American Horror Story
Small screen torture porn, at least in the cases of ‘American Horror Story’ and ‘Penny Dreadful,’ seems to be serving rather to take our fear of sex and women out of the dark and into the light, giving us an opportunity to vicariously take women apart and show them as disgusting as a substantial portion of our society fears we might be.
It seems in Hollywood, you can’t talk about women without talking about witches.
Negative depictions of fat people are the norm throughout all of pop culture. Though fatphobia crosses racial, gender, and class lines, audiences judge women the most harshly. Fat characters are frequently shown as disgusting, sad, or unlovable. In the horror genre, fatness is frequently represented as terrifying and unnatural. In comedies, fat bodies are often the source of humor. Though few and far between, there are a growing number of fat positive representations popping up throughout TV and film.
Firstly, a definition of sorts: the myth of the “strong Black woman” is loosely defined as a Black woman who is emotionally hardy to the point of feeling no pain. She is never fazed or hysterical. She is cold and calculating. She has no personal needs or desires and doesn’t complain. She can take a beating and come out on the other side unharmed. This is supposed to be seen as a good thing. Black women are “so strong” that no amount of abuse will break them. They will always keep plodding on. “Strong black women” are superhuman.
I recently began watching ‘American Horror Story’ on Netflix to see what all the hullaballoo was about, and I quickly became a die-hard fan of the series. I’ve heard some feminist criticism that popular television’s rape trope is abused and unnecessary. Many viewers find rape scenes more difficult to endure than the goriest and bloodiest of murder scenes in film and on TV. ‘AHS’ depicts rape in each of its three seasons (season four: “Freak Show” begins in October of this year), and I’ve been trying to make some sense of these scenes: all very different, yet centered around the idea that rape is its own horror, worse than murder. Sexual violence in film has always been controversial, in part because it works as an acknowledgment of something so many victims are afraid to share or discuss, even with other victims. ‘AHS’s handful of rape scenes reference gender roles, mental illness, and identity politics, and do in fact have a place in the storylines in which we find ourselves so invested.
Characters with physical or developmental disabilities are rarely given prominent roles on television ensembles, much less well-developed characters. ‘Glee’ and ‘American Horror Story,’ TV shows created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, both feature important characters with Down Syndrome and have received much praise for it. However, the mere existence of these characters is not enough to suggest they are well portrayed and in each character there are several questionable areas that warrant discussion.
From the get go, female sexuality in Coven is positioned as dangerous, sometimes deadly and something that people will try over and over again to control. In the first episode, a young witch, Zoe Benson, comes to the knowledge of her powers by accidentally killing the boy she chooses to have her first penetrative sexual encounter with, one of the few fully consensual sex acts we see on Coven. She literally kills a man with her vagina. The message that female sexuality is dangerous if not deadly is hammered home with the language Cordelia uses to welcome Zoe to the school for witches. The other girls claim that Cordelia wants them to suppress their witchy powers, and she responds, “Not suppress–control.” She expresses the idea that their powers are dangerous unless they are strictly controlled. This is not a subtle metaphor for the repression and control of women’s bodies and sexuality.
Vivien (Connie Britton) in American Horror Story Ladies, how many times have you been called a “crazy bitch?” Once? Twice? 5 thousand times?? Or is that just me? This oh-so-not-lovely term of endearment gets tossed around waaaaayy too often. It’s bad enough when we get labeled the sexist term “bitch” — and it’s very different […]
This is a guest review by Tamara Winfrey Harris. Includes spoilers for Paranormal Activity (2007) and Orphan (2009). There, outside the window, in the dark, are those eyes again. Yellow. Animal, but at the wrong height to be a coyote or fox–human height. And those amber, animal eyes are locked on hers. She slams shut […]
Alexandra Breckinridge (l) and Frances Conroy (r) as American Horror Story‘s Moira This is a guest post by Paul and Renee In terms of the female characters on American Horror Story, there are quite a few problematic elements. There are the issues of violence and rape, but one that often gets overlooked is the treatment […]
Reproduction & Abortion Week: ‘American Horror Story’ Demonizes Abortion and Suffers from the Mystical Pregnancy Trope
Warning: if you have not watched all of American Horror Story Season 1, there are massive spoilers ahead! American Horror Story co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk wanted to create a TV series that truly scared people. And they’ve definitely succeeded in their goal. But why the hell are they so afraid of abortion and […]