Criss) did, there’s a strong statement to be made about parent-children relationships + how they can irreparably damage a child, and later the adult that child will become, when they are faulty.
We now meet Modesto Cunanan (Jon Jon Briones), an industrious sort of man. His son, young Christopher (Carlin James), is one of a group of siblings, The family moved from their little house to a bigger place in a nicer neighbourhood. Good ole social mobility and the American Dream. At the new place, Andrew is given the grand tour. Seems that his father ingrained in him, deeply, the idea that he is “special.” That lie we thought he told about getting the master bedroom in his house? No lie. Did dad build him up so much that when the boy grew into a man he realised he wasn’t special and he wasn’t ambitious enough to lead a hardworking life? Is that when it all came crumbling down?
From the outside, it seems that Modesto was a very hardworking individual. He almost prided himself on that immigrant’s American Dream vision of building oneself up from the ground into a success. He repeatedly tried to instil this type of thinking in Andrew as a boy. There’s an interesting scene juxtaposing little Andrew at a private school versus his father in a job interview showing us the different sides to ambition.
Speaking of different sides, Modesto shows his true colours later. He is vindictive and hurtful towards his wife Mary Ann (Joanna Adler), and he continually treats Andrew like some prized possession. No, it’s more like the boy is not his child, but rather a kind of a animal being bred for success. Sure, there’s a love there; it just doesn’t feel genuine. When the dad sees his kid is accepted to private school, he bends down and kisses his boy’s feet. Creepy. The actual face of Modesto Cunanan emerges more.
When Modesto starts work as a stock broker, we further begin witnessing that Andrew’s pathological lying is, more than likely, hereditary. After Modesto can’t make a sale, he puts on a face for his bosses. Then dad buys his special boy a car, even though Andrew’s too young to drive and his other children are old enough. There’s also abuse at dad’s hands, which the kid sees, and so violence was always a part of Andrew Cunanan. Dad was the biggest part of separating mother from son, too. Plus, dad was FAR TOO CLOSE to his child. Disgustingly obvious Modesto was grooming.
“I was your mother and your father”
“If being a fag means being different: sign me up!”
Jump to 1987. Andrew’s the cool privileged kid with a car at high school, already walking around with an attitude and ego bigger than the fucking moon. Meanwhile, his father’s working in an office that’s the farther cry from Merrill Lynch you can possibly imagine. He’s still trading, just on a far lower level. He’s one of those parasites going after old people and their pensions. However, he’s keeping up the facade; if the American Dream dies, then so does Modesto.
Behind the scenes of teenage life, Andrew was not just hiding his sexuality from those closest to him, he was also hiding his early abuse of alcohol. At night he’d sneak out with a lover – a sugar daddy, of course. He always had a thing for older men; something his mother inadvertently encouraged. But most of that ended in heartbreak, anyway. He at least had Liz (Annaleigh Ashford), who was more than happy to be his friend, even when he dressed like Eddie Murphy. They got pretty close in high school. Ironic that Liz was posing as a high school girl so she could hang out, which is probably exactly why Andrew gravitated towards her in the first place.
One day at work, Modesto’s called in to his bosses. They’ve been alerted of his dealing in “non–existent stocks” and the situation where he cheated an old woman out of her life savings. Worse still, the federal government gets involved, and suddenly the American Dream’s crumbling so fast Modesto can’t manage to keep up. When the FBI showed up at his workplace, he went on the run, and he was fully prepared for it already with hidden cash, a passport, and tickets ready to be booked.
“Après nous, le déluge.”
Funny how Andrew messes up his yearbook quote, because he thinks he’s incredibly intelligent. It’s meant as “After us, the flood” but he wrote it as “Après moi, le déluge” and also incorrectly translates ‘déluge’ as ‘destruction’ when it’s actually ‘flood.’
Once Modesto left his family with nothing, Mary Ann was reeling. In the meantime, Andrew was determined to go find his dad, and refused to believe he was a criminal. All the more tragic for the fact Modesto was molesting him, yet Andrew couldn’t bring himself to see the whole, awful truth.
So, Andrew goes to Manila. He tracks down a tiny house in the village. In the woods nearby is a shack where Modesto lives. Father and son reunited. It’s awkward, and dad continues shitting on mom from continents away. He also goes on lying to his son about money until Andrew confronts him fully. After that they blow up at one another, and it gets ugly.
“You can‘t go to America and start from nothing – that‘s the lie.”
After going back home, Andrew was a different man. Although he decided it was time to enter the working world. He applied for a job at the pharmacy. And we being seeing the lies Andrew would tell about Modesto, a way for him to cover up the lie(s) of his life. From there on in, Cunanan’s world was a walking, and eventually murderous, disaster.
One of my favourite episodes this season. Just incredibly heartbreaking, as well as tense, and we’re getting a big, juicy glimpse into all the reasons that made Cunanan into a serial killer years later. People thought this was going to be centred entirely around Versace, but it’s interesting how events in both of these men’s lives are paralleled and juxtaposed to show us just how vastly different two lives can diverge depending on their upbringings.
The finale – “Alone” – is next week. So, buckle up!