How ‘American Horror Story’ Has Redefined Horror On TV

To celebrate American Horror Story’s tenth season, we look at how the anthology series has reimagined and impacted the horror genre on TV. 

American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy took to Instagram to share a clip announcing the title of the show’s upcoming season, “Double Feature.” As the anthology series gears up for its tenth season, we celebrate how it has transformed horror within the scopes of television.

When American Horror Story premiered on FX in 2011, it experimented with an unusual format. Each season would have a new plot, and former actors from the previous season would play different characters. It was a new idea for mainstream television, where each season provided a standalone story rather than each episode while also connecting the overarching theme of horror. Now, television has pushed forward with various new anthologies like True Detective, Fargo, Legion, and Murphy’s projects like American Crime Story and Feud.

Since the end of The Twilight Zone, television hadn’t introduced many successful horror series that captivated audiences. American Horror Story changed the game with its unapologetic bloody in-your-face terror. The show’s first season, Murder House, attracted 5 million total viewers on its premiere night, proving to be one of FX’s highest ratings. Eventually, other horror series joined the TV scape, such as Slasher, Into the Dark, Hannibal, Ash vs. Evil Dead, and The Haunting of Hill House.

The show became not only a leader in TV horror but also made waves in pop culture. Many famous figures in Hollywood made appearances from cameos to series regulars. Award-winning actress Jessica Lange starred as American Horror Story’s leading lady for four seasons. Other celebrities like Billy Porter, Cuba Gooding Jr., Adam Levine, Patti Labelle, and Stevie Nicks also took part. American Horror Story embraced its influx of star quality by having stars like Lady Gaga, Angela Bassett, and Kathy Bates play main characters. This helped bring horror television to the mainstream conversation.

The series might spend its time focusing on spooky topics like haunted houses, asylums, and aliens, but the most impactful is its ability to connect to real issues. For instance, their witch-filled season titled Coven delved into topics surrounding racial tensions in Louisiana. Freak Show addressed the meaning of what it means to be an individual and part of a family/community. Cult dealt with the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. election and the foreboding pessimism about America’s future. The show has also dedicated certain seasons to real-life figures like Madame LaLaurie, Richard Ramirez, John Wayne Gacy, and Valerie Solanas. While horror usually highlights typical scary movie tropes, American Horror Story embraced the terror of reality, making the show more uncomfortable and powerful to watch.

American Horror Story has evolved the horror TV genre in so many creative ways, and we can’t wait to see how the series continues with its new season!

About the Author

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Natalie Daniels

Natalie Daniels is a Journalism major at Emerson College in Boston and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. With her love of entertainment news and positive storytelling, she is passionate about all things music, TV/ movies, and pop culture.