As a longtime fan of the horror genre, I am sad to say that I will not be able to complete my viewing of the latest season of “American Horror Story (Apocalypse)” after having finished the first episode.
Lovers of the horror genre know that the form horror takes has changed over time, and has largely been a response to public fears. For instance, a handful of scary movies have come out in recent years which center around the internet- “Unfriended”, for example, centers around a group of teens experiencing a haunting via the popular video-call app Skype. A sequel to the film came out in July, centered around the dark web.
FX’s hit show “American Horror Story” has never shied away from controversial topics- in the past, the show has portrayed issues like school shootings, sexual violence, and suicide, but seemed to tread lightly, only pulling those themes to a degree that most of the fanbase found tolerable enough to still tune back in every week.
So it should come as no surprise, amid tensions with North Korea and the ever-evolving art of war, that the newest season of American Horror Story takes place following World War III and nuclear winter. But somehow, it is. This is the kind of fear we simply don’t talk about. Until now.
Aside from the terrifying realization that life as we know it- as well as the lives of ourselves and our loved ones- are all so fragile, the first episode touched at other sensitive issues in the collective American conscience right now, namely gun violence and the unflinching ability of some humans to thoughtlessly, or even selfishly, end the life of another person.
Perhaps I am too sensitive to the issue, or perhaps apocalyptic media makes me unreasonably anxious, but after the graphically violent first episode, I will not be able to continue watching the season for the sake of my own mental health. Years ago, I made the decision to give up my then favorite show, “The Walking Dead”, for similar reasons- I would dread the new episodes for fear that a beloved character would die, I would cry from relief after the end of every new episode, and would have nightmares at least once a week about the collapse of society. The nightmares went away after I stopped watching, but I didn’t feel a sense of loss at not being able to watch the show- the plot had, in my mind, become repetitive and dull. The violence depicted seemed to be done for the shock factor, not to advance the plot, whereas in “American Horror Story,” it seemed intentional and important.
Past seasons of the show have dealt with topics like ghosts, demons, and vampires- fears that, at the end of the day, don’t pose a threat to my everyday life. But this latest installment brings to the forefront of my mind the constant fear which myself, and many fellow Americans, fight to repress.
I love the show, and I look forward to staying updated on the action of the season as the plot unfolds. After the decline in quality of the past few seasons, I was excited for this season to begin, and believed (and still do believe) that this may be the best season of the show yet. I even took a hiatus from patronizing the show last season in light of problematic actress Lena Dunham joining the cast, so I was excited to start watching again following her departure.
But this season is too realistic for me. I hope the writers continue to boldly acknowledge issues we otherwise fail to take about, I hope they challenge notions of what kinds of issues we as a society of viewers are willing to think about and talk about and acknowledge. This season could represent the start of a bold new era for the horror genre, and I am sorry to say that I will not be able to see it.