It’s a show that features conjoined twins, a boy with lobster hands and a terrifying, murderous clown, yet the strangest part of Wednesday night’s American Horror Story: Freak Show premiere came when Jessica Lange’s Elsa performed a rendition of David Bowie‘s Hunky Dory classic “Life on Mars?” The cover was jarring for two reasons: First, that German accent, and secondly, Bowie’s track was released in 1971, but the show is based in 1952 in Jupiter, Florida. So, is time travel a subplot?
As creator Ryan Murphy tells the Wall Street Journal, the use of Bowie was inspired by the anachronistic utilization of music by director Baz Luhrmann, who notably filled his films Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby with contemporary songs. As Sarah Paulson, who plays conjoined twins Dot and Bette told Vanity Fair, “[Luhrmann] creates these worlds that are so hyper-real and hyper-fantasy-based all smushed into one thing. It lends itself nicely to the tone of the show.”
“We’re only doing songs by artists who have self-identified as freaks,” Murphy tells Speakeasy. “That they felt different. David Bowie said yes to that, Lana Del Rey said yes to that, Kurt Cobain’s daughter said yes to that, Fiona Apple approved that. That for me was the theme of the season, so we went for it. And that’s how we came up with the ‘Life on Mars’ idea.”