The series blog starts today and each entry will summarise the main plot points of the episode and offer some thoughts and ideas of areas of interest that could be explored further. For any A Level Media students who find their way here, media concepts will be used extensively and, as the series progresses, some detours may be taken into the realm of media and or cultural theory. Inevitably there will be a range of references made. Some links will be provided and some theories may be applied.
Links to each episode blog can be found under the ‘American Horror Story’ tab above.
American Horror Story has already produced two seasons that used the horror genre as a vehicle to deal with contemporary issues and concerns. Season one focused on domestic horror (Murder House) whilst season two took a broader approach to show the horror within institutions (Asylum). Season 3 seems to be set somewhere in between. Coven is based on an informal institution created to protect its inhabitants and in many ways the coven mirrors a domestic environment.
The AHS creators (Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy) have previously used tried and tested genre conventions and direct references to other horror films. They have intertwined real-life events within AHS’s fantasy world and they have never been afraid to portray hyper violence or hyper sexuality as part of the programme’s story telling. Each season so far has created a surreal, carnivalesque world with season one focusing on the horror that comes from within the family and the home. Domestic relationships and motherhood are shown to be complex and visceral forces and central to the stories within the series are ideas about jealousy, passion, rage and reproduction. The second season looks at madness and the way unorthodox relationships are received and treated. It creates metaphors for modern society within its early 1960s setting and deals with homosexuality, religion, mixed race relationships psychotherapeutic methods and even throws in some Nazis, Aliens (and literally) the Devil for good measure. It’s final episodes bring the story up to date and includes commentary on media culture through the tabloidisation of contemporary journalism and news reporting. Both seasons have provided unconventional representations of usually under-represented groups; homosexuals, the disabled and women in particular. There have been accusations of misogyny in the programme’s representations of women as victims in both the domestic and the institutional setting. Each season of AHS has women as central characters as both protagonists and antagonists. Not the most common of approaches in contemporary TV where (like film) women are usually peripheral and support a man’s story. It’s worth noting that women of all age groups are part of the AHS universes and whilst some are clearly victimised, their suffering reflects the position many women find themselves in in today’s culture. Seasons one and two place women in patriarchal structures (marriage and the church) whereas AHS: Coven will clearly have a matriarchal structure as its focus. Should be interesting!