(or, why I’m looking forward to American Horror Story: Freak Show, even if I won’t get around to actually watching it for a while)
Confession – I’ve actually only watched the last episode of AHS’s first season. But I have the first and second season on Blu-Ray/DVD, will be getting the third season (AHS:Coven) as soon as I can, and plan to do the same for as many seasons as this show lasts. Why?
AHS isn’t exactly my cup of tea as far as the genre goes. What would be for me? Well, until one of the BBCs decides to adapt The Complete Ghost Stories of M. R. James, I’m out of luck. But in terms of “props” “street cred”, or just basic “respectability” I think AHS is the TV equivalent of Silence of the Lambs (1991). As with that movie, AHS is a show that people who hate horror movies watch. It gets on the cover of magazines besides Fangoria or Horror Hound. It helps move horror beyond the genre ghetto into mainstream pop culture.
In a way, AHS and (and the newer Hannibal on NBC)have been part of two trends. First is the splintering of audiences due to Cable and other outlets. NBC and FOX want the eyeballs currently going to HBO and Netflix; if that means going with shows that are more purely genre than in past years, so be it. Second is the “Geekification” of American entertainment and pop culture. Being a genre geek fan has changed. Loving genre shows is no longer something you didn’t admit around the water cooler; instead it’s a prized segment of the audience, valued for their disposable income if nothing else.
Back to Lambs. I read the Thomas Harris novel, then saw the movie back in the day. It was ok, but by no means the scariest book or film adaptation I’d seen. It was, to me, just okay – but not much more. But to see it win multiple Oscars with respectable actors – besides making the usual boatload of cash – that was something different. A movie classified in the Horror genre making a ton of money AND getting critical raves and recognized honors at Award Season? It was the first time I remember seeing a horror movie being treated as the belle of the ball, and not just the red-headed stepchild. Hannibal is proving to be a much creepier viewing experience, but I know that even if I don’t love it, Silence of the Lambs is a favorite for many.
I may prefer the Ghost Story wing of the Horror House, but the success of AHS is a great thing the Horror genre as a whole. Maybe they’ll do a good old fashioned Jamesian arc next season?