October 31, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

In “The Alienist,” a Gay Prostitution Ring Creates Scandal in Turn-of-the-Century New York

1890s New York – much like 1980s New York – was a time of high superstition, sexual panic, and extreme violence. It stunk of rats and bloated corpses, and was filled with corrupt cops, and city officials displaying a proud fondness for graft and ethnic stereotypes. Oh, and did we mention that women basically weren’t encouraged to go outdoors, ever?

And yet, even keeping all of this in mind, the idea of Old New York, with drunks strewn along the Bowery and newsboys shouting the latest gruesome headlines in the street, has its charms. Aside from the fact that the city was still trying to create an identity as a non-European, strictly American urban capital, New York in the late 1800s was a locale that replaced whatever it was lacking in national identity with a distinct visceral imprint created by sounds, smells, and shock. It was a time of courtly manners mixed with the repression of base inner urges that lead to quite a bit of lascivious crime and punishment. Which is why it’s a natural to want to make a TV show about a Victorian American society set in this dreamy locale: A society just on the brink of discovering something crucial about itself.

“The Alienist,” adapted from Caleb Carr’s 1994 novel of the same name, charts the movements of Dr. Kriezler and his companions as he tries to solve a vicious string of murders without the help of the corrupt local government. Kriezler’s occupation as the alienist of the title is a precursor to what we think of now as psychiatry. The difference is that, in the pre-Freudian atmosphere of 1896, mental health issues were still being linked to religious or moral failings rather than scientific aberration. Dr. Kriezler, however, is very forgiving in his view of human nature. That’s why, when faced with the gruesome spectacle of a disemboweled, disembodied young male corpse in a girl’s dress, eyes plucked out and throat cut “to the bone,” Kriezler is less concerned with what appears to everyone else to be the boy’s contradictory gender display. He wants to know who’s behind the crime. He knows the killer has killed before and will kill again – always young boys linked to a male prostitution ring. He knows that sexual violence is the killer’s calling card. Thus, enlisting the help of a young Theodore Roosevelt (then police commissioner,) his secretary, and a newspaper illustrator, he sets out to find the killer terrorizing lower Manhattan, even if it should lead him “into the depths of hell.”

All of which is great and fascinating, but a little murky. Like most ambitious, beautifully drawn (but less beautifully developed) period pieces, “The Alienist” throws its weight around in the obvious ways, creating extraordinary backdrops for the imagined atmosphere of 1890s New York, spending time lovingly trotting through the city in horse-drawn carriages, from which characters descend only to be enveloped in a hazy industrial fog. Like “Boardwalk Empire” before it, the visual worldbuilding takes us places that the plot, sadly, does not. We follow characters into their boudoirs, on trips to brothels, up the winding staircases of East Side tenement buildings, but we don’t – as of yet – follow them into the protected realm of emotion and desire. At least, not as of yet. With two episodes released, “The Alienist” is still finding its feet. And while the show is beautiful to look at, it would still be nice for a show that promises to be about the internal struggles of its characters – struggles with morality, violence, and sexual desire – to follow through on that promise at least in the first few episodes. Still, if you’re looking to be enveloped in a pleasant, yet gritty fantasy of Old New York, “The Alienist” has you covered, from the Bowery to Miracle Mile.

Related Posts

East Hollywood Man Appearing on Wheel Of Fortune

October 22, 2020

October 22, 2020

Tim Quinn, an East Hollywood resident, will be a contestant on the hit TV show Wheel of Fortune on Wednesday,...

Anne Heche Eliminated From DWTS

October 11, 2020

October 11, 2020

After four weeks on season 29 of the ABC reality dance competition Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) Anne Heche has...

An Apologetic Ellen DeGeneres Returns To Daytime TV

September 30, 2020

September 30, 2020

Using technology to it’s advantage for its 18th season The Ellen DeGeneres Show returned to a virtual studio audience on...

Local L.A. Woman Appearing On Wheel Of Fortune

September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

Local Los Angeles woman, Julie Reyes, will be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, the longest-running syndicated game show in...

Love In Action Telethon

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

Love In Action, a telethon to support the LGBTQ+ community during the COVID pandemic will be airing live on Sept.12th...

AIDS Walk Los Angeles 2020

August 27, 2020

August 27, 2020

AIDS Walk Los Angeles (AWLA) is the world’s first walk to fight HIV and AIDS. 35 years ago, a group...

Award-Winning Gay Producer Ash Christian Dead at 35

August 23, 2020

August 23, 2020

Lauded producer, actor, director, and writer Ash Christian died in his sleep while vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Thursday...

Sasha Velour Hosts “NightGowns Forever” Event Virtually

August 16, 2020

August 16, 2020

On Sunday August 9 global drag superstar and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sasha Velour hosted her first virtual drag event...

Queerantine Kicks Off Season Two

August 9, 2020

August 9, 2020

Queerantine, a one-of-a-kind, weekly music video showcase highlighting artists across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, created and hosted by musical artist Kisos,...

Ellen Degeneres Show Scandal

August 4, 2020

August 4, 2020

The host herself Ellen Degeneres and top executives at Ellen Degeneres Show are under internal investigation by WarnerMedia after accusations...

31st GLAAD “Virtual” Awards

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

GLAAD the world’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) media advocacy organization, today announced that it will host...

Glee Star Naya Rivera’s Body Found

July 15, 2020

July 15, 2020

On Wednesday July 8th at 1pm 33 year old former Glee Star Naya Rivera and son, 4 year old Josey...

PBS Celebrates Pride Month with PRIDELAND

May 15, 2020

May 15, 2020

Short-Form Digital Series and New One-Hour Special with Host and Actor Dyllón Burnside, Exploring LGBTQ+ Identity in the U.S. South...

LGBT Icon, Talkshow Host Ellen DeGeneres Wins Award at 77th Annual Golden Globes

January 5, 2020

January 5, 2020

The 77th annual Golden Globes is looking a little bit more LGBTQ-inclusive, and talkshow host and LGBTQ+ icon Ellen DeGeneres’...

Slow But Steady Increase of LGBTQ+ Representation on TV This Year

December 30, 2019

December 30, 2019

As 2019 comes to a close, we begin to reflect. How far has queen representation progressed this year? We saw...