In order to attract and keep viewers of television programs, creators need to find ways to get the audience involved in the show. This can be done multiple ways such as viewers creating ideas, identifying values, and more. This blog post will talk about the various way audiences get involved with American Horror Story: Asylum.
Ideas are first presented to the audience by the writers and creators of the show. These ideas are shown in the story line through character’s words and actions. As the season progresses, the ideas are developed more as the audience learns more. The ideas do not really adjust to the people in that these ideas are already set and developed early on. This causes the audience to have to adjust to the ideas of the show and form their own opinions of the ideas presented to them.
Values within the concept of good vs. evil can be seen throughout the program. An example of these values can be seen in episode 2 called “Tricks and Treats.” An adolescent boy is brought to Briarcliff in hopes of figuring out what is wrong with him. It turns out that a demon is inside him so an
exorcism is performed. The demon in the boy brings out bad things that Sister Jude has done in the past. This causes her to break down and go after the demon. Sister Jude values the Church, but values her deepest secrets more that no one knows about. Values such as honesty and fairness are also put to the test in this episode. Lana receives electroshock treatment just so she does not remember what happens in the asylum. The show questions fairness and right vs. wrong in how the patients are treated at the asylum. What is right for Sister Jude to give electroshock therapy to Lana? What is right for Lana to see Kit and Grace get punished by Sister Jude? The values are communicated through the character’s actions and words in each episode. Lana values fairness so she speaks up about her poor treatment in the asylum. Dr. Thredson in this episode speaks out to Sister Jude about his concern of treatment methods at Briarcliff. Even if the character is alone, how they act their values or the values of the program will show.
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Shared substances that are present in “Tricks and Treats” are beliefs and values that are seen through the characters Lana Winters and Dr. Thredson. They both believe at this point of show that treatment at the asylum is not morally right. Another substance that may lead the audience to identify with the program is common enemies between characters. They might see the enemies in the show (in this episode that is Sister Jude) have similar personalities as someone they know. The audience might also share the substance of understanding what is morally right and wrong. This lesson is present in every episode of the show so it likely that these lessons will lead the audience to a shared common substance about the program.
American Horror Story: Asylum questions the idea or morality itself within the program. As I stated before, there are many questions in regards to what is morally right and wrong at Briarcliff. These moral lessons are developed in each episode as the audience learns more about the treatment of patients in Briarcliff. The audience can also see the development through the characters in how they act. We see in this episode that Lana knows what they are doing at the asylum is morally wrong and she is not afraid to speak up and say something about it. As the show continues, we see Lana continue to stand up for herself and the treatment of others at Briarcliff. The concept of telos is not evident in the program. You do not see in any of the characters having a life of moral excellence, even those who are part of the Church (Monsignor, Sister Jude, and Sister Mary). Each character has something in their life that obstructs from having a morally excellent life.
Emotions in Asylum play a large role in how the story is told. Emotional appeals such as sadness, anger, confusion, and joyfulness are all conveyed in the program. These emotional appeals are presented by the characters within the show. They express how they are feeling to the viewers. This helps to make the character more relatable therefore showing the emotional appeal of the program.
Many of the characters in American Horror Story: Asylum have qualities of strength and courage that create positive identification for audience members. The audience is able to see these qualities in characters such as Lana Winters and Kit Walker. They both show strength by surviving at Briarcliff and dealing with poor treatment. They both have courage in that they stick up for what they know is right and what is best for them. From the beginning of the show, Kit has the courage to say he did not kill his wife and is not Bloody Face. Another quality that many of the characters have that is likely to create positive identification for the audience is that of honesty. Sometimes the truth does hurt, but in the long-run many of the characters know that being honest with themselves and others is the best thing they can do.
At the beginning of the show American Horror Story: Asylum, it is Sister Jude who has the power and domination over other characters in the program. Even though she is in a lower position than Monsignor, she basically runs the asylum. She has the power of the workers and patients at Briarcliff. If a patient does not listen to her or do what she says, they then get punished by her. This reign of power starts to diminish as the show progresses and the Devil inside Sister Mary gets stronger. Eventually, Sister Mary takes all the power in Briarcliff and makes things even worse. Sister Jude ends up being a patient and finally sees how poorly they treat her and other patients in the asylum. She tries to speak up about it but has no power over Sister Mary. From both these characters you can see how the power of evil can play a large role in how a person acts and behaves. Sister Jude was evil in how little she cared about the patients and Sister Mary had the presence of evil inside her until she was killed.
The ideology in this program advocates a set of norms for all to follow. The ideology is that those who are perceived “normal” have positions of power over those who may have “problems.” This ideology that assigns these roles to people and advocates a set of norms is set more towards the time period in which the show is set (1960s). However we can still see this ideology in today’s society in how people are treated differently if they are not considered “normal” to the other person.
Hegemony is not seen within American Horror Story: Asylum. The subordinates in this show, such as Kit Walker and Lana Winters, go against what is accepted and deemed as natural in the social system. They do not give the power to dominant in this show. It could be said that the dominant group in this program is actually the patients or those who are not seen as “normal” by the rest of society. It might seem like they do not have power at the beginning of the program, but by the end of the show, it is them who have all the power and are a part of the social system.
The subordinates have reversed the power structure causing them to have power and the dominants to become weak. In the show, the dominants such as Sister Mary, Dr. Arden, and Dr. Thredson all have power over the subordinates early on in the program. As the show moves forward, the audience sees how roles are starting to reverse in that the subordinates have more power than the dominants think. By the end of American Horror Story: Asylum, almost all of the original dominants are dead. The subordinates take control and the power, making the dominant ones to become weak.
In American Horror Story: Asylum, gender is represented in various ways. The dominant characters are both male and female in the show. However, females are tended to be looked down upon from certain characters. For examples, Dr. Arden thinks very low of Shelley because of how she acts. Though Sister Jude has power in the asylum, she still is looked down by men in the asylum just because she is female. The program does represent the women patients, such as Lana Winters and
Grace, as strong and independent, but still have to face hurdles against men. The only representation of race in Asylum is that of Kit Walker being married to an African American woman. The show is set in the 1960s so this was not accepted of the time. Due to this, Kit was bullied by others and blamed for killing his wife. Ethnicity does not play a role in how the character’s are represented in the show. The program represents age through people of various ages in the show. For example, Sister Jude and Dr. Arden are older than Sister Mary and Kit Walker. Most of the people represented are in the young adult range. People are represented in the category of occupation through religious leaders, doctors, and a journalist. They represent a wide range of occupations to show types of jobs at the time the show is set. However, the higher occupations such as doctors are held by men showing the gap between genders. People’s physical capabilities in this program are not shown as much as mental capabilities since the show is set in an asylum. Asylum shows different types of people with different mental disabilities. These mental disabilities may or may not deal with their physical capabilities. These patients are shown that they need assistance from others since they are unable to do them on their own.
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People with power and leadership are represented the most in the program. The show represents various people with different lifestyles. In the show, it could be said that Kit Walker and Lana Winters are represented as “the other” because of how they live their lives. Kit is in an interracial marriage and Lana is in a relationship with another female. In the 1960s this was not accepted so they are seen as outcasts to what is deemed “normal” by society. These characters show how people treat others when they are not “us” and are different (O’Donnell, 155). I think that Asylum focuses on the representation of “the other” more so than other television shows. The program shows a large group of “others,” which are the patients. The patients are in the asylum because something is “wrong” with them and it takes people outside this group to try and help them. The patients are also stereotyped to be crazy just because they are in the asylum. Characters such as Kit, Lana, and Grace really do not have mental issues, but are stuck in asylum because someone stereotyped them as crazy.
The attributed intention of American Horror Story: Asylum is to scare the audience through horror elements while making the show seem realistic. Many horror TV shows or movies are not very realistic in nature such as vampires and werewolf’s. Much of this show is based on human beings and the horrors they have to deal with in the asylum. The audience is more likely to get scared or frightened by something that happens with humans because it feels more real. This attributed intention is more to persuade the audience than inform them. The writers goal is to get the audience to be scared and make them think in each episode. This takes some persuasion to get the audience to feel and think how the creators of the show want them to.
American Horror Story: Asylum is set in the 1960s so the audience is able to identify some intertextuality within the episodes. I do not think identification of intertextuality heighten the pleasure derived from the show. I think the audience gets enough enjoyment from the show through moments of fear and horror presented in each episode. As a viewer of the show myself, any intertextuality I have identified within the show has not heightened my enjoyment of American Horror Story: Asylum.
Evidence and reasoning are slightly used to support conclusions in American Horror Story: Asylum. Throughout this season, we see evidence of why people act a certain way or why something happens to them. All this evidence and reasoning is used to understand the ending of Asylum. Viewers are asked in ways to participate in the co-creation of reasoning. They create their own reasonings as to why something happened to a character and whether it was acceptable or not. Toying with these reasoning influence how the viewer will understand the ending of American Horror Story: Asylum. These conclusions show just one of the many ways that viewers of American Horror Story: Asylum get involved in the show and what keeps them watching season after season.
O'Donnell, Victoria. Television Criticism. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2013. Print.