A-scare-ica: The Rise of Horror in American Television

I have a theory that nightmares are our brain’s way of saying “hey, your life could be worse,” which is why the horror genre is increasingly becoming popular in television. So what if you have crippling debt because of student loans.  At least, you don’t have to kill your zombified friends and family. According to this CBC article, that’s why zombies are so popular.

There is no doubting that times are tough. When you find yourself in times of trouble, mother television comes on to make things all better. Since the dawn of primetime, TV has always been an escape from our daily lives. It’s why we never saw our favorite nuclear TV families broken apart by war. Instead of living vicariously through our favorite TV characters like we used to, we’re saying, “hey, my life could be worse”.

True Blood (HBO)

True Blood came out in the height of that whole Twilight fad that some of us don’t like mentioning being part of. I remember girls complaining that True Blood was a blatant rip off of the saga. Aside from having vampires, the protagonist happens to have telepathic abilities, just like a certain sparkly vampire. Except The Southern Vampire Mysteries that inspired the TV show came out before Stephanie Meyer dreamed up Twilight.

The difference between True Blood and any other vampire movie or TV show is that it dealt with current issues. Gay rights to be specific. This is made obvious by the “God hates Fangs” sign in the intro, which is a lovely jab at The Westboro Baptist Church. The show has continued to use vampires as an allegory for the LGBT community. You know, vampires are people too!

Despite airing in the summer, which is usually a death sentence, this show became insanely popular. So popular that HBO has been pushing out more and more TV shows ever since its 2008 debut. Since so many people took time out of their busy summer schedules of doing nothing, it showed that horror is something channels should strive toward.

The Walking Dead (AMC)

The zombie fad had been slowly infecting America before The Walking Dead premiered in 2010. As the article above states, the zombie fad probably has something to do with the economic recession. The famous movie monster had rarely been seen on TV. The concept of having a TV show take place during a zombie apocalypse seemed only natural. The Walking Dead proved that horror TV shows didn’t have to hide on premium cable channels.

A lot of people have planned how they would protect themselves against zombies. What people should learn from The Walking Dead is that they need to protect themselves from other survivors. The show isn’t about zombies as much as it’s about humanity and keeping a hold of it when hope is too far gone. Anyone who has seen at least the first two seasons knows that having your best friend turn on you is far worse than having your best friend turn into a zombie.

American Horror Story (FX)

One thing that keeps the horror genre alive is change. After six seasons of True Blood, fans are already getting tired of Sookie Stackhouse constantly being a damsel in distress. With American Horror Story, we get to see the same actors playing different roles each season. Its first season followed a family trying to rebuild their life and moving into a haunted house. The second season was set in an asylum in the 1960’s. This upcoming season is going to deal with witches. The decision to have a one season story is quite brilliant. It allows the show to evolve with current events.

We are all worried about today’s youth because they are under the Internet’s spell. We are all under the spell, but teenagers are susceptible to its charming ways by forming mobs over Justin Bieber. This could very well be the inspiration for American Horror Story: Coven. The Internet has the ability to do great things like sending pizzas to a child with cancer as well as terrible things like Reddit’s witch hunt for a random man after the Boston Bombings. Except pretty much anything Reddit does is terrible.

Hemlock Grove (Netflix)

Hemlock Grove is Netflix’s first attempt at a horror TV show. Since it’s on Netflix, it can get away with pretty much anything and boy did they. This is by far the grossest thing I have ever seen and I have seen The Human Centipede. Twice. I should have known what I was in for because its executive producer is Hostel director Eli Roth. People said that if I liked Twin Peaks, then I’d like Hemlock Grove. They were wrong.

The show could have tried demonstrate the awkwardness of adolescence, but so much is going on that it all gets muddled. There are vampires, werewolves, angels, whatever Shelley is, and about 1,000 subplots. It’s just overly graphic with a few scary moments. Despite being panned by critics, the show was renewed for a second season.

Hannibal (NBC)

Horror is not always synonymous with the supernatural. Everybody’s favorite Hannibal the Cannibal found a home on network television. Before it debuted, the show already had an established fanbase, whether it was from Thomas Harris’ novels or the movies based off of them. Almost everyone has heard of Hannibal Lecter. It’s surprising that a show about a cannibal was greenlit by NBC. What wasn’t surprising is that the show was so graphic that it was banned in Utah. The show is graphic, but everything from the shots, the writing, and the acting are all beautiful. If you have ever seen The Silence of the Lambs, you have seen Hannibal Lecter locked away in prison. Hannibal is about exactly how he got there and why everyone hates him.

Hannibal  feeds on our paranoia. We live in a time where we can’t trust anyone. This usually means strangers, either online or in person. Imagine trusting someone like your psychologist only for him to be manipulating your downfall into madness. Well, that’s Hannibal! The scariest thing I can imagine is being at a fast food restaurant and seeing Hannibal at the grill, giving you his devilish smirk. Although, people is probably a better alternative to whatever is in that burger meat.

I have to admit that I am absolutely loving this horror trend. I know I didn’t mention every single horror show that is currently on air. It’s not going away anytime soon because this fall, we are being introduced to new horror shows like Sleepy Hollow and Believe, which is currently slated for midseason. Sleepy Hollow‘s reviews aren’t great. I’m also not quite sure what Believe is genre wise, but it’s by Alfonso Cuarón, who directed Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, so it’s sure to be dark. I can’t wait to find out what the future hold for these types of shows. I can’t say that I’m addicted as much as I’m infected, glamored, and charmed by horror TV shows.

About Victoria Nyquist

Recent college graduate and proud habitual TV abuser.

Posted on August 9, 2013, in AMC, Cable, FX, HBO, NBC, Netflix, Network Television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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