American Horror Story

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American Horror Story and Rape as a Method of Terror

In every season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story, rape, miscarriage, and other forms of vaginal trauma are used to highlight the horrors felt by the show’s female characters. Consider how effective these tropes are, or if female horror can extend beyond fears of mutilation or motherhood.

  • I don't watch the show, so I can't give insight on the show specifically...But considering how 'sacred' the vagina is, or is suppose to be anyway, when it comes to the process of making life, you can see how any trauma to it can be deemed horrible...Obviously there are other ways to scare of horrify females, but I must assume that rape is still a fear in the back of the mind of most women...Is it fair to say that women fear being raped more than hacked up by a deranged clown? – MikeySheff 7 years ago
  • I see what you are saying and I think Ryan Murphy uses this concept of rape as a method of terror to really feed off that fear. In terms of evolution, ever species perceives reproduction as a means of survival. This probably adds to our own subconscious fear. – emilyholter 7 years ago
  • At the same time I think using rape as a form of trauma is a poor way to capture how female characters feel because there are so many nonviolent ways to explore trauma. At this moment it feels more as a overused shock point – seouljustice 7 years ago
  • Personally, I think rape is an effective conduit of fear. It's an extremely personal violation and an attack on womanhood, just as raping a man or otherwise harming his genitals would be an attack on manhood. However, I also feel female characters in the media get shortchanged because rape is often portrayed as the worst torment they can face, and the only thing they have to worry about. This is especially true in historical pieces because like it or not, getting raped or pregnant outside wedlock in past eras would ruin your life. What I would like to see more of, is women facing fears and terrors other than rape. Just like a man, a woman can contract a deadly superbug. She can face the horrors of war, on or off the battlefield, and that doesn't have to include being raped. She can survive life in slavery or a concentration camp, and survival alone is enough to show she's traumatized but tough. She can lose a limb, have a beloved child ripped from her, face down opponents in high-stakes intellectual conflicts...the possibilities are endless. Too much dependence on rape and rape tropes limits writers and limits women. – Stephanie M. 7 years ago

Pregnancy in American Horror Story

What is the role of pregnancy in the first two seasons of American Horror Story? In the first season, we have the housewife pregnant with a monster that eventually kills her in childbirth. In the second, we have two women pregnant who are pregnant from the same man. There are many factors that make them different, even to the extent that one is black and one is white. There could be interesting "black and white" comparisons drawn between their roles in their lover’s life, how they become pregnant, how they handle their pregnancy, etc. What are the implications of using pregnancy as a plot device?


    Allusion or Atrocity? References to The Shining in American Horror Story: Hotel

    When Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk announced the subject matter of the hit show’s newest season, horror fans rejoiced. Allusions to Kubrick’s modern classic, The Shining, were scattered throughout the promotional campaign. Now, we’re seven episodes in and it seems they may be taking it too far. When do allusions to someone else’s work become straight up plagiarism? Was it really necessary to recreate the iconic carpet of Kubrick’s hotel?


      Narrative Contentiousness in "American Horror Story"

      The sometimes-acclaimed and popular FX TV series "American Horror Story" recently opened its fifth season, Hotel. It has many of the hallmarks of doing TV right, and yet my experience tells me that, like HBO’s "True Detective" or any number of vaguely mysterious contemporary shows, "American Horror Story" (AHS) is often adamantly defended by viewers who cannot entirely pinpoint why it’s good.

      I lost AHS at some point during its second season, Asylum. I tried the third, Coven. I recently picked the show back up to test out the fourth season, Freak Show, as it arrived on Netflix streaming. While I enjoyed Freak Show more than I have any of the seasons following the first, it suffered from the same messy narrative hodgepodge that defined the others (and perhaps defines Hotel). How is it that so many elements and character arcs work? In Asylum, you layer horror atop horror, for instance, when it certainly seems the series would be more coherent and powerful with one or two.

      From memory, in that second season, you get an old asylum (sufficiently disturbing), layer on a set of Catholic nuns (again, sufficiently disturbing), layer on demonic/Satanic possession of a kid (right), layer on a transfer of that possession to one of the junior nuns (terribly disturbing), layer on a Nazi eugenics doctor in hiding (um), layer on that the Nazi is breeding scifi monsters and interacting with aliens (what?), layer on an interracial couple and alien abduction (…), layer on a serial killer who decorates his home with human remains (wait), and so on. Add, of course, that the show tries to keep you invested in roughly the same number of characters as the number of the episodes in the season.

      How does it work? I don’t think it does. Can the skeptics be convinced? Should they?