American Horror Story Freak Show: Initial Thoughts

By Tori Stukins


Courtesy of: Film Trophy

Another year, another season of American Horror Story graces our television sets.  Oh, right.  I’m probably typing to an audience who watches most of their shows on Netflix or miscellaneous sites.  American Horror Story has been around for as long as I have been in college.  Its fourth season comes with my fourth and final year at the University of Illinois.  I find it fitting that, like myself, the show has really come into its prime.

While it was a mere rumor for some time, this season’s theme is circus.  For many people, that means they will have to deal with their fear of clowns on top of the typical creepiness of American Horror Story.  On my part, I could not be more excited about it.  There is just so much that could be done story-wise, and visually with this concept.  Naturally, they have already taken things up to eleven with conjoined twins, triple-breasted women and not-so-well-adjusted–and possibly criminally insane–rich boys.

One of the highlights of this season is the setting in Jupiter, Florida, during the 1950s.  The 1950s are already sort of surreal and odd on their own.  Throw in a carnival in the dying age of circuses, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for some horror show pie. The costume and the whole aesthetic are just wonderful.  It’s the first season of American Horror Story that I find myself trying to inspect and discover every detail of the setting.

Courtesy of: YouTube

Speaking of which, the opening is even creepier than previous seasons.  While none of the titular “freaks” are quite as revolting as the opening credits would make them out to be, it really sets the tone for the episodes.  Who doesn’t love music boxes that unsettle you to your very soul?  Mmmm terror.

Overall, I would have to say the characters are much more likable, or at least memorable this season.  Jessica Lange, as ringleader Elsa Mars, is doing what she always does, striving to hold on to her fleeting youth and cutting down any uppity young people in her way.  Sarah Paulson is once again the sympathetic character that will most likely be the ultimate winner in the end, no matter what odds are against here (seriously, watch the previous seasons).  This season, she comes to us as the conjoined twins Bette and Dot, which Paulson has to do separate film takes for both of the sisters’ head, so I commend her for going through all that extra time to bring us greatness this season.


Courtesy of: MTV

In addition to the typical main actors, this season also includes an amazing ensemble.  Most of the circus performers are people with actual unique physical attributes.  I appreciate that the writing team did this instead of simply relying on special effects to decorate Hollywood actors.  Also, the world’s smallest woman Jyoti Amge is adorable.  Take my word for it.


Courtesy of: Vanity Fair

Another thing I appreciate about this season is how it doesn’t take itself seriously from time to time.  It’s creepy, but it’s campy.  My favorite character is definitely Dandy Mott, played by Finn Wittrock.  The actor is obviously having a lot of fun playing the rich boy who just feels like he should be running free with the carnival folk.  He’s the definition of a man-child—he’s completely ridiculous but he delivers the best lines.  I won’t ruin plot points for you, but I can’t wait to see where this guy goes.

Courtesy of: YouTube

Naturally, a show can’t be perfect, and I do have a few things to nitpick.  For example, the show constantly has the characters perform modern music such as David Bowie and Fiona Apple.  While I think it’s cool, I still am disappointed that they didn’t take advantage of the beautiful, and, at times, super messed up music of the fifties and before.  It completely takes me out of the show when they decide to do that.  This season has actually been fairly believable thus far except for those moments.

Secondly, Ryan Murphy needs to get away from the standard tropes that he uses every season.  I am really hoping this happens, but am not seeing evidence of it so far.  Jessica Lange is still a terrible person masquerading as a savior of “freaks.”  Evan Peters can’t stop shouting and will probably die again this season.  Emma Roberts is back: ugh.  Sarah Paulson will come out as the victor, no matter how many people try to take her or kill her.  Basically, I just wish they would stop the typecasting.  I understand it’s a key ingredient for American Horror Story, but I just find it to be lazy.


Courtesy of: Perez Hilton

To end on a positive note, I am far more thrilled about this season than I ever was for the previous three.  I’m an insane person who always finds delight in clowns, circuses and the horror of how monstrous normal people can be.  If you enjoy campy, creepy romps through the 1950s with the occasional gore and musical number, then this show is for you!  Remember: it is we who are the freaks, not those in the circus.

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