AMERICAN HORROR STORIES REVIEW: RUBBER AND RISK
The ornate doors to Murder House have swung wide open, and a familiar silhouette lurks inside. These iconic haunted hallways have returned for the debut of American Horror Stories. That’s right - STORIES. Where American Horror Story offers season-long plotlines, each episode of Stories unveils self-contained tales. What awaits viewers in this two-part series premiere is that trademark AHS contemplative fun with some glaring issues that will rub many the wrong way.
Show creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck have repeatedly broken ground on television as allies to marginalized groups. Their work on Glee, Pose, and the Half Initiative (https://www.halfinitiative.com/about) forged an undeniably impactful path towards modern diversity and inclusion in the industry. Nevertheless, it would be remiss to ignore the...Matt Bomer of it all. For years, Murphy has faced criticism for repeatedly casting a very specific type of traditionally handsome lead equipped with green eyes and dark hair. Even Vanity Fair took notice when an American Horror Story: Hotel crew member couldn’t tell the cast apart. This issue carries on into Stories’ first two episodes, which star a predominantly white cast. Models like Paris Jackson and Kaia Gerber make it hard to imagine that looks weren’t prioritized in this soap opera-esque cast.
Adding insult to injury, the first murder victim of the episode is a Black woman. From that point on, 99% of the POC characters here don’t make it out alive. Sorry to the ambitious therapist who dedicates her afterlife to helping the white main characters. Sorry to the contractor whose only crime was picking the wrong house to work on. Sorry to the clique of girls that lived and died serving their “friend’s” orders. We hardly knew any of you.
Reshaping the Rubber Man narrative into a Queer teenager’s journey through a violent, sexual awakening feels appropriately brazen. Sierra McCormick (Some Kind of Hate, VFW) conveys a genuine angst that channels relatable frustrations of the young and misunderstood. Matt Bomer and Gavin Creel are given an arc that feels thin with joyless melodrama. One positive AHS staple that appears here is the infamous Halloween episode. A night out gone wrong at an ethereal Griffith Park makes for unmatched Horror eye-candy.
Over the course of these two episodes, the show satiates the desire for campy and stylish fun true to the AHS formula. There’s no major risk here compared to its cable counterpart, which may just serve as a double-edged sword. Regardless, we could all use these contemplations of shame, guilt and curiosity.