(Some light spoilers ahead for the premiere of “American Horror Story: Cult”)
“American Horror Story: Cult” kicks off with the most real-world setting the show has used: Election Night, 2016. And when Donald Trump wins, several characters take it pretty hard.
But nobody struggles with the news quite so badly as Sarah Paulson’s character, Ally, whose many phobias and anxieties are triggered by the election. As the announcement hits the airwaves that Hillary Clinton conceded to Trump, Ally starts sobbing and struggling to cope. Her wife, Ivy (Alison Pill), suggests Ally should “remember her cookie breathing” in order to deal with her panic attack.
If you’ve never heard of “cookie breathing,” though, you’ll likely be wondering what the hell Ivy’s talking about. Rest assured that it is a real thing, and not some kind of joke cooked up by Ryan Murphy and co. for the show.
So what is cookie breathing? It’s a name for a deep-breathing exercise usually intended for children that helps them calm themselves during times of stress. Essentially, it’s just about breathing in deeply and slowly. The idea is that you imagine a cookie in order to help you remember how to properly do the breathing exercise.
Cookie breathing asks the person doing the exercise to imagine holding a warm cookie in their hand. First, you breathe in slowly through your nose — usually to a count of three — as if you’re smelling the aroma of a freshly cooked cookie. Then, you imagine the cookie is still too hot to eat, and blow your breath out your mouth as if to cool it.
Given how much time Ivy spends trying to take care of Ally in the first episode of “American Horror Story: Cult,” it’s pretty obviously no accident that she’s practicing an anxiety exercise meant to help little kids. Ally spends the entire first episode struggling to deal with her crippling phobias, and forcing her family to take care of her as if she as a child. And as she gets worse and worse over time, it’s a struggle for Ivy, or anyone else, to believe Ally that she’s actually seeing the things she’s seeing.
Then again, it’s hard to stop and do your cookie breathing when a cult of evil clowns is chasing you through a grocery store.