In American Horror Story and Philosophy , philosophers with varying backgrounds and interests explore different aspects of this popular “erotic thriller” TV show, with its enthusiastic cult following and strong critical approval. The result is a collection of intriguing and provocative thoughts on deeper questions prompted by the creepy side of the human imagination.
As an “anthology show,” American Horror Story has a unique structure in the horror genre because it explores distinct subgenres of horror in each season. As a result, each season raises its own set of philosophical issues. The show’s first season, Murder House , is a traditional haunted house story. Philosophical topics expounded here include: the moral issues pertaining to featuring a mass murderer as one of the season’s main protagonists; the problem of other mindswhen I see an old hag, how can I know that you don’t see a sexy maid? And whether it is rationally justified to fear the Piggy Man.
Season Two, Asylum , takes place inside a mid-twentieth-century mental hospital. Among other classic horror subgenres, this season includes story lines featuring demonic possession and space aliens. Chapters inspired by this season include such topics as: the ethics of investigative reporting and whistleblowing; personal identity and demonic possession; philosophical problems arising from eugenics; and the ethics and efficacy of torture.
Season Three, Coven , focuses on witchcraft in the contemporary world. Chapters motivated by this season include: sisterhood and feminism as starkly demonstrated in a coven; the metaphysics of traditional voodoo zombies (in contrast to the currently fashionable “infected” zombies); the uses of violent revenge; and the metaphysics of reanimation.
Season Four, Freak Show , takes place in a circus. Philosophical writers look at life under the Big Top as an example of “life imitating art”; several puzzles about personal identity and identity politics (crystallized in the two-headed girl, the bearded lady, and the lobster boy); the ethical question of honor and virtue among thieves; as well as several topics in social and political philosophy.
Season Five, Hotel , is, among other disturbing material, about vampires. Chapters inspired by this season include: the ethics of creating vampire progeny; LGBT-related philosophical issues; and existentialism as it applies to serial killers,
Season Six, Roanoke , often considered the most creative of the seasons so far, partly because of its employment of the style of documentaries with dramatic re-enactments, and its mimicry of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity . Among the philosophical themes explored here are what happens to moral obligations under the Blood Moon; the proper role of truth in storytelling; and the defensibility of cultural imperialism.
About the Author
Richard Greene is Professor Philosophy at Weber State University. He is the co-editor of The Princess Bride and Philosophy: Inconceivable! and also of Orphan Black and Philosophy: Grand Theft DNA.
Rachel Robison-Greene is the co-editor of Orange Is the New Black and Philosophy: Last Exit from Litchfield and Girls and Philosophy: This Book Isn't a Metaphor for Anything.
Table of Contents
The Devil Made Us Write This xi
I Goddesses don't speak in whispers. They scream 1
1 What's So Scary about Demonic Possession? Rachel Robison-Greene 3
2 A Death Worth Living Elizabeth Rard 13
3 My Sister, My Self? Richard Greene 23
4 How to Live through a Horror Story and Find Your Self Jacob Browne Christophe Porot 33
5 Other People's Body Parts Charlene Elsby Rob Luzecky 45
II When bad things keep happening to good people, you start to question what is right and what is wrong 55
6 Horror Can Be Great Drama S. Evan Kreider 57
7 And the Most Despicable Jessica Lange Character Is … Rachel Robison-Greene 71
8 Night of the Living Disabled Matthew William Brake 81
9 Voodoo Hoodoo Cari Callis 91
10 Too Freaking Bad Rod Carveth 107
III I have long stopped asking why the mad do mad things 119
11 999 Fingers Christopher Ketcham 121
12 A Month from Now, I'll Be a Balding, Toothless Skeleton Seth M. Walker 131
13 Burn the Witch! Cherise Huntingford 145
IV I am tough, but I'm no cookie 159
14 The Absurdity at the Heart of Horror Gerald Browning 161
15 Red Harvest in Roanoke Fernando Gabriel Pagnoni Berns Emiliano Aguilar 169
16 Please Don't Kill Me! (But if You Do, Could You Make a Video?) Cherise Huntingford 181
American Haunting Story 197
The Coven 213