In case you haven’t heard, Scream Queens is pretty great. It’s hilarious and absurd and features at least one ridiculous murder and nine quippy one-liners per episode, which is everything you really need from a fall show. Its brother American Horror Story — born from the same creator, Ryan Murphy — uses many of the same techniques to a very different effect. Here’s why Scream Queens does it better.
American Horror Story takes itself too seriously.
This season of American Horror Story’s first episode alone (“Checking In”) featured a murder orgy, a murder-sex crime scene, and a much-maligned rape-death-by-dildo monster. It also featured Lady Gaga vamping around and essentially playing herself in an extended Lady Gaga music video.
As Ryan Murphy and star Max Greemermsnfield explained, Greenfield’s character is a heroin addict and the raping dildo monster was supposed to be an “addiction demon”. Such a description just reeks of pretentiousness gone wrong. This scene did not make any profound statements about addiction; it was pure, ugly shock value that added nothing. Meanwhile the Scream Queens murderer isn’t trying to make profound statements about addiction or conformity or anything, and in his lack of profundity, he manages to be far more effective. He dismembers people to the fucking Backstreet Boys. And it’s glorious.
Scream Queens handles potentially thorny issues better.
Ironically, in Scream Queens’ wildly un-PC nature, it manages to be more PC than American Horror Story: Hotel. This is because whenever American Horror Story does something like show a Blacksploitation montage or show a murder through Grindr you’re not sure what the writers are trying to do with these — and if they’re not trying to do anything, it reeks of throwing shiny balls in the air just to see how they bounce, heedless of who they hit on the way down.
Scream Queens, on the other hand, is deliberate with the way it deals with the kinds of things that, when they’re done wrong, people often throw the word “problematic” at. It’s very clearly inviting you to laugh at the people judging and scorning the thing (in this case, lesbian experimentation); it’s not inviting you to laugh at the thing itself. American Horror Story is far murkier in intention.
Scream Queens is intentional in its interchangeable characters.
As many have pointed out, all the actors on this season of American Horror Story look the same: dark-haired guys with piercing blue eyes and jawlines for days.
Even if their resemblance is deliberate, it’s distracting to have to pause at the beginning of each scene and figure out who the hell you’re supposed to be watching. Scream Queens takes this interchangeable nature a step further by using it to poke fun at sorority girl conformity. They’re physically easier to tell apart than American Horror Story’s army of bros, but all their names are Chanel in a deliberate nod to sorority group-think.
American Horror Story: Hotel isn’t bad if you’re not put off by all the murder-sex stuff or gore. It’s just trying too hard. American Horror Story is that friend who gets way too overdressed for the party and continuously asks you if their outfit is too much and everyone feels a little uncomfortable about it. Scream Queens, on the other hand, is the friend who shows up to the party in some ridiculous tracksuit and doesn’t give a fuck and laughs at themselves with you. Now, you tell me which one you’d rather spend time with.