Maybe the Real Horror on 'American Horror Story' Is Television?

Gee, you think?


So, here we are. Yet another season of American Horror Story has drawn to a close. Season 6, “Roanoke,” was the FX standard’s most innovative season yet. All the hype about what “genre” the season would be ended up being little more than a publicity stunt and a smokescreen for Roanoke’s real gimmick: the “As Seen on TV” angle. And, yes, “gimmick” is exactly the right word for what ended up being a missed opportunity.

All of the action — except, weirdly, for the final scenes where Lee sacrifices herself so that her daughter can escape the Roanoke house — was presented as though it was a part of any number of fictional shows. At its core, [Roanoke](https://www.inverse.com/article/21026-american-horror-story-ahs-season-6-roanoke-science-crotoan) was a haunted house ghost story, but the meta way in which it was told begged audiences to wonder if, maybe, television was the real horror.

And that Communications 101 essay prompt was about as deep as American Horror Story got in its brief foray into media criticism, since the meta aspect of the show (while admittedly an interesting storytelling device) didn’t have anything of substance to say.

Sure, there were lots of scenes depicting actors as prima donnas, but those moments were mostly comical, and the “actors are addicted to fame” take isn’t even close to hot enough to justify weeks worth of torture porn.

If this season was trying to say that we, as an audience, enjoy blood, gore, and torture porn too much, given how popular My Roanoke Nightmare became in-universe, AHS botched execution (no pun intended). AHS never really did a good enough job convincing IRL audiences that My Roanoke Nightmare would be as big of a hit as it was in the show’s world. Because the popularity of the show rang hollow, it was easy for real viewers to distance themselves from the fictional world they were seeing on their screens. The world of AHS is a place where ghost reenactment shows aren’t daytime trash — they’re worldwide sensations.

Plus, the networks in AHS were way too casual about airing graphic disembowelments and other horrifying violence. It just didn’t seem real, and therefore, not worth thinking about too deeply.

There is a case to be made that American society is indeed too interested in wanton violence, but AHS is not the show that should be half-assing that argument, given that, you know it was the program that just aired all that violence in the first place.

Without the meta angle, the ghost story Roanoke was telling would have been thoroughly bland. Showrunner Ryan Murphy examined it through the lens of television to make it more interesting, but stopped short of going so far as to make it intelligent.

American Horror Story: Roanoke wanted to have its cake, make everyone think about how cake is, like, kind of messed up, or whatever, and then eat it too.

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