They call it American Horror Story. FX Network named it wrong. It’s not particularly American—California is only technically in America. Above all, it’s not really a “horror story” either. Horror generally requires characters you care about. But one thing’s sure about American Horror Story: It is loaded to the gills with nastiness, most of it criminal.
In American Horror Story, not a single scene is wasted on the audience’s comfort. The only break from bad things happening is when worse things happen. Here I’ve compiled a list of some of the absolute worst. When the calmer scenes involve self-mutilation, prolific use of gimp suits and the mother from Six Feet Under masturbating in a French maid outfit, you know you’re in for some doozies.
5. Improper Disposal of Remains
Most TV dramas feature commercials for Axe every fifteen minutes. American Horror Story features a dismembered human being. Their running tally of body parts scans like a 16th century anatomy manual. The show runners have chopped off and proudly displayed pieces that medical science hasn’t even invented prosthetics for yet.
You may retort, “Well, it’s a horror show, right? Get with the chainsaw massacre already.” But I assure you that halfway through an episode, you’ll revise your opinion to, “Again, people? Settle down a little.” From an intro that’s awash in severed baby heads in formaldehyde to a closing scene that has, without fail, featured somebody getting chopped with something sharp, American Horror Story is dedicated to depicting every possible way you can disassemble somebody.
4. Assault and Battery by a Minor
Kids are cruel, we get it. We’ve all watched the outtakes from Teen Mom. At least, those of us with jobs that pay us to be on YouTube have. That America’s schools are hyper-hormonal dystopias filled with cackling, soulless midgets is nothing new.
But American Horror Story isn’t here to simply make the grade—it will douse you in so much teen violence that you’d think they’d dropped the age limits for entrance into the Octagon. Violet, the leading teen of the wretched family that is the show’s focus, gets into fights every time we see her on school property. She’s scratched, punched, slapped and slashed.
Her retaliation is what really cranks it up to felony grade mayhem. Violet responds to her shrieking assailants as if she wants to skip right to the end of Heathers. She’s put her cigarette out on the Queen Bitch and then, when that didn’t satisfy her pubescent bloodlust, she brings in a future school shooter to “terrorize” the girl. We’re not entirely sure what’s done to “terrorize,” except that the girl’s next seen as a shock-ridden zombie right from I Spit On Your Grave, and with an ear bandage that suggests her attacker took a trophy. Way to stay classy, American Horror Story.
3. Child Abuse
Speaking of classy, American Horror Story substitutes tragic awkwardness for comic relief, in the role of Addy, the girl with Down Syndrome living next to our “heroes,” the Harmon family. It’s hard to tell without a laugh track or organ music, but Addy seems to be around so that her zany—or, rather, creepy-as-balls—antics will make us shiver with a feeling as close to humor as it gets for the show. And while this is arguably tolerable, it’s what Addy’s mother, Constance, played by Jessica Lange, does to her that’s criminal in the extreme.
When Addy annoys her venomous mother, we see Constance lock her daughter in a tiny room. That’s nasty enough to get child services involved, even in many states of the Deep South. Worse yet is that the room’s every inch is covered in mirrors, to horrify Addy’s childlike ego with images of—as Mama calls it—“the ugly girl.” Addy gets a solid minute of screen time shrieking at her own image and the audience gets to experience every negative feeling known to modern psychology.
Oh boy, is there ever murder. The town in Lost Boys, the Motor City and New Orleans have, at various times, claimed the fame of being murder capitol of the USA, but American Horror Story calls bullshit on that. In their messed-in-the-head cosmos, Echo Park leads is the capitol of homicide, and the Harmon place is its White House. The show is in its second episode and has already offed just under a dozen human beings. Most of them in the house itself. All with excruciating detail.
This dovetails nicely with American Horror Story’s mission to hack bits off. That certainly won’t limit them, though. They’d poisoned, cut throats, burned and buried people too. And, amazingly, nobody has annihilated the house, scattered the bricks and salted the earth. I suppose they’re saving up for the season finale. That’s assuming that anyone will survive, and right now, that’s more of an impossibility than old-lady-baby-monkey ghosts. Of which, by the way, there are plenty.
1. Indecent Exposure
Speaking of plenty, our cornucopia runs over with scenes of nudity. Not just any nudity, though. Don’t tune in expecting nubile actresses and actors flashing skin. American Horror Story is even more modest than CSI in that regard. No, the most bizarre decision of this deranged show is to slather us with wall-to-wall Dylan McDermott ass.
I’m not declaring this a crime in and of itself. I have nothing against the dude letting his freak flag fly. And he clearly works out, so good on him. He does, of course, this being American Horror Story, commit dubiously legal deeds in the nude—he wanks off in front of a window, which I’m told is never a wise idea if staying on the Law’s good side is on your list of priorities. He also plays with the stoveburners in a way that foreshadows some serious Conspiracy to Commit Arson.
But, no, the reason why Dylan’s full moon bonanza tops our list of crimes is in the sheer volume of it. As frequent as all the felonies above are, the most frequent scene in American Horror Story is a shot of Mr. McDermott cruising around without a stitch on. His costume changes must consist solely of “drop ‘em and oil up.” If the show continues at its current rate and I keep watching it, I will be able to claim having spent four hours watching McDermott’s ass.
Honestly folks, they should consider switching the title from American Horror Story to Turkish Bathhouse Story. They won’t, though. Not when they are dedicated to cramming every scene not involving male nudity with as many various crimes as they can.
Other State or Civil Code violations by American Horror Story come to mind? Accuse them in the Comments below.
+Matthew Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily and Full Stop. Winner of the Spinetingler award for Best Short Story on the Web 2010, M. C. Funk has been published at numerous sites online, indexed at his Web site, and in print with Needle Magazine, Howl, 6S and Crime Factory. He is represented by Stacia J. N. Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.