Friday, October 7, 2011

American Horror Show Pilot Review

Down syndrome, the macabre, a new tv series, a stellar cast, you have my attention.

When I learned of a new tv series on FX that would not only be scary, but feature a character with Down syndrome, I was thrilled. All too often actors with disabilities are cast in one-dimensional roles where their disabilities define their character. In the previews we are given the hope that in the case of American Horror Show, the character with DS would have a quirky personality that would contribute to the spooky theme. I could get behind that.

According to the official website on FX, "American Horror Story revolves around the Harmons, a family of three who moved from Boston to Los Angeles as a means to reconcile past anguish. The all-star cast features Dylan McDermott as “Ben Harmon,” a psychiatrist; Connie Britton as “Vivien Harmon,” Ben’s wife; Taissa Farmiga as “Violet,” the Harmon’s teenage daughter; Jessica Lange in her first-ever regular series TV role as “Constance,” the Harmon’s neighbor; Evan Peters plays “Tate Langdon,” one of Ben’s patients; and Denis O’Hare as “Larry Harvey.” Guest stars for the series include Frances Conroy as the Harmon’s housekeeper; Alexandra Breckenridge as the Harmon’s housekeeper; and Jamie Brewer as Constance’s daughter."

If you feel like you've seen this show before, it's because you have. American Horror Show goes beyond paying homage to fright films that we are familiar with. The writers lifted bits of plot points from classic horror films and threw them all together like stone soup without even an attempt to show us something original. If you are interested in a full review of the story line, camera work, or strength of the acting, do a google search and you will find a plethora of reviews. Yet while I am interested in these aspects, it is the character Adelaide who happens to have DS that has my attention.

There are spoilers so, X out now if you must. Clips are for mature audiences only.

The following clip is the opening scene to the series. Despite the thumbnail image, Dylan McDermott is not nude, though if you want to see that, he obliges many times in the pilot episode. Please watch as we are introduced to Adelaide for the first time.

Opening Scene

The next embedded scene takes place at present day with the Harmons newly moved in and Vivien stripping wallpaper. Please view but be forewarned that this scene contains horrific dialogue.

Present Day

Finally, this clip is after Addy (Adelaide) breaks in the house again and Vivien deals with her.

Last Clip

In the first minute of the show we watch as the doomed preteen twins call Adelaide a freak and then make a sexual overture to her. Clearly in the case of her mother Constance, the writers were going for shock value delivered by a truly hateful villain. She refers to her own daughter in ways that are so evil that I felt verbally pistol whipped while listening to the dialogue. She insults "brown" people and people who are homosexual as if it's normal conversation.

So, I'm in a quandary. I will watch the series, in part because I need to see how it ends. I need to see if my theory plays out that Constance and Addy aren't actually living humans but are a part of the haunted house. Yet, I am horrified by the treatment of Adelaide and I was utterly unprepared for what I saw.

In the case of the movie Tropic Thunder which garnered such backlash for its mocking of a person with disabilities and repeated use of the word retard, writer and actor Ben Stiller defended the plot as satire, which fell short of an acceptable excuse. So, how can American Horror Show be defended simply because they needed to develop a character as heinous as Constance? Even if she "gets hers" in the end. How is it that I'm the only person besides my friend Nadina that is taking about this?


Anonymous said...

Sexual overtures? Horrific dialogue? Some people go out of their way to be offended. Archie Bunker must have been the anti-Christ...

This is just a TV show, folks. It's obviously not for everyone, and nobody is forced to watch it. If you don't like it, watch something else.

JRS said...

Trolls that don't have the courage to leave their email or name in comments are subject to deletion.