American Horror Story

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
American Horror Story TV Poster Image
Dark, twisted adult drama is designed to shock and disturb.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 60 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 208 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

A recurring theme from season to season is that the earthly life is full of everyday horrors, including adultery, drug use, cruelty, self-mutilation. Horrors also come from supernatural sources: ghosts, witches, demonic clowns. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most characters have major flaws that prove unchangeable -- even if they make an effort to try. There are also outright villains who take pleasure in hurting or killing others. Authority figures can't be trusted; many characters have hidden motives. 

Violence

Violent scenes are both sudden and shocking, with both real and fantastical elements: a school shooting, a rape from a demon-like character, an acid attack, amputations, decapitation, suicide, a terrible scene that involves bleach and enemas. Intense blood and gore is shown. Visuals include bullying with physical violence, bloody stabbings, shootings, eviscerations, dead bodies, and shots of self-mutilation scars. Realistic dead, bloody animals are shown onscreen. A late-term miscarriage is also described in detail, and characters take delight in killing, torturing, and maiming. 

Sex

Teens are sexually active. Adult characters also engage in sometimes disturbing sex that includes fantasy rape, masturbation, and some partial nudity (bare buttocks, etc.). There are rape scenes in several seasons; one particularly notorious one involves a supernatural rape, another has aspects of bestiality and incest between a mother and son. Sex with a disabled character is fetishized in one season. 

Language

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.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Both teen and adult characters smoke cigarettes. Depending on the season, characters variously drink (including underage kids), use cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Some seasons revolve heavily around characters with drug habits. 

What 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. Each season of the show is set in a different milieu: a hotel, a school for witches, a secluded house; some settings may disturb viewers more than others. 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 rape scenes in several seasons; one particularly notorious one involves a supernatural rape, another has aspects of bestiality and incest. There are also sudden and shocking incidents involving blood, and both real and supernatural violence: acid attacks, amputations, shock therapy, high school shootings. Animals are killed with realistic bodies shown. There's also imagery related to drinking and drugs: injections, snorting cocaine, smoking pot. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 11 and 14 year old Written bycathy59 February 13, 2015

Not for kids 10 and under, maybe 11 year olds.

I think that you can not really keep your kids from knowing all about forms of sexual interactions and other things. Of course I wish they wouldn't know, b... Continue reading
Parent of a 17 year old Written byTsion December 21, 2012

Astoundingly Original, Scary and Shocking

American Horror Story is a love it or hate it TV show. I bet you will find next to no one in between. Many praise its brilliant originality and others condemn... Continue reading
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 wat... Continue reading
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 cab... Continue reading

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 horrors that we'd too often rather forget.

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love thrills

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