American Horror Story debuted on October 5th of 2011 with Murder House. I bet that even creators, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, had no idea that the series will become one of the most famous (if not the most famous) series around the world. Murphy and Falchuk showed fans the new idea of horror – they simply connected mind-blowing story telling with gore and concept of paranormal phenomena into one. That was something people went crazy about.
Fans also went crazy about amazing cast that raised the bar of acting to the impossible level. I might be biased right here, but one look at Sarah Paulson, Lily Rabe, Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga etc. will leave you with the same feeling as it left me – on the edge of this blew my simple human mind and what am I supposed to do with my life now (that one is usually after finishing each season of AHS).
I’m not going to talk about gore though. I’m here to talk about storytelling of American Horror Story and elements (oh, so many elements) fans can read between the lines. I don’t even know if people realize how many various references creators have made. We have references to local ghost stories, pop culture, literature, politics and bible. And yes, I’m not using capital letter on purpose, because I’m not talking about one particular bible.
I can either cut your throat or I can strangle you. I don’t believe in guns
AHS series has many, many references to infamous criminals that once were used to scare kids so they can go back to the house earlier instead of staying out late at night. It starts with character Tate Langdon portrayed by Evan Peters in first season – Murder House. Tate is a quiet boy, a son to Constance (Jessica Lange), brother and good person. Well, that is what everybody thinks… Eventually Tate grabs a gun, takes it to school and starts shooting everybody on his way. Later on, the demons of his actions haunt him, literally.
I believe that it was Falchuk and Murphy’s reference to terrifying Columbine incident from 1999. The shooting aftermath was shock to everyone in America – 15 deaths and 25 injured stayed in people’s memories forever. Tate Langdon’s character also portrays every other school shooting that happens in America. All the time. It shows that something ought to be done about that.
But that’s not the only reference we have. Later on throughout the seasons (Asylum), viewers are introduced to Dr. Arthur Arden (James Cromwell) who mutilates patients and tries to create something above human race. What does it remind you of? World War II and Josef Mengele who was working for Hitler and tried to create the perfect race. Mengele also tried to create a method that would change the eye color. Many references between him and Arthur Arden show that AHS creators simply created a new, maybe even creepier version of Mengele.
Who else? There were so many real life criminals, it’s really hard to keep track. The viewers could see Black Dhalia, who appears throughout the entire series (even in the newest one titled Apocalypse). Elizabeth Short, who was brutally murdered, is trapped in the Murder House and cannot find peace. In season fourth: Hotel, we can also see Aileen Wuornos, Richard Ramirez, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy etc. The scariest, most terrifying criminals appear on Halloween as ghosts on the supper that they share. Is there anything more beautiful that this subtle wink from Murphy and Falchuk?
The dead can hold a grudge better than most Scorpios
… says Billie Dean Howards, the medium portrayed by aforementioned, amazingly talented Sarah Paulson. Billie returns between the seasons, Murder House, Apocalypse and such. Many characters appear throughout eight season of the series, making amazing connection to other characters that are new to the viewers. It is simply beautiful what Ryan and Brad did with AHS series. Every seasons tells us different story, every one is different than the other with unique characters, but somehow creators connect them with invisible rope. You can easily point out some of them – linking Murder House with the newest Apocalypse. That’s probably one of the biggest references when it’s about characters.
Michael Langdon, newborn son of Vivien and Tate Langdon (worth mentioning that Vivien was human and Tate a ghost) is being taken care of by his grandmother, Constance (Jessica Lange). Vivien dies and when we already think everything is fine, we see Michael, all bloody and smiley. Before him, body of his babysitter. After first season I’m pretty sure fans didn’t think about it much… till Apocalypse. Billie Dean Howard predicted rising of the end – it would be Michael Langdon, son of a human and ghost (later on it is said that Tate was simply a channel for something higher – Satan himself). Michael is said to bring the end of the world for everybody unless he’s stopped. Although perhaps mankind shouldn’t be worried as Cordelia Goode and her Coven of witches returns and plans to destroy Langdon’s plans.
Witches are back and with them, another reference – Lady Gaga in Roanoke. After Coven aired and (of course) succeeded, everybody was wondering – who was the very first Supreme? Later on we found out from Murphy that Lady Gaga’s character from sixth season named Scathach was the first Supreme that ever existed. Isn’t it amazing? The connections go on and on throughout all series such as Montgomery family from first season, then appearance of Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) in third one and back in the newest one. Her roots weren’t confirmed, but I’m positive it will land somewhere within dr. Charles Montgomery.
On top of that, ghosts habitually reappear, scaring and killing newest characters. But who’s the other bigger character that connects seasons? Lana Winters.
We get to meet Lana Winters in season two titled Asylum. She’s journalist who’s falsely committed to Briarcliff Manor, simply for trying to write an article about the place and how they treat their patients. But that’s not all. She’s being treated because her partner is a woman. Her doctor, Dr. Oliver Thredson, an awful man (worthy to add), treats her by showing her male pornographic pictures or by “male touch”. The woman is also treated witch electroshocks ordered by Sister Jude. Sarah Paulson’s acting in those scenes is something that cannot be described, you just have to see it.
Thankfully, Lana finds the way to escape and to expose Asylum. She becomes a really famous journalist and then appears in other seasons such as Cult. She tries to interview Ally Mayfair-Richards (so basically herself as Ally is portrayed by Paulson as well *wink wink*).
I could go on and on with references between the characters and seasons but then you would probably be bored. My point was to simply show how smoothly Murphy and Falchuk’s characters are in harmony with each other and make always perfect sense.
He broke Stevie!
Another section of references is pretty simple if you think about it – modern (and not so modern…) pop culture and AHS series create captivating connections. If you are a fan of horrors, you will easily notice The Amityville Horror in first season as well as Polanski’s picture, Rosemary’s baby – Vivien is pregnant with the child that’s half human, half ghost and is foretold by Billie Dean as anti-christ (Michael).
But that’s not the only horror that’s referenced in AHS. Fans can also notice connections to The Exorcist, The Shining, and the idea of creepy clowns.
Who else appears? Andy Warhol for example. And Charles Manson, both played by Even Peters. But! The biggest and most amazing, in my opinion, surprise is Stevie Nicks playing herself in Coven and Apocalypse. Stevie is presented as white witch by Misty Day, who’s obsessed with her music.
Misty joins Cordelia and even gets to meet Stevie! (her fainting after seeing her is pretty much all of us after seeing our long time idol). Stevie signs for the witches and I think we can all agree she simply brings the magic on the screen to our hearts. All thanks to creators.
Don’t be a hater, dear
Myrtle Snow said titled words which Donald Trump probably never comprehended in his whole life. Not being a hater seems to be an impossible thing to do in contemporary time. Hate, after all, plays huge role in American Horror Story series. It seems to be one of the leading themes in every season of the cult show.
And what’s better showing hate than politics? Seventh season, Cult, starts when Donald Trump wins the elections and leads two main plots: Kai Anderson and Ally Mayfair-Richards (in sequence, republican and democrat). Both of those characters represent one type of person while Ally also shows what phobia can do to a human being. Throughout the Cult , both sides fight against each other, but at the end it turns out, they are not so much different. Is that creator’s subtle way of telling us that, at the end, we are all the same?
But it’s not only politics that presents hate in the series. It’s also a war between man and a woman. A war that women fought forever, a war that doesn’t stop even in 2018. A war for equality. We can see it more in the newest Apocalypse on the example of witches and warlocks.
As Cordelia raised and became Supreme, Apocalypse happened and humanity was destroyed. Long foretold the end of the beginning, aforementioned Michael Langdon, appears as a warlock who “supposedly” is going to become a new Supreme. At first everything makes sense, because Cordelia is, indeed, losing her powers and Langdon does all Seven Wonders (seven tests to become Supreme), but that’s not the point.
It’s warlocks who fought years to replace witches in the board. There is a fight between Cordelia and Ariel, one of the headmasters of the wizard school. But here, in Apocalypse, Cordelia shows that she’s not scared woman existing in the shadow of her mother anymore.
We could definitely see the influence of #MeToo movement in the newest season that is such an important movement in contemporary times. Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk united with women as well. It was reported that on the set of AHS Apocalypse, 61% of the set contained women as directors, screenwriters and such. Even Sarah Paulson had her own debut as director of one of the episodes (Return to Murder House).
The world is a filthy place. It’s a filthy goddamn horror show. There’s just so much pain, y’know?
The world, indeed, can be a filthy place and described series shows it. It shows it all. Although, in all its confusion, there is a light at the end of each episode that leads us to the next one. Once one starts analyzing or paying more attention to lines, one will see how much of a talent and effort Murphy and Falchuk put in American Horror Story.
It’s not just some TV show that people watch and forget. I’m pretty sure we will all talk about this one long after it’s ended. I’m sure of it.
And people who think that it’s only gross, disgusting, silly picture that scandalizes audience, please think again. And don’t be a hater, dear.