You may remember reading about or seeing a commercial or two for this FX series last summer and thinking, as we all did, “wow, that looks like it could be fairly decent.” And then, as we all did, you probably forgot about it, or assumed it didn’t live up to the hype.
Well MamaPop is here to tell you you’re wrong. And that you’re missing out. And that you MUST watch.
The writers of MamaPop share a lot of things on the MamaPop email distro, and one of them is passing on recommendations to each other about shows we love. And so it came to pass that we all started watching—and loving—American Horror Story. So much so that, once the majority of us had caught up on it by way of On Demand or Amazon Instant streaming, we felt compelled to start up a distro thread just so that we could, together, geek out heavily on the first season of this great show. Here is a very slightly edited version of that conversation.
NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD IN DROVES, ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE AND HAVE NOT YET WATCHED THE ENTIRE SEASON. If you haven’t yet watched the show, PLEASE STOP READING NOW, get offline, and go watch the thing. You can do the entire series in a single day (provided you take the day off and have reliable childcare… but it’ll be worth it, for reals). You will not be sorry or disappointed you did, trust us.
Sweetney: So let’s go, campers! Your rambling thoughts welcome!
Overall, I’m just worried that they’re going to screw it up come next season. THEY’D BETTER NOT SCREW IT UP, DAMMIT.
Also, I’m a little worried about the lack of Jessica Lange, who is SO HUGE for this show. I wonder if there’s a way they can fit her into a new season, with a new house, or if that’s really going to be it?
Jive Turkey: I am SO RELIEVED that next season will feature a new house, new characters, etc., because the one way they would DEFINITELY ruin this show is by going any further with the current cast. The exception, in my opinion, is Jessica Lange’s character, and I agree with Brad’s guess that she will be in the next season, along with her cute little demon grandson.
Also, if Jessica Lange does not get a f*cking Emmy nomination for her work on this show, something is seriously wrong with the world.
I will also really miss Connie Britton’s hair. I was not, however, overly impressed with Mopey Farmiga.
Jim Lin (Busy Dad): Random thoughts: Very creepy at first. Then it got a bit too comical for my tastes, as everyone became a ghost. It went from something that reminded me of The Shining/The Others/Sixth Sense and slowly evolved into The Real World: Tortured Spirits LA edition. I enjoyed the show, but for totally different reasons toward the second half of the season. It was more to tune into the inter-ghost drama than the creepy “what’s gonna happen next” factor.
Snarky Amber: I am ambivalent about the new cast/new characters thing. I’m glad they tied up the story with the Harmons, and I like how they tied it up, but I enjoyed many of the actors from this season and don’t want to see them go. I like the idea of them coming back to play new characters, but I kind of wonder if Jessica Lange can do anything but Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire meets Blanche Devereaux from Golden Girls. I hope they bring back Zachary Quinto.
Ryan Murphy ruins every show in the second season, or at least he’s 0 for 2, but he may just avoid that by not trying to continue the story. I think if he continues to work with writers that write the characters as they’re written, rather than changing their personalities every week to suit a particular story idea, it could be just as strong in season 2. Character inconsistency happens ALL THE TIME on Glee, which is one of many reasons it sucks so hard—no consistency with the characters and a complete lack of character growth unless you count someone acting completely out of character as though they have changed and grown, only to revert back to their douchey self when the story requires it.
He may just have a problem with thinking big picture, starting off with a strong concept and vision, but one that can’t really bear several seasons of fruit. It’s possible that eliminating the need to carry a story along through several years may be the obstacle keeping Ryan Murphy from creating a show that’s good for more than 13 episodes.
Molly: Good point about Murphy, Amber. He has a bad habit of buying his own hype. There was so much I loved about Season 1 of this show, as a horrorphile and just as me. But my favorite thing? The artfulness of the red herrings, namely with Sketchy McMeltyFace. I loved all the seemingly casual lead-ins to how he was scarred and then *bam* more Tate.
And Gayle is spot-on: Jessica Lange deserves a big-ass (big hair?) trophy. I was also tickled by the not-Julia-Duffy doc’s wife. What a fun, chewy performance. Caricatured without turning comic.
Another gold star for a minor detail? That Jessica Lange mused about her beautiful boy. They let us go for a hot minute before we found out she meant Beau and not Tate. *love*
Amalah: I am firmly in the pro-new-house-new-haunting camp, simply because, like Amber mentioned, this is a Ryan Murphy show. He does great first seasons. Then throw a renewal order at him and ask him to keep up the momentum and…pffft. So I think this single-season-story format might work for him. I’ve heard rumors they might choose a hotel instead of a house, which would open up a whole new heapload of movie tropes to play with.
But Jessica Lange…lord, they must find a way to bring her back because she was seriously the high point of my week. EVERY WEEK.
I almost didn’t watch this show because 1) I am a giant chicken when it comes to horror movies, 2) MURPHYYYY (shakes fist) and 3) the pilot got so slammed by the critics for being too crazy and over the top. Then we watched it and I was like, “too” crazy? Are you kidding me? THIS IS THE PERFECT RIGHT AMOUNT OF CRAZY GIVE ME MORE.
And that’s why — no matter what nitpicks there were with this season or whatever happens next season — I loved the crap out of this show and had so much fun watching all the batshittery aksplode all over the place. (And a few skulls, too.)
Brad: In an interview, Murphy said the last three episodes offered a clue about what next season will be about. The only thing I can think is that they started mentioning Viv’s sister in Florida a lot. This would allow them to keep Jessica Lange and also they could have the Tate actor play an older version of his little brother.
Jive Turkey: Ok, so this may be a dumb question, but it’s been bugging me: did they ever explain why Moira looked all young and hot to (live) men? I remember at one point she said ‘we see what we want to see,’ but no other spirit in the house had the ability to appear differently. Wtf?!
Snarky Amber: That’s actually a really good question. I was wondering the same thing, but forgot to ask. It made sense that she would appear young and hot, since she was young and hot when she died, but the only reason I can think of for her to appear older to women was to have the excuse to cast Frances Conroy. If I were casting a show on FX, I would invent reason to work with actors like her. I actually think they severely underused her.
Completely unrelated to Gayle’s question, but are we to believe that the house is haunted because the good doctor did so many abortions in that house? Because that’s the impression I got and, man, am I super uncomfortable with that. I guess you could argue that it wasn’t so much the procedure itself as it was the way it was performed, but I still found it troubling.
Sweetney: Or maybe the house was haunted because he did weird Frankenstein shit? Defiling the dead? We never got a really good look at that Bat Pig Baby of his, and that kind of bummed me out (and, err, kind of not, as I can’t imagine how I’d have slept after that EVER AGAIN).
Snarky Amber: Oh, good point. That’s a source of bad joojoo that sits better with my pro-choice sensibilities. I think I remember someone saying something about the souls of dead babies but, come to think, I think that was the Murder House Tour guide or the awful realtor.
Julie Marsh: I’m wondering if the abortion thing was because they were done primarily for the purpose of bringing in extra dough so that Nora could be kept in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed. That it’s more of a commentary on her and the doctor’s morals than the procedure itself.
There seems to be an overall theme about keeping up appearances on one hand and those who are willing to pull back the curtain on the other.
Amalah: I also wondered about the abortion thing, but it doesn’t seem like any of the haunting/really messed up shit started happening until, like Tracey mentioned, he went all Frankenstein on his dead baby and killed a patient for her heart and stuff (though I’m guessing from all the feti-in-jars that he was doing experiments on them long before that, too). We never met the ghost of the “girl” he killed so it seems like the Bat Baby Infantata Thing was the turning point for the house.
Sweetney: Yeah, I tend to think you’re just plain messing with The Great Cosmic Order and crossing some big black line over into Evil-Badness when you start killing people to harvest their organs and make your dead baby into a monster, yanno? And I think Bat Baby is the first ghost of the house (the first person to die that is still clearly present as a ghost in the house now), so that makes sense – that it really wasn’t about the abortions, but about the crazy abominations and murder shit the doctor did.
To sum up: reanimating mutilated corpses = BAD. Has literature taught us nothing?
Snarky Amber: I actually thought when the doctor said he used a heart from one of “their girls” that he was talking about the more developed fetuses, mostly because he seemed to have a more intimate relation to them than the women from which they were “harvested,” which he treated more like objects – e.g., Elizabeth Short.
Speaking of whom, I am WILDLY ambivalent about tying the Black Dahlia to the house. On one hand I thought it was brilliant to tie in a salacious and as-yet-unsolved murder to the Murder House, and on the other I thought it was a little gross. I mean, she’s been dead for a long time, but it still feels–disrespectful? I guess?–to fictionalize her death.
Sweetney: Anybody else wonder about the whole Pet Semetary aspect to the joint – unclear how that came into being. If you die there you automatically “reanimate” as a ghost and become trapped there… but you need to be on the property, not just a resident, when you actually croak. Relevant? Irrelevant?
I have these moments when I think about the show that remind me of how I felt about LOST - is this just present to f*ck with me unnecessarily, or does it actually MEAN something?
Julie Marsh: Right – and you don’t have to be a resident, just die there, to reanimate. Is it because of Bat Baby – are all those who die there doomed to suffer the same fate?
Also, being unfamiliar with Murphy (sorry, never watched Glee or Nip/Tuck), I may be likely to ascribe deeper meaning where none exists.
Question for y’all: Why didn’t Tate remember everything he did? And why did he do it – just because of his f*cked up home life, or was there a deeper reason connected to the house?
Snarky Amber: So to go back to the thing about the show starting over next season, I read that Ryan Murphy was talking about this being the intention from the very beginning, as that and the 3-month shooting schedule enable him to work with film actors who haven’t done much or any TV work in the past due to the long commitment the medium usually requires. So even if Jessica Lange doesn’t come back, some other great film actors could end up being on the show, especially since it was so acclaimed and (it seems) fun to do.
That said, if Ryan Murphy puts Gwyneth Paltrow on this show, too, he and I are DONE, professionally.
Miss Banshee: This thread is relevant to my interests.
On the subject of Moira’s appearance, she appeared to Ben as her older self once, I believe, and said “You’re starting to see the truth” or something like that. I think Ben (that complete twat) was such an easy target when it came to anything sexual, Moira used her ghostly wiles to appear as Young!Moira whereas she never would have gotten away with that shit with Vivian. Moira wants to be lady of the house, in a non-vicious way, and I think she’s been a ghost long enough that she can alter her image at will to play the game.
Molly: Agreed. I think Moira could make her appearance work for her or not, once folks were too enlightened.
The abortion bit rubbed me wrong for a minute but I do believe the house was just pissy. I liked how we got to see a crime per decade…except did they skip the 80s?
As for Tate: I saw someone ask why he didn’t remember what he did. I feel like he did but was scamming Pouty Farmiga.
Kdiddy: Debt and obligation seem to be the main horror at play and those all seem to dribble down to the men trying to meet the demands that their women place on them. Alby (I know his character has a name in this show but he will always be Alby to me) tries to meet Nora’s expectations for their lifestyle, the burned guy tries to please Constance so she’ll love him, Patrick and Chad…I haven’t seen enough of their story flushed out but there are obviously failed expectations there, too, Ben tries to make amends to Vivian and also has to juggle the demands of Hayden. Of course, the men in this show are, by and large, pussies and I just finished the episode where Vivian accuses Ben of trying to gaslight her. Which was very redeeming to me. Like, yeah, the women are demanding a lot of their men but it’s because they started to work on their life together until the men were like, “Waaah, can’t do this, it’s too hard, you’re mean and expect so much out of me.” Except for Hayden. Hayden can go f*ck herself. I mean Ben was also a total pussy with her but she was also just a nasty human being.
The basement abortion clinic…I mean, call me heartless but when they first revealed that that was going on, I said, “That’s a really good idea!” If I was struggling to make ends meet and abortion was illegal and I was a doctor, I might hook that up, too. But I got this sense of, “Alby (or whoeever) has to abort this innocent babbies to please Nora.” Nora’s like Elizabeth Bathory or something. I mean, Nora certainly had some white whine happening, with only have two servants and whatnot, but Alby had become an ether addict and apparently wasn’t really able to be much of a doctor anymore.
But I’m not saying that that makes the show BAD, it just makes me uncomfortable, this underlying bitching of men killing themselves to please women who are moneygrubbing whores with filthy wombs or something.Anyway, back to what I was saying about the horror being debt and obligation and, as someone else said, keeping up appearances. None of the characters seems to be working toward making themselves happy but seeking some external validation that their life is a success. If that makes sense.
Snarky Amber: Oh, Ryan Murphy clearly has some deep-seeded misogyny going on. It’s pretty indicative in all of his shows to some degree—though nothing can top Nip/Tuck in that regard. He only knows how to show strong women who are also heinous bitches. I smell some serious mommy issues, particularly on Constance Langdon.
Also, awesome observation about debt and obligation.
Molly: Agreed – awesome insight, Kelly. And the Mommy Issue question, Amber, is a great one…it seems to be Midwest Mama’s Boy Syndrome. Ryan Murphy is from Indianapolis and his mom is something of a local pseudo-celeb. It’s very David Letterman’s mom-esque. Anyhow: a lot of folks say “Aw, sweet” but I say “Your Mama had big dreams and landed in the 13th largest city in America and is now riding your coattails.” I think Crazy Jessica was an homage :)
Jim Lin (Busy Dad): Agreed with Jessica Lange making the show. And even if they plan to rotate more stars into subsequent seasons, there’s no way the public would take to it without some element of the first season being the unifying thread, that thread being her and her evil demigod son. Best thing is, he’s the manifestation of the house and he’s not dead, which means they are no longer dependent upon the house for evil to happen. He can now walk the earth, with his mom enabling and coddling him the entire way. It will be an interesting show, but I think the creepy factor is forever gone.
My favorite “oh shit” moment was when Hayden appeared at the door. That’s when I realized that the house had a pet semetary quality to it. The other one was when Moira and Black Dalia were getting it on on the couch. But that was because I was watching it at a relative’s house with kids running around so I couldn’t enjoy it like I should have.
I had trouble with the Moira character. Towards the end, you discover that she is a benevolent, sad soul. But in the beginning, they were setting her up as a homewrecking ghost with bad intentions. Her transition made no sense to me. They explain it once, when she seduces the Armenian and it comes out that she did it so he’d put a pool in and thus discover her body and justice would finally be served. However, that doesn’t explain her attempts at seducing Ben.
Poor Armenian guy never made an appearance as a ghost. The haunted house only likes White people.
I did not like the interlude on the finale where it got comical and the good ghosts teamed up to scare the new family away. It didn’t serve to explain anything that we didn’t already know, and it trivialized everything that was creepy up until then. It also made the latex suit a silly prop (not that it wasn’t kind of comical already). It reminded me of the musical montage/chase scenes at the end of Scooby Doo episodes.
What did burned guy want the $1000 for?? That still bothers me. Did I just miss something or did they just ignore that?
At first, I thought this was a lot like The Shining, where the house makes you do evil things. And a few scenes allude to it (both Ben and the new Spanish guy sleepwalk to the kitchen and turn the burners on), but it’s clear from the rest of the show that people who live there just become embroiled in the ghost drama. I think Tate, although evil, was evil anyway and he would have shot up the school wherever he lived.
Obviously we could have gone back and forth like this forever… But now it’s your turn, dear MamaPop readers who’ve watched the show – your thoughts? Did it get into your head as much as it did ours? What do you think about the series changing things up with a new house, cast, and haunting every year? Do you think Ryan Murphy can keep it this awesome the second go round? Also, can you BELIEVE Dylan McDermott is FIFTY YEARS OLD?! WOWZA.