American Horror Story



Dark, twisted adult drama is designed to shock and disturb.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A recurring theme is that the earthly life is full of everyday horrors, including adultery, drug use, self-mutilation, and more.

Positive role models

Most characters have major flaws that prove unchangeable -- even if they make an effort to try. Depending on the season, teen characters can be especially negative, swearing around their parents, smoking, using drugs, and bullying others.


Violent scenes are both sudden and shocking, with both real and fantastical elements. Visuals include bullying with physical violence, bloody stabbings, dead bodies, and shots of self-mutilation scars. A late-term miscarriage is also described in detail, and a teen openly admits that he kills people and feels no remorse.


Teens make references to sex and being sexually active. Adult characters also engage in sometimes disturbing sex that includes fantasy rape, masturbation, and some partial nudity (bare buttocks, etc.).


Frequent use of unbleeped "s--t" in many forms -- from "s--thead" to "bulls--t." Also audible: "c--ksucker," "p---y," "d--k," "bitch," "coke whore," etc. Teen characters swear around their parents.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Both teen and adult characters smoke cigarettes, and certain teens are known to use illegal drugs like cocaine. There's some drinking, too.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that American Horror Story's content is designed to shock, and parents should expect a variety of scary, disturbing, and graphic scenes that include strong language, sexual content, and violence. Audible swearing ranges from "s--t" to "c--ksucker," and scenes of sex and masturbation including partial nudity (mostly buttocks), as well as bondage, adultery, sexual violence, and more. There are also sudden and shocking incidents involving blood, and both real and supernatural violence. Teen characters smoke cigarettes and use drugs, too, in addition to swearing regularly in front of their parents.

What's the story?

Each season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY centers on a different storyline, in a different location and time period. From present-day Los Angeles to a freak show in 1952 Florida, the dark, complex stories focus on witches, ghosts, the mentally ill, and strange American subcultures with each storyline acted by skilled actors ranging from Connie Britton to Jessica Lange to Kathy Bates. While each season is unique, they all use extreme examples to create social commentary on stereotypes, religion, race, and many more sensitive, but important topics.

Is it any good?


Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: American Horror Story comes from the minds of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, and Dante Di Loreto -- the same men who created the peppily positive Emmy winner Glee. But it is nothing (and we mean nothing) like the feel-good TV musical that made Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" an anthem for outcasts everywhere. In fact, the two series play like polar opposites, except for the fact that underneath each series is biting social commentary.

That might not stop teen fans of Glee from wanting to watch Murphy & Co.'s immensely popular horror offering; however, parents should be fully aware that this darkly disturbing series with psycho-sexual undertones -- which has far more in common with Murphy and Falchuk's controversial cable series Nip/Tuck -- was clearly intended for adults, and not their children. But in truth, even many adults might not be ready for the show's frank depiction of everyday horrors that we'd too often rather forget.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the show's central premise that "the world is a horror show" full of pain and man-made misery. Do you agree with that negative worldview, or do you believe the world to be a far more positive place?

  • Are there any similarities between American Horror Story and Glee (for example, the presence of teen bullies, or a character with Down syndrome)? How do the two series differ in terms of tone?

  • How does the show's presence on cable allow it to push the envelope when it comes to violence, language, and sexual content? What would the show look like if it were to air on network television? How would it have to change?

TV details

Cast:Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, Frances Conroy
TV rating:TV-MA
Awards:Emmy, Golden Globe

This review of American Horror Story was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written byalexman774 October 11, 2011

Amazing but may be disturbing for some.

Ok so I am 14 years old and my da found out this show was TVMA one day before it came out. He knew how excited I was to see the show so he decided to let me watch with his supervision. First of all the show is not quite as bloody as you may expect but it does contain disturbing and frightening images which may scar younger children. The show also contains some strong language including s*** and c***sucker which may not be a good thing if kids repeat what they hear. There is also a large focus on sex. The show tries to use sex as one of it's elements to scare. There are james bond style sex scenes (cant see bad parts but you can tell what they are doing) but you never see any nudity except for butt. There are also messages about how much pain and suffering is in the world which may be sad for young children. In conclusion this show may be good for mature 14 year olds but my dad will continue to watch each upcoming episode with me to be safe and I recommend you do that to.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byAmericanplaya217 May 5, 2012


What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written bykamiekirk November 8, 2011

Sexual perversion, adultery, and gore is too much for television, let alone children.

I've been very critical of sexuality in media, and after the seeing the first few episodes, it seemed that the sexual perversion was too much for basic cable. The maid/husband masturbation thing was too much for ANY television in general. Whether full nudity was shown or not, it was way too much. I would never allow siblings to watch it.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide