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Of all the insane things that happen in American Horror Story: Cult‘s second episode, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” one of the more shocking moments is when Ally (Sarah Paulson) and Ivy (Allison Pill) offhandedly reveal the full name of their young son, Ozzy: Ozymandias Mayfair-Richards.
Quite a mouthful, huh?
While the nature of Oz’s true parentage is still up for debate — we have a strong feeling his “real” mom is Ivy, but who’s the father? — the meaning behind his full name is crystal clear. So, where does the name Ozymandias come from? A poem, actually. A very ominous poem.
Although the name Ozymandias (which means “a tyrant, a dictator, a megalomaniac; someone or something of immense size, a colossus”) has Greek roots and dates back to roughly 323 BC, Percy Bysshe Shelley brought the word to prominence in 1818 after publishing a sonnet by the same name. It centers on Egyptian pharaoh Ramses II, a tyrant, who has commissioned a sculpture to commemorate his great legacy. We’re introduced to the statue, with its “wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,” years later, after it’s “half-sunk” into ruin. Given Shelley’s anti-imperialist beliefs, Ozymandias is likely a comment on the reckless arrogance tyrants wield and how it gets them nowhere in the end. Here it is in full:
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—”Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
In addition to Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias was once again popularized in 2013 in an episode in the final season of Breaking Bad. It’s an apt poem for high school teacher turned meth dealer Walter White to read in a scene from the episode, since it deals with such strong themes of collapse following greatness. That same message can be applied to season seven of American Horror Story, which is titled Cult and focuses on the fear that overcame America directly after Donald Trump’s election (which sets off Ally’s many phobias). Creator Ryan Murphy has also revealed that infamous cult leaders Charles Manson, Andy Warhol, Jim Jones, and David Koresh will be introduced at certain points throughout the season, in addition to Evan Peters’s extremist character, Kai.
Clearly the meaning behind Shelley’s poem fits right in. While we don’t suspect that Ozzy is going to turn into a diabolical tyrant anytime soon, his name does hint about how season seven might wrap up. Like the pharaoh, the figures addicted to fear and power in Cult — Kai, the murderous clown gang, Winter — will get theirs. Let’s just hope it happens before Ally completely loses it.
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