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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Scream Queens is a horror-comedy about a serial killer stalking college students at a sorority. The plot and dialogue send up both slasher movies and teen drama, but younger viewers probably won't catch the irony in the queens' behavior. Similarly, violence is presented satirically, but stabbings, a decapitation, a woman burned with hydrochloric acid, and a slashed throat all are shown with flowing and spouting blood. A woman is killed by having her face deep-fried, and characters are dispatched suddenly by a masked killer. Women are called "sluts," "bitches," and "gashes," and "ass" is used frequently. Women are seen frequently in underwear, men less frequently. Underage characters drink; an authority figure smokes a joint while in bed with a much younger college student. Characters have sex with moaning and thrusting (no nudity shown). A character is disabled and her disability used as a topic for jokes.
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What's the story?
SCREAM QUEENS is set at a mysterious sorority house, where 20 years ago a sister died under questionable circumstances after giving birth to a baby she didn't know she was carrying. Now a murderer is once again stalking the sisters of Kappa Kappa Tau, with body after body piling up in the industrial house freezer. But that's not even the biggest problem faced by KKT's despicable president Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and her henchwomen Chanel #2 (Ariana Grande), Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd), and head lady-in-waiting Chanel #5 (Abigail Breslin). That problem would be one Dean Cathy Munsch (Jamie Lee Curtis), who has decreed that this year the misbehaving KKT must take in every single pledge who applies -- which includes shoe-ins such as legacy sister Grace Gardner (Skyler Samuels) as well as harder sells such as the back-brace-clad supernerd Hester Ulrich (Lea Michele). But whoever's going around bumping people off in a red devil suit may teach the girls that there are worse things than having to be nice.
Is it any good?
With sharp dialogue, clever twists, and a great cast, this is a fun show for adult and teen horror fans, but it's too violent and vulgar for younger viewers. On the funny-to-scary scale, it lands somewhere between showrunner Ryan Murphy's Glee and American Horror Story. Scream Queens definitely doesn't rise to the level of graphic sex and gore as the latter, but it's a lot creepier than Glee, though it does share that show's satiric sensibility. As on Glee, characters are racist, homophobic, and generally cruel to each other; older viewers may find it fresh and snarky, but again, younger viewers may take Chanel grousing about "ethnics" or "sluts" at face value. If you let younger teens watch, you may want to be available to counter iffy messages and watch for particularly gory scenes such as the hydrochloric acid bath or deep-fryer face-burning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why horror is a popular genre. Why is watching scary material enjoyable? When does it go too far?
Are we supposed to like the sorority sisters? Which ones? How can you tell? Consider the show's costuming in your reply.
Are horror comedies ever scary? Why, or why not? Do the jokes make the horror more or less scary?