American Horror Story Does More Than Just Scare US

American Horror Story title

I find American Horror Story to be endlessly fascinating. What they’ve done as a series has been wildly successful and has continuously changed the way we look at television as a medium of entertainment.

Television shows have slowly been evolving into something more than just mindless entertainment. It used to be that T.V. was a time for family bonding, but within the last decade or so it has taken a step back from that and instead turned to serious content.

Bear in mind that it’s hard to decipher where it started, and with whom it started, but when I recall taking certain television series seriously I think back to American Horror Story when it originally aired in the fall of 2011. Before then, the only terrifying content I had to watch was Supernatural, and unfortunately, at that point, the series was taking a turn for the worst. So American Horror story was a breath of fresh air.

One of the things that makes it so successful, especially when comparing it to a series like Supernatural, is the fact that the show continuously reboots itself as each season comes and goes. The show has been around now for 7 years, so the majority of you are aware of the series’s mechanics; however, for those of you who haven’t seen it: The show recycles the actors into different roles at the turn of each season, creating an entirely new story and series of events each time. We now know that the universes throughout the years loosely tie into each other. It’s exciting to see our beloved actors revisit a favorite character for a brief moment, but the show focuses its time on moving forward in a different direction, visiting all realms of horror instead of sticking to one generalized plot.

American Horror Story past seasons cover art for Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freak Show, Hotel, Roanoke, and Cult
Season Posters

Once, before American Horror Story, Supernatural used to be at the top of television horror. Rather than ending it when the time came when there was nothing more to do with the plot, the writers instead chose to keep it going and today it still lives, a different monster entirely than what it used to be.

American Horror Story’s theme of recycling the actors into new plots makes it impossible for it to become old and tired. The writers are continuously able to return to the drawing board to reevaluate what horror is as time goes by and what the audience responds to best. There are some seasons that are good and others not so much, but it’s a show I return to faithfully each fall because I know it’ll be different, and I’m genuinely curious to see what new content they come up with.

American Horror Story Sarah Paulson and Even Peters characters from Asylum, Cult, Coven, and Hotel.
Sarah Paulson and Even Peters

Another interesting point that’s worth mentioning is how the show chooses to evolve through the years. I find it endlessly fascinating that it’s constantly pushing buttons on what is acceptable to broadcast on television. With big, privately owned companies like Netflix, they are more able to push the boundaries than something airing on a public station, but American Horror Story looks at what they can do and then goes for it. I speak directly to the mixing of violence and sexuality in a way that I don’t recall other T.V. shows trying to do. There are shows out there that have mixed violence and sexuality in different ways, for example, Law in Order, but American Horror Story does it in a delightfully perverted way. It explores a more intimate route to sexuality in the horror genre. In season two, titled Asylum when Lana Winters discovers the gruesome events in Briarcliff Manor first hand. She is raped by the deranged Bloody Face and the scene itself is toe-curling, yet it compels the viewer to keep watching. Horror isn’t just about ghosts and murderers that slice and dice. The show looks into the mentally ill mindest of a murderer and brings to light that it’s not always about being a slasher with a knife like Freddy or Jason.

What is horror but a glimpse at someone being violated in one way or the other? We watch the character being forced to encounter disgustingly uncomfortable situations involving the macabre. We see them be violated by the exposure to horror.

However, Asylum isn’t the button pushing master that I’m exactly talking about. American Horror Story’s fifth season, Hotel, surprised me. I for sure thought the show would be canceled, or that there would be some backlash against the events that happened within it, but it pleasantly proved a point: perverted horror is wildly desired and an untapped gold mine. The show’s continued success is proof of that as we are now in the middle of season 8. This mixing of sexuality and horror in disgusting ways isn’t being rejected, but instead being welcomed and looked at with curiosity.

I’m talking perverted horror in every way you can think. There’s a scene when the original owner of the hotel rapes a woman while slashing open her belly, and another scene where three drug addicts sew each other together during sex where then two of them proceed to die, leaving the one to lay naked with two corpses for 5 days.

Up to a certain point, a large part of horror had been about ghosts, running from slashers, creepy houses, and so on, but until American Horror Story started demonstrating to the general audience that horror could be so much more.

No, American Horror Story isn’t the first to try this in the history of the horror. It didn’t invent the concept of interweaving heavy scenes of sexuality with gruesome horror, but it is the first to broadcast it so blatantly on public television, thus opening the doorway to more that will no doubt follow as we now come to understand that a vast majority of us are interested in seeing how far these things can be pushed.

American Horror Story is a pleasant middle ground for me in that regard. It’s just enough without it being too violating if that makes a lick of sense. There are horror movies out there that are too extreme believe it or not. I’m interested in seeing how far the boundaries can be pushed, but not quite so much that I’d be interested in watching something like A Serbian Film. So I commend American Horror Story. I love American Horror Story. And I highly recommend it

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