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The Good, the Bad and the Awfulsome: Why American Horror Story is the Most Wonderful Sh*tshow

By Courtney Enlow | TV Reviews | January 30, 2014 | Comments ()


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There are some facts I need to lay out like tarot cards before we begin.

1. American Horror Story, in any iteration, is not a very good show.
2. American Horror Story, in any iteration, is a fantastic show.
3. Ryan Murphy is television’s answer to Michael Bay and he and Brad Falchuk high five and do air guitar after they come up with every idea, good, bad or otherwise.

On paper, I have a complicated relationship with this program, but each week, it is quite possibly the purest and simplest viewing experience I am privileged to partake in.

It is at once terrible and transcendent. It embraces and celebrates camp and still manages to take itself too seriously. It is woefully inconsistent with wildly frenetic character choices, badly managed and ultimately aborted themes, messages delivered with fists full of ham and the naively staunch, misdirected vigor of a Jezebel intern. But it is equally resplendent with moments of sheer perfection, replete with accidental and purposeful genius with no way of telling which is which.

I mean, take the opening from last night’s finale. Stevie Nicks singing “Seven Wonders” and it’s a music video but it’s apparently really happening while everyone is getting ready and she tells them good luck at the end like she just came over to sing while no one watches except Twirly Misty and then she just leaves. YOU GUYS. Amazing or terrible or terribly amazing, and does it mean to be? THIS IS WHY I LOVE.

In the beginning, there was crysturbating, pleather ghost rape and Violet’s hats. And it was clear the show didn’t know what it was, it didn’t know how monstrously hilarious it was. It was trying to be a Real Show. Then, there was a subtle (as subtle as this show gets, which is as subtle as a Mare Winningham wiggle dance of incestuous seduction) shift into self-awareness. It realized it must grasp the camp by the balls and embrace it. So it did. And it became fun. But the terrible always remained. And I loved it. It became this magical combination of hate-watch and love-watch. And, while the second season was genuinely good, the bad somewhat downplayed and the camp pumped up to 11, Coven has been back to season one’s all-over-the-place next-level bonkers. And I’ve loved every second.

I’ve long held a theory that Ryan Murphy and Russell T. Davies are actually the same person, intercontinental doppelgangers who write and show-run in the exact same manner. Wildly talented idea mean with questionable writing talent and the kind of feral ego that leads a whiplashing mix of utter nonsense and impossible excellence. That is why I’ve posited that all the show’s goodness stems from Tim Minear taking the helm with Murphy and Falchuk in the backseat yelling out directions like sugar-infused children, and the badness comes in when they climb into the front seat and push Minear out of the car.

And I love it. I hope it never changes. I hope it never gets better, never gets worse, never truly becomes as self-aware as it should be and never loses the self-awareness it has. I hope it is always rabidly uncertain of what kind of show it is while parading forward with the kind of blind moronic confidence only seen among the collegiate Young Republicans throwing an Affirmative Action Bake Sale. Stay hungry, stay foolish, American Horror Story you wonderful terrible twisted bastard of a television show.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Flyerfan162

    Thank you for being the only person to accurately justify why it is I watch this show so religiously, no matter how many bathtub enemas and Minotaur rapes Ryan Murphy shoves into it.

  • What is most disheartening about Coven is that Ryan Murphy seems to be breaking his arm patting himself on the back about how good it is. It's not. It was terrible. It had all the depth and merit of a goth music video from the 90's. The people giving this season a pass are the reason that we are probably in for more inconsistent pointless bullshit next season. The only reason he killed Misty Day is because we didn't expect it. It had no other reason, no lead up, no reference to anything that came before it, and no logic. It was just to shock, like a toddler acting out to make everyone look at them. Coven deserves to be mocked and derided for being an utter shitshow. What a waste of 13 hours.

  • e jerry powell

    In other news, I feel it is my duty to start a garden of fat-ass cracker bitches this spring in Marie Laveau's memory.

  • Uriah_Creep

    Courtney, your ideas are intriguing to me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  • No. Just no. Let's not enable his crap lets force Murphy to aim high. We know he can do it. Coven wasn't it.

  • I'd say that I'm sick of expecting a coherent plot and putting up with whiplash character changes, and that I'm not going to watch next season, but it'd be a lie. I will watch, I will nitpick and bitch and moan, and I will still love it more than I hate it. Damn you, Ryan Murphy, you've got me hooked and you know it.

  • e jerry powell

    I've said it before, I'll say it again: Jennifer Salt needs to resurrect Jessica Tate. Then we have Frances Conroy and Katherine Helmond on the same show!

  • J4Sho

    I loved every crazy second of this show....except for this episode. I actually had to rewind my dvr a couple of times to make sure I didn't miss some major scene that would explain what I was watching. It was just a hot mess of a finale.

  • Bhammer100

    I love it that each season basically resets itself. Just because someone doesn't like a season, doesn't mean they won't like next season.

  • Bhammer100

    I have to say. My favorite actor on this series is probably Frances Conroy. She was great in season one as the maid. She was amazing, and I'll admit, very beautiful in season 2 as the Angel of Death and was she was one of the bright spots in season 3.

  • e jerry powell

    Really bright twice, in fact...

  • Fruity Fonzie

    this show is such a hot mess, i never expected supreme (no pun intended) writing since it's a ryan murphy show

    but can i say the Murphy/Davies is not accurate, RM is more like Steven Moffat

  • grr arrgh

    I feel like Moffat is more of the "Look how clever I can be!" variety and Murphy is the "Let's do ALL THE PLOT LINES!" variety. I LOVED RTD era Who and just kind of...tolerate the Moffat era. I much prefer him on Sherlock than Doctor Who. I feel his over the top show-offy quality is far more suited to writing Sherlock.

  • e jerry powell

    "Let's do ALL THE PLOT LINES TWO OR THREE TIMES EACH!"

    FTFY

  • grr arrgh

    Did anyone else think Madison was talking about Glee when she first mentioned her hell being a part of a "Network musical!" and then get disappointed when it was a Sound of Music Live joke?

  • Fruity Fonzie

    lol

    but no, she was throwing shade to Carrie Underwood

  • grr arrgh

    I just got hopeful that maybe Murphy was gonna be hilariously self-aware and make a joke about Glee and then...no, of course not. Because in his mind Glee is the end all be all of tv shows and there is nothing remotely problematic about it.

  • Fruity Fonzie

    well, he actually threw a lot of shade to glee in The new normal

  • e jerry powell

    And then he threw shade at NBC last night for cancelling The New Normal.

  • AvaLehra

    Let's face it, the star of the show was Myrtle Snow's clothing. BALENCIAGA!

  • I will forever love this finale for that scene/line alone.

  • AvaLehra

    I hope when I'm on my death bed I'm cognizant enough to yell or mutter "Balenciaga" as my last word -- just to throw my family into a Rosebud moment.

  • firedmyass

    I want a Myrtle Snow/Lucille Bluth reboot of Thelma & Louise more than I can articulate.

  • "THE WRAP DRESS!"

    If next season doesn't have Frances Conroy in every episode, we riot.

  • AvaLehra

    I want to start a Myrtle Snow Tumblr. Who's with me?! Or with these people who have already started several!
    https://24.media.tumblr.com/20...

  • luthien26

    I'm just bugged at the misuse of the word "transmutation." Teleportation and transmutation are NOT the same thing. (Yes, I'm an FMA nerd.)

  • grr arrgh

    As a Harry Potter nerd, I watched that and thought of apparation. I kept waiting for someone to splinch! Course, Zoe did right as I was saying that to my mom and she just looked at me and said "You mean like that?"

  • e jerry powell

    I'm just glad it wasn't Madison, because Madison probably wasn't wearing any underwear, and that would mean we'd be suffering through TMZ's reposting of Perez HIlton's upskirt shots, in-universe or out.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Between the issues I had with their treatment of race, the increasingly crazy story lines and the horrendously boring teen drama, this season was an utter disappointment.
    I tuned in to see three amazing actresses chew scenery and out-camp one another, but that was sidelined for some awful writing and plotting.

  • Every season goes off the rails at some point. This one just did it faster than the previous two.

    For a show that resets everything every season, they spent a lot of time this one trying desperately to keep everyone alive. Why the lack of balls?

  • Patti

    KNOTTY PINE!!!

  • Uriah_Creep

    That was so out-of-place and hilarious coming from Fiona.

  • e jerry powell

    WIRE HANGERS!

  • I still stand by Coven as an overall good season of an intentionally over the top, campy, ridiculous show. Witch films almost always fall apart in the final act. There's only so many ways to go. Either everyone burns or no one burns. Once you're dabbling in witchcraft in a medium that for most of its existence insisted on a strict moral code of all bad behavior must be punished, you're really stuck fighting against the essence of horror. Modern horror doesn't always stick to those strict morals, but it still creeps in. Just look at who survived, who died, and who chose to sacrifice themselves and you see the long-lingering hand of the Hollywood Morals Clause strangling any real innovation in the witch story.

    It's not that different from the studio telling the team behind The Bad Seed adaptation that the original, far better ending from the source play was unacceptable because evil may never triumph. Bad people must be punished and only the good and the pure with the biggest hearts may survive their ordeal. This does not prevent innocent victims, but is meant to justify being exposed to such terrible, reprehensible subject matter is minotaur rape and beauty shop massacres. I do declare I feel light headed. Let me get to my fainting couch before the memory of that wicked fight between Misty and Madison sends me into hysteria.

  • grr arrgh

    I'm not saying you're wrong, but I feel like this comes from Ryan Murphy's hair-trigger for killing characters he doesn't know what else to do with. "Hmm...what would be shocking? Oh! Let's kill them!!!"

  • e jerry powell

    Okay, so who dies first, Ryan Murphy or, say, Roland Emmerich? Or even Michael Bay?

  • Agreed. Ryan Murphy's...artistic impulses are hard to account for. I spend a lot of time writing about horror and I still can't even justify all the plot threads that pop up in any season of AHS. Murphy gives us amazingly terrible things like tearjerking and eyeball scoops and WTF never followed up elements like snake-filled fertility rituals and monsters in the woods.

  • grr arrgh

    What kills me is that he can do cool and/or WTF plot threads that he drops in a way that I don't mind, but this season it was mostly one or two episode plot threads that he suddenly didn't give a shit about afterwards, which got annoying in a "Okay, pick ONE thing and stick with it. God" sort of way.

  • And then horrific incest and real tragedy, just to remind us that he really doesn't understand how camp works. He still takes it very-special-episode seriously.

  • IngridToday

    He's interested depicting traumatic things, but, has no one interest portraying consequences or how it effects people.
    Madison was gang rape... which no one cared about aside from Zoe. Even Cordelia didn't say anything or try to be comforting when Zoe told them.
    I understand they wanted a zombie boyfriend/threesome plot. They could have had the frat boys insult Madison and then she flips the bus. It was already revealed she murdered some guy giving her acting advice.
    I don't care if they had a half assed 'Madison's dead inside so gang rape doesn't bother here" line. Neither her or Kyle's rape had anything to do with anything and was never addressed.

  • Evolve Today

    My favorite part was how the finale took the single plot thread that had managed to survive more than two episodes and render it moot. Who's the supreme? HAHA NONE OF THEM IT'S THIS IDIOT SUCK IT.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I still have a question about Cordelia being the Supreme: The Supreme was supposed to have perfect health, correct? Wasn't Cordelia infertile? Does that not count as a health defect? Am I being obtuse?
    Also, considering how weak and wishy washy ever person was on this show, I really didn't care who became the supreme.

  • IngridToday

    Maybe Hank was infertile? I can't assume his dad would be okay with him having a witch baby.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I could have sworn the doctor said it was Cordelia, but then again, I spent so much time rolling my eyes and scoffing this season, I easily could have mistaken it.

  • IngridToday

    Now that you mention it I do remember them talking to a doctor... I don't have enough interest to find out.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Just because now I'm curious, I looked up a recap. It says that Cordelia was indeed undergoing treatments because she was infertile.
    So my question stands: Should she be supreme under the logic of the show?

  • Evolve Today

    That's actually a good point. I never thought of that, but I really only half watched the final half of the season. If we were gonna start pointing out things that didn't make sense we'll be here all night.

  • e jerry powell

    HEAR HEAR.

  • grr arrgh

    I feel like if a faulty heart like Madison had counts as a health defect, then infertility should too. So yeah, that just shows even the writers didn't know who they wanted to be supreme til they were forced to choose and then they just pulled it out of their ass along with everything else this season.

  • e jerry powell

    That raises another interesting issue in terms of "women facing their own mortality." Before Fiona, it seems as though each Supreme was clearly post- or peri-menopausal. Maybe it's just because they were all painted shortly before their deaths, and partly because Fiona killed her predecessor while she was still very young. Since the title Supreme doesn't appear to be inherently hereditary, it raises what are perhaps unintended questions about the fitness of older women for the title. I mean, traditionally witches are associated with the crone aspect of the feminine trinity, aren't they? But for a woman to be in line with the Mother portion of the trinity, the patriarchal portions of the culture would prefer that the icon of the Divine Feminine be fertile rather than menopausal, right?

    I know, this show isn't supposed to be about gender theory (or even race, for that matter), it's only entertainment (allegedly). Scratch its surface too hard and logic tries futilely to intervene, it seems.

    ETA: And I raised another question with my own stupid comment.

    The show's original conceit is that the Coven consists of witches who are all in some way descendants of Salem, but at the end of the show, a whole bunch of young Goth-like girls show up who, again, from the show's own conceit, seem more to be self-proclaimed witches that, while certainly welcome at the academy from the looks of it, probably aren't descendants of Salem, which would be deviating somewhat from the academy's "Mission Statement."

    I need medication. Seriously.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    I agree. While infertility isn't life threatening, if a supreme is supposed to have "glowing, perfect health" than I feel like all her bodily organs should be in working order. Or maybe she cured her ovaries when she cured her eyes?

  • grr arrgh

    I agree. It's a possibility she fixed it, though I bet that Murphy forget they'd even done the infertility plot at all. I sure did.

  • e jerry powell

    Or that Nan ever existed. Or that Marie Laveau was ACTUALLY RESPONSIBLE for Borquita's death in the first place, despite maintaining that Borquita had never done anything to merit Marie's ill-treatment in hell.

  • LOL MY EYES ARE BACK SURPRISE BITCH.

  • grr arrgh

    I feel like they didn't lay enough of the groundwork for anyone to be the Supreme. Initially, it was Zoe because of Movie Logic (i.e. She's the main character, of course it will be her) and...they never followed up with that, or setting it up to be anyone else. I'll admit, I did skip a couple episodes due to low interest so I may be wrong.

  • And for being so set up as the main character, they lost interest in Zoe fast.

  • e jerry powell

    As did everyone else in the world.

    Come on, for a supposed "Girl Power" show, Zoe's hell is that her boyfriend keeps breaking up with her on an endless loop?

  • grr arrgh

    Well, when you have Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy's hair and Stevie Nicks, would you really care to spend more time with Zoe?

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    Thank god, because I lost interest in her faster.

  • I guess she can only death-bang so many people. But only two?! Nonsense.

  • grr arrgh

    Now I wish they'd given that power to Madison. She would've death-banged people just for shits and giggles. On the other hand, they should've at least dealt with her killer vagina the way it was set up: She gets a zombie boyfriend who she cant kill. But they just turned him into a helpless lapdog.

  • e jerry powell

    Zoe's Death Vag versus Jessica's Eternal Hymen.

  • ZbornakSyndrome

    When her personal hell was revealed to be Kyle breaking up with her over and over again, I started to wonder if I was in MY personal hell.

  • dizzylucy

    I know! I thought seriously, that's the worst possible thing that could happen to signify hell? Zoe was as shallow as she was stupid, apparently.

  • Like that HAD to be a line at the character's expense, but it had never been put out there that the show knew she was weak and worthless. But that's my rule with this show--forget it, jake; it's Ryan Murphy. There's no point in applying our human logic.

  • lowercase_ryan

    With the help of others on this site, I have dissected the finale every way possible. There is just no excuse for it. It was terrible.

  • Barbara J. Kuester

    my co-W­­­­­­ο­­­­­­r­­­­­­Ker's half-sister Μ­­­­­­а­­­­­­K­­­­­­е­­­­­­ѕ $­­­­­­­88 an հ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ս­­­­­­r on the і­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­е­­­­­­r­­­­­­ո­­­­­­е­­­­­­τ. She has been unemployed for 10 Μ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ­­­­­­ѕ but last Μ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­հ her ρ­­­­­­а­­­­Уcheck was $­­­­­­­21409 just W­­­­­­ο­­­­­­r­­­­­­King on the і­­­­­­ո­­­­­­τ­­­­­­е­­­­­­r­­­­­­ո­­­­­­е­­­­­­τ for a Ϝ­­­­­­е­­­­­­W հ­­­­­­ο­­­­­­ս­­­­­­rs. Read more հ­­­­­­е­­­­­­r­­­­­­е,... WWW.Googleprojects2014audition...

    ♞♞♞ ♞♞♞⃽ ♞♞♞⃽♞ ♞♞♞but I feel like this comes from Ryan Murphy's hair-trigger for killing characters he doesn't know what else to do with.

  • lowercase_ryan

    ok but does it matter where it comes from? terrible is terrible.

  • grr arrgh

    I refreshed the page and now Barb's comment has gone from looking like a normal one (albeit copied from me) to looking like one of the typical spam ones. Did that happen for you, Ryan?

  • cruzzercruz

    I've been ridiculed for asking a someone why they copied my comment, only for them to be revealed as a bot. I feel vindicated to know that it's happened to others!

  • lowercase_ryan

    yeah, that whole thing was weird. The site is rebelling at the thought of Joro leaving.

  • grr arrgh

    I actually deleted my comments because I didn't want to look like an idiot for arguing with a spam bot and then I realized that if you replied to it, it must've looked normal to you too. Disqus, go home, you're drunk.

  • lillie

    I'm sitting back and reading this, but your comments weren't actually deleted...they just reposted as Guest. Not sure what's going on with this site...or maybe it's just this post. It's witches, bitches.

  • grr arrgh

    Yeah, I noticed that. I never deleted a comment, but I've never seen one reposted again like that. Disqus must have really strong feelings about Coven and will take down the naysayers, one spam bot at a time.

  • Guest

    Ryan, if you scroll up a bit you'll see that what Barbara said was copied from a comment I made to Robert, and it wasn't specifically about the quality of the finale.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I get it now :) sorry bout that

  • grr arrgh

    It's fine! I understand.

  • Guest

    Hey Barb, you should try original comments of your own rather than copying mine. Thanks.

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