Sunday, April 19, 2015


How believable a television show is to an audience greatly depends on how the program looks. The programs looks contribute not only to the realness of the program, but also to the emotions that are conveyed (O’Donnell, 190). These looks are made up from “the sets, the casting of characters, costumes, makeup, dialogue, physical movement, music, and sound effects. The look of a program is accomplished by camera work, lightning, editing, and direction” (190). By looking at these codes we can see what aspect of reality the show is trying to represent.  

One of the major looks of a program is the indoor and outdoor sets and the use of color. The events located in an indoor studio are dressed to look like an asylum of the early 1960s. It looks old and dirty and inside is not well lit. Another events in an indoor sets are homes dressed to look of the time period. Events that take place outdoors are that of a suburban area since most takes place in Massachusetts. 

The Hollywood Reporter wrote an article speaking about the various sets for American Horror
Image from:
Story: Asylum.
It talks about what the designers of the show did to make the asylum look realistic and even more importantly, creepy.  

The colors are subdued to make the set look old and creepy. The color of the outfits of which the characters wear are subdued as well. Most wear a shade of blue while others wear black (such as Sister Jude). These color help create the mood of the show. The audience can feel anxious, tense, or nervous of what will happen because of these colors. They do not give off a cheery-type feeling, but rather a creepy/suspenseful-type feeling.

Most of the scenes that were outdoors were actually filmed outside to make it authentic and real. They use the sights and sounds of what they are feeling to provide the realism factor the audience sees during the show. 

The outdoor scene in some cases symbolize freedom because the patients are all locked inside the asylum. When some of the characters, such as Lana Winters and Kit Walker, are able to get out of the asylum, the outside world symbolizes their freedom. Outside they are not seen and treated as a patient, but rather they are treated as a human being. 

The creators of American Horror Story knew what they were doing when it comes to casting the right actors for the various roles in the show. Each of the actors bring their character to life in making they seem like real people. They put on the persona of the character through physical attributes (such as clothing and hair) and personal attributes (such as the characters mannerisms). When I watched the show, I always forgot that these characters were just characters and not actual people. 

The main characters of the show such as Sister Jude and Dr. Thredson have depth more so then minor characteristics. Throughout the season, the audience learn more about these characters and their personalities. Some of this is shown in repetitive characteristics such as Kit being a leader and standing up for himself and others. This helps to reinforce the character’s personality and for the audience to understand why a character acts a certain way in a situation. The show digs deep to show the dark side of some of the characters and expose their weakness. 

The costumes that the characters wear match the time period of when the show is set as well as where they are located during the show. For example, when the audience first meets Lana Winters, we see her wearing typical clothing of the early the 1960s. From her clothing, the audience is able to recognize the time of which the show is set and that she is of working class. The costumes in the asylum are all similar for the patients. Women wear dresses and men wear pants and a shirt that are blue. They all match to show cohesion of the patients. It also helps to make the asylum appear more realistic to the viewer.

The actors express their feelings through facial expressions during intense moments. Most often, the audience is able to tell how a character is feeling by the subtexts of facial expressions and physical movements. How they look at another character or how they move around another character are some ways in which the audience is able to tell how a character is feeling at that moment. The sound does help in reinforcing the subtext. The sound assists in portraying the feelings and mood of the character in a certain situation. For example, dramatic sounds will be used to further show a character’s feeling of fear or shock.   

The theme of American Horror Story: Asylum can make it difficult for the dialogue at times to sound realistic. They talk about supernatural things such as aliens, which does not make the dialogue seem real. Most dialogue that occurred in the asylum sounded realistic because the characters appeared real to the audience. The show often leaves out important information in the dialogue. They present this information in a different way. They do this to keep the viewer engaged and interested in what will happen to characters within the program.  

Music is an important aspect to American Horror Story: Asylum. Music in the program helps to move storyline in each episode as well as assist in showing characters emotions at the time. The music used in the show also helps to draw in the audience, especially when it comes to scary moments in the show. The music builds anticipation, making the audience nervous as they are waiting to see what happens next.

Most often, the shots used in this program are close-ups and medium shots. These help to connect the audience with characters in the show. With close-ups, the audience is able to truly see how a characters is feeling or reacting to a certain situation. It helps make the character seem real to the audience. Movement of the camera depends on each scene. If it is a “calm” scene between two characters, the movement of the camera is slower or at a normal pace. When something crazy happens, the movement is chaotic, in that angles are constantly changing or the movement of the camera is very fast. They do this to get the audience to feel a certain way in that moment of the show. They want the audience to feel panic just as the character just like the character in the show. The camera work helps bring realism to American Horror Story: Asylum. 

American Horror Story: Asylum also has characteristics that makes the show post-modern. Part of post-modernism for television includes the enjoyment derived from “mixing up the conventions of various genres and programs” (169). American Horror Story: Asylum is a hybrid drama that has various situations that you would have not seen in modern television shows. This show involves relationships that are becoming more common today such as an interracial married couple. The show also has a sci-fi theme about aliens which typically would not be seen in a modern television show. American Horror Story: Asylum stands out among other television shows of the past and today, making it pretty evident of why it is a post-modern show. 

American Horror Story: Asylum also stands out through its signature looks. The signature look of American Horror Story can mostly been seen through the opening credits. Since each season of the show is different, the signature look will somewhat change. What stays the same from season to season is the signature looks of creepiness and horror. In Asylum, these elements can be seen between the characters themselves and the appearance of Briarcliff. They provide the creepy signature look that American Horror Story strives for every new season. 

The producers of the programs are able to get the viewer to believe what they see is really there by making the show be as realistic as possible. They make the asylum and the patients inside of it appear as if it would be something a viewer would see in their own lives. They also get the viewer to believe what they see is really there through the camera work. By bringing the character and the viewer closer (through the use of close-up shots), the viewer will feel as if they are part of the conversation. They will feel like they are in the asylum as well, trying to find a way out. This reality aspect is what the producers are trying to represent through American Horror Story: Asylum. This and other representation codes contribute to the believability of American Horror Story: Asylum.  

Works Cited
O'Donnell, Victoria. Television Criticism. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2013. Print. 
Whitlock, Cathy. "Inside the Spooky 'American Horror Story: Asylum' Set (Photos & Video)." The Hollywood Reporter. N.p., 5 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

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