Friday, March 27, 2015


Every television show has a certain structure in how the narrative is presented to the audience. Many programs begin an episode with previously on to remind the audience of what happened in previous episodes and create curiosity of what will happen next. However, American Horror Story: Asylum does not have a collage of scenes from former episodes. The show goes right into the lead-in or opening scene of the show. In the episode this blog post focuses on (Episode 3: Noreaster), the opening is a continuation from a previous episode.

The lead-in to the episode helps set tone and scene for the rest of the episode. The show opens in present day with Bloody Face over injured Leo. Bloody Face then proceeds to stab him multiple times and the wife, Teresa begins to scream. Bloody Face then turns his attention to her and tries to get into the cell in which the door is closed. He eventually gets in and proceeds to hurt her as well. The husband somehow gets some strength to attack Bloody Face and he stabs him in the chest. They both get up to try and get out of the abandoned asylum. Teresa calls 911 when she sees Bloody Face and he shoots and kills both of them. Bloody Face takes off his mask to reveal a teenager under the mask. The other Bloody Face reveals himself and he too is a teenager. This teenager thinks nothing of them being shot while the other guy says that this has gone too far. At end of this scene, the true Bloody Face appears and walks towards the teenagers. This lead-in entices and confuses the viewer. It makes the viewer want to figure out what just happened at the beginning and how this scene in the present relates to past. The lead-in is exciting and dramatic, making the viewer to want to stay and watch the rest of the episode.  

The end of this scene brings the audience to the opening credits. The music in the opening credits create an eerie vibe. The opening credits show small snapshots of different parts of Briarcliff asylum. Some of these images are the patients while others are objects in the asylum. The actors who play the characters are introduced in the opening credits. When they show the actors name, it makes a scratch type noise and has the actors name in an orange tint and a black screen behind it. They title of American Horror Story: Asylum is shown at the end of the opening credits with the sound of a closing gate. The titles are unique to the American Horror Story series. They are made to appear creepy. They are placed so the viewer knows what show they are watching and the actors involved. To watch the opening credits of American Horror Story: Asylum watch this video:


The lead-in and the opening credits evoke an eerie/creepy mood for the viewers. The lead-in provides the curiosity and fear of what will happen in this episode. The opening credits are creepy in-themselves and likely provide the horror mood that viewers are looking for from this show. These moods helps in getting the audience to want to continue to watch what will happen next.

This mood is also seen in the various scenes throughout the episode and how they build on one another. The scenes within this episode build on one another by introducing what the problem or issues are for various characters at the beginning of the show. In this episode, it takes some time to show each characters involvement in the plot, but it helps the viewer to be able to understand what will happen later in the episode. After the show introduces these problems, the viewer sees throughout the episode how each scene involving that character deals with the issue at hand. For example, at the beginning of the episode we see how Sister Judes past is getting to be a serious problem. We see how flustered and angered she gets over receiving the newspaper in the mail. This scene is the starting point to how other scenes will build on her storyline. The viewer sees this when Sister Mary gives her the red lipstick and when she receives the mysterious phone call. The individual scenes come together to show the various storylines of each character interact with each other. An example of this is how Shelley takes one for the team and distracts the worker so Kit, Grace, and Lana can get out of Briarcliff. This ends up causing trouble for her in that she gets caught by Dr. Arden in the hallway and loses her ability to walk. In this episode, there are also no distinct connectives between the scenes, but rather individual scenes that may not relate to the previous scene (at the moment). An example of this is the scene with Dr. Arden examining Kit Walker in his lab and the following scene shows Sister Mary going into a patients cell who is praying the rosary.  

Another aspect of the structure of a narrative is whether the episode has a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning of Asylum shows the teenagers who are pretending to be Bloody Face. After the opening credits, it shows the beginning of what happens in the asylum. The opening shows Sister Jude receiving the mail and how the newspaper in the mail is from when she had hit the young girl when she was drunk driving. She will have these constant reminders of this incident throughout the episode. The beginning also shows how Grace and Kit are planning to try and escape the asylum once again due to the Noreaster that will be hitting Briarcliff. There is not a clear and distant middle of the show since so much is going on within the episode. Time wise, the middle of the episode is when Sister Jude receives a call on the phone in her office. She answers it and she hears the voice of the girl that she ran over. This causes Sister Jude to panic and break down. The end of the episode shows how Grace, Kit, and Lana were unsuccessful in getting out of the asylum due to the creatures in the woods. The last scene in this episode shows Shelley waking up on Dr. Ardens examination table. Dr. Arden explains how everyone thinks she has escaped the asylum and due to that he has amputated her legs from the knees down so she can no longer walk. 
Placement of commercials can be a major part in the organization of the program and how it is presented. Since I am watching this season of American Horror Story: Asylum on Netflix's, there are no commercial breaks. However, the scenes right before the commercials start typically end with music and they black out the screen. They cut off the scene pretty fast before the commercials. They do this to keep the viewers enticed to want to continue watching and see what happens next. The scene right after the commercials either continues from the scene before the commercials or is a completely new scene. They normally have some sort of sounds to go with the opening of the scenes. The sound will depend on how dramatic the scene is supposed to be. If they want the viewers to feel calm, they will open the scene slowly and with lighter music/sounds. If they want the viewers to be on their toes, they will open the scene fast and have faster and higher pitched sounds/music. The music and sounds used in Asylum help give the scenes continuity. They use familiar sounds throughout the episode that evoke some sort of mood/feelings for the viewer. These sounds help keep the scene consistent even though what is happening in the scenes might be very different.  

The structure of the ending of the narrative for American Horror Story: Asylum often leaves the audience wanting more and little closure. When this episode comes to an end, there is not closure and the plot is left open until the next episode. The episode shows some closure for Grace, Kit, and Lana in that they were unsuccessful in getting out of the asylum. Besides them, the rest of the plot is left open and questions are left unanswered until next time. Once the episode ends, the preview for the next episode in the show is shown after some commercials. They do this so the viewers will have to watch the commercials in order to see what will happen next. After the preview, the program rolls the closing credits. The closing credits just show those involved in the production of the show such as co-stars, producers, directors, editors, and more. It is just the text on the screen and music playing in the background. The music is a little more upbeat than the opening credit music. Most often these credits are not readable since the network starts the next program and puts the credits in the corner of the screen.

Each of these elements play a part in the structure of the narrative. Reminders of previous episodes and lead-ins can help grab the attention of the viewers. The lead-in and opening credits of American Horror Story: Asylum evoke the creepy mood that the program wants the audience to feel. The scenes within this episode build on one another and creates tension and intensity for the audience. This helps to keep the mood of the show when the audience has to go through commercial breaks. This episode ends with little closure, making the audience curious to what the previews will show for the next episode. 

Works Cited

FairlyHorror. "American Horror Story : Asylum - Opening." YouTube. YouTube, 12 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Mar. 2015. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Story and Genre

*Just a preface before reading this blog post that there are some dark moments within this episode that will be mentioned throughout this posting.*

A person is typically drawn to particular television shows because of its genre. Certain people want to laugh when they watch television so they will watch comedy shows such as Modern Family and Family Guy. Others like to watch crime investigation dramas such as CSI and NCIS. For me, I tend to be drawn to shows that “stand out” among other television programs. That is why I enjoy watching American Horror Story: Asylum. It is a different type of drama genre on television that leaves you always wanting to know more. 

American Horror Story: Asylum falls under the hybrid drama. American Horror Story: Asylum follows the conventions of a hybrid drama. The format of the show is 60 minutes and is recorded outside and on indoor sets (O’Donnell, 96). The drama characteristics fuses family drama with mystery or science fiction (96). Characters have lead actors with an ensemble cast. The plot of a hybrid drama typically has a dilemma that “may or may not be solved within the hour, may be crime, espionage, or interpersonal conflict” (97). These conventions lead the audience to have certain expectations of this genre. The audience expectations of the hybrid genre includes being able to anticipate the outcome and possibly being able to identify with the characters. They also expect to identify with certain conflicts within the show. In the case of American Horror Story: Asylum, the audience expects some elements of horror within each episode. Some audience members might enjoy being scared and being fearful of the unknown (Bell). 

The audience also have certain expectations when it comes to how the story is told in American Horror Story: Asylum. In order to have these scary and horror elements, the structure of the narrative must be structured in a way that will bring these emotions to the audience. I have chosen Episode 10, “The Name Game” as a way to show how the narrative processes in this episode. The narrative of this episode follows the progression of events of the characters inside the asylum. The episode opens with Kit being revived by Dr. Arden where he asks if there was any visitation (from the aliens). Dr. Arden tells him no but in actuality he has been interrogating Pepper who has been charged with protecting a pregnant Grace. Back in the common room, Sister Mary puts a new jukebox in the room and dedicates the song “I Put a Spell on You” to Sister Jude who is now a patient at Briarcliff. Dr. Thredson enters the room and sits with Kit and Lana. He reveals to Kit about Lana’s failed abortion attempt and how he will continue to imprison them since he has been hired as the full-time therapist.
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These events help to set up the rest of the narrative. During the episode we see Kit get a surprise from Dr. Thredson which is seeing Grace with a baby, Sister Jude receiving poor treatment due to Sister Mary and the growing tension between Dr. Thredson and Lana Winter. Throughout this episode, the main narrative progression is seen through the events with Monsignor in them. He is warned at the beginning of the episode about the Devil being inside Sister Mary. This leads him to take action and try an exorcism but it does not work. This worsens the problem and leads him to see advice from a delusional Sister Jude. She tells him to “kill her.” When Monsignor is confronted by Sister Mary again she begins to talk out loud on how he plans on killing her. “He reiterates his intent to return her host to a state of grace, which angers the nun to the point of loss of control and the host emerges. He takes the opportunity to throw her from the balcony at the top of the staircase” (“The Name Game”). 

Time is presented in multiple ways for American Horror Story: Asylum. Some episodes go back and forth in time such as the pilot episode going from the present back to the 1960s. In this particular episode, the events presented are successive. Something that happens earlier in the episode leads to something else later on. An example of this would be when Dr. Arden is out in the woods with Sister Mary and goes to kill himself. He ends up not doing it and Sister Mary says that he is pitiful. At the end of the episode, we see that Sister Mary has been killed and this time Dr. Arden does commit suicide by “climbing onto the tray and incinerating himself along with Mary Eunice's body” (“The Name Game”). 

Another way to look at how the story is told within this episode is to use Propp’s Narrative Theory and see how disequilibrium is created and how equilibrium is restored in the episode. Disequilibrium is created throughout the episode through the conflict between characters. The equilibrium for Lana Winters and Kit Walker at the beginning of the episode is that Dr. Thredson is no longer at the asylum. Disequilibrium is created for them when they see that Dr. Thredson has returned. Equilibrium is partially restored for Kit Walker by the surprise in Dr. Thredson’s office. It is Pepper and Grace with a newborn baby in her arms. Dr. Thredson tells Kit that Grace says that the baby is his. Though Kit might be confused by this, he is happy to see Grace again. Equilibrium is restored when Lana catches Dr. Thredson trying to find the tape. Her equilibrium is restored by blackmailing him with this tape (this also creates disequilibrium for Dr. Thredson). Disequilibrium is created for Sister Jude when Sister Mary puts a jukebox in the common room. This lack only gets worse when Sister Mary orders her to get electroshock therapy which causes her to become dazed and forget people’s names. Equilibrium is restored for Sister Jude when she tells Monsignor to kill Sister Mary and he follows her advice. This equilibrium is similar for Monsignor. Disequilibrium is created for 
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him when he realizes that the Devil is inside Sister Mary. Equilibrium tries to be restored when he attempts an exorcism on her. Disequilibrium is created again when Sister Mary retaliates and violates him. Equilibrium is restored for Monsignor when he throws Sister Mary off a balcony that kills her. 

Since each episode builds on one another, conflicts from previous episodes can been seen in “The Name Game.” The conflict between Sister Mary and Sister Jude worsens when Sister Mary buys a jukebox for the common area. The two do not get along especially now that Sister Jude has become a patient at Briarcliff. Conflict arises for Kit Walker and Lana winters when they see that Dr. Thredson is back at the asylum and is now working there full-time. The conflict between the three only worsens as the episode progresses. Conflict also arises when Monsignor finally realizes that the Devil is inside Sister Mary. He tries to perform an exorcism, but fails and Sister Mary retaliates by violating him. Conflict is resolved when Monsignor kills her. Not all conflicts are resolved from this episode so the audience stays intrigued and wants to know what will happen next. Conflict can also been seen by identifying oppositions within the episode. The opposition of good and evil is very much present in this episode. Good can be seen in Monsignor who gets a visit from the angel of death and she tells him that the Devil lies within Sister Mary. Good and evil can be seen between Dr. Thredson and Kit and Lana. In the conversation between the three of them, the audience can see how evil Dr. Thredson truly is by saying how he is only keeping Lana alive because she has their baby growing inside of her. Good and evil is also seen with Dr. Arden and how he treats Pepper. Dr. Arden is willing to do almost anything to find out more about the aliens. He wants to take x-rays or perform a c-section on pregnant Grace but Pepper will not allow it because she is to protect Grace according to the aliens.  

Too see how the narrative moves forward in this episode of Asylum, we can use Barthes’s hermeneutic code. This helps to see how an audience interprets an episode as well as follows the story presented. An enigma is a mystery or a question that is trying to be answered in the narrative or story. Some of the enigmas in this episode are “What will happen with Lana now that Dr. Thredson is back in the asylum?”, “Will Dr. Thredson find the tape?”, and “Will Sister Mary be freed from the Devil inside her?” A delay is anything that delays us from finding out the answer to the question or mystery in the story. The audience is delayed in finding out what will happen between Lana and Dr. Thredson because he is focused on getting Kit Walker and his situation with Grace. Dr. Thredson gets delayed in searching for his tape when he goes inside Dr. Arden’s laboratory. He hears someone screaming and finds Grace who is about to give birth. At the beginning of the episode, we see that Monsignor has finally realized of the evil within Sister Mary. He fails at attempting an exorcism which delays Sister Mary of being from this evil. A resolution is when we determine or figure out the mystery or answer to the question. There is no resolution for what will happen between Lana and Dr. Thredson in this episode. Dr. Thredson goes in search of the tape and only finds a book underneath one of the tubs. Much to his dismay, Lana threatens and tells him that she is the only one who knows where it is and she is not giving it up. This question is not fully resolved as well in this episode. Resolution occurs for Sister Mary when she is finally freed from the Devil. This is done by Monsignor killing both her and the Devil in the asylum. The Angel of Death comes and takes both of them away. This episode leaves the audience with some closure from the deaths of Sister Mary and Dr. Arden. However, there are still many questions left unanswered from the audience. The audience will have to come back and watch the next episode to get their questions answered.

It is said that many contemporary television shows have elements of older stories in the narrative. For American Horror Story: Asylum, elements of older stories can be seen a little in the narrative. Many older stories dealt with heroes and villains and good vs. evil. These elements can be seen in this season of the show and this episode. Some of the heroes within this episode are Monsignor and Lana Winters. Villains or the “bad guys” would be Dr. Thredson and Sister Mary. The heroes go against the villains within the asylum in order to try to resolve the conflict between them. This season of American Horror Story also has elements of myths and archetypes within the narrative. Archetypes such as good vs. evil, fate vs. free will, heroic action, and fall and redemption are all seen in Asylum. In this particular episode, we see good vs. evil between numerous characters. We see the continuing heroic actions of Lana Winters in exposing the truth about Dr. Thredson. We also see the fall of Sister Jude in the asylum. This episode also has the mythical elements of the “alien world.” Characters such as Kit and Grace are all part of this myth in the show. These myths and archetypes present in American Horror Story: Asylum can teach us a few lessons about ourselves. The archetypes especially show the audience ways to have courage and to stand up for yourself. They also teach the audience that evil can come in many ways and every person reacts differently to it. 

It is interesting to look at the various ways that a narrative for a television show can be examined. You can learn so much about how the narrative is structured and how its goal is to keep the audience drawn to the show. We were able to see this by analyzing the episode “The Name Game” in American Horror Story: Asylum. This episode provided ways to look at various narrative elements and how they are used in a hybrid drama. These elements in American Horror Story: Asylum show how the story is told and how it keeps the audience coming back for more. 

Works Cited

Bell, Christine. "TV Drama: Stories and Audiences." GCSE MEDIA STUDIES (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

O'Donnell, Victoria. Television Criticism. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2013. Print.

"The Name Game." American Horror Story Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2015.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Television Style

Welcome to my third blog post about American Horror Story: Asylum! To learn about the production style of American Horror Story: Asylum watch this video!

Click here to learn more about the Mise en Scène Analysis! 

Work Cited

"Mise En Scene." Mise En Scene. Web. 18 Feb. 2015.

O'Donnell, Victoria. Television Criticism. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2013. Print.