The successful American Horror Story television franchise is expanding, starting with the spin-off American Horror Stories series.
The franchise is known for its inspired modern horror, occasionally problematic elements, and memorable casts and seasons.
The new series features standalone stories against a season-long arc.
The first two episodes, ‘Rubber (wo)Man Part One and Part Two’, are the standouts so far in my opinion.
One of the biggest components, aside from the episodes being set in the infamous Murder House, is how queer relationships are front and centre.
Rather than queer characters being the sidekicks to their straight counterparts, the main focus is a gay couple and their lesbian daughter.
But Scarlett (Sierra McCormick) isn’t without her complexity.
She’s got a twisted fascination with the macabre and watching sadomasochist sex online.
While that sounds problematic, her queerness isn’t the problem – her being alienated from her peers and bullied is.
Her tipping point is her crush, Maya (Paris Jackson), pretending to be interested in her as a cruel prank.
Ultimately, it leads to Scarlett giving into violent thoughts and luring Maya and her friends to her home to kill them.
Part Two explores the relationship between her dads, Michael (Matt Bomer) and Troy (Gavin Creel).
They have glaring problems, and Troy cheats on Michael with a contractor, justifying the betrayal by calling him crazy (despite his claims about seeing a murderous spirit being true).
Allowing queer people to have problems just like straight couples isn’t ineffective – it’s quite the opposite.
Their issues aren’t about homophobic neighbours or loved ones.
Michael and Troy simply have a marriage that’s falling apart due to miscommunication, valid fear, and betrayal.
Meanwhile, Scarlett is living out her murderous fantasies with her ghost girlfriend, Ruby (Kaia Gerber).
They both delight in committing acts of violence, even against the ghosts residing in the house.
Their relationship clashes against what’s typically depicted for sapphic pairings.
Neither of the girls are extremely femme or submissive.
Ruby goes so far as to make a suggestion that normally comes from a heterosexual boy: to die so that they can be together forever.
It’s a topic that came up in American Horror Story: Murder House.
Chaos ensues, and Ruby takes matters into her own hands by killing Scarlett’s parents, all to keep Scarlett from having a reason to leave the house and keep her with her forever.
While that’s a disturbing and toxic way of dealing with relationship insecurities, they somehow come out all right in the end.
Before the end of the episode, Scarlett decides that she doesn’t want to die.
She wants to live out her life how she sees fit, travelling the world and being free.
Instead of having Ruby break her promise to Scarlett that she wouldn’t take away her choices, she lets Scarlett leave, and waits to reunite every Halloween (when the ghosts are allowed to freely roam outside of the house).
Neither of these queer relationships are anything to model.
Despite that, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying queer characters being dysfunctional.
Television and cinema have shown a plethora of dysfunctional and villainous characters.
Therefore, wanting to see queer people as chaotic, justified villains or antagonists isn’t strange.
The first two episodes of American Horror Stories may not be perfect or every fan’s cup of tea, but they certainly don’t shy away from themes that we normally see straight characters or couples dealing with.
And that’s satisfying enough for me.