American Horror Story: Ryan Murphy's career

TV editor Sophie Hicks discusses Ryan Murphy's most iconic teen TV shows and whether they hit the right note or scare you for the wrong reasons

Sophie Hicks
8th March 2020
Credit: IMDb
I think we can all agree that Ryan Murphy has had a very successful career, despite the blatant hits and misses in regard to the plots of his shows.

Although you may not watch all of them anymore, Murphy has been a central creator of teen-demographic shows for over a decade. Whether you fell in love with Murphy during the Glee era or the Tumblr-driven American Horror Story aesthetic, there's something for everyone.

Murphy's new show Hollywood is airing on May 1st on Netflix and will star the beloved Darren Criss (you may recognise his name from other Murphy productions such as Glee or American Crime Story season 2) and will focus around the sex industry and the Golden Era of Hollywood within multiple narratives set in the 1940s. In the wake of this news however, it made me consider Ryan Murphy's career and the vast amount of shows he's created, but also the variety in quality.

When I think of Ryan Murphy, my brain goes back to 2009 and the rise of Glee. When Glee was at its peak, I remember hearing 'Don't Stop Believing' every two seconds. If this show was made today, I'm not sure how popular it would have been. In retrospect, it isn't Murphy's best work (with some very questionable decisions which would not have been greenlit in 2020). Though it did bring a lot of interesting topics to the table such as teen pregnancy, sexuality and mental health which were still fairly taboo at Glee's peak of popularity. If that isn't something to applaud (despite it's execution) then personally I believe that more shows need to take one for the team and have a birth scene to a show choir version of 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

To this day, I see people wearing nOrMaL pEoPlE sCaRe mE jumpers with no shame (somehow)

When American Horror Story came out, it took the world by storm in a similar fashion to Glee. Still, to this day, I see people wearing nOrMaL pEoPlE sCaRe mE jumpers with no shame (somehow). My issue with AHS is that although it has new plots every season, the flaw in this is that each season needs to quickly establish characters and summarise a plot, either leaving many questions left behind (AHS: Asylum, I'm looking at you) or bore you to tears because of a lazily written plot. At one point, I was utterly hooked to this show, but Murphy has a habit of starting seasons strong and having interesting art concepts but then never going through with them. Plus, some questionable decisions along the way (like the internet's fascination with Tate Langdon despite literally sexually assaulting Violet's mum and being a mass murder, and generally an abusive piece of shit). Once again, Murphy's characterisation was questionable like in Glee (let's not get started on Will Schuester), but did raise awareness of mental health issues, so Murphy has certainly had quite a controversial career.

Credit: IMDb, Copyright 2014, FX Networks.

The newest release from Ryan Murphy, Netflix's The Politician, has also not been without its scrutiny. I really enjoyed this one, despite my initial interest in the show stemming from my unconditional love for Ben Platt and Laura Dreyfuss. The plot of this one is also high school-related, but it's about politics, queerness and a lot of societal issues, such as privilege and who has the right to exercise their voice and power more than others. Oh, and Ben Platt also has a few musical numbers added in there for your delight. However, it still has its issues: the most glaring being its romanticism of suicide. You'd think after shows like 13 Reasons Why people would learn to be more sensitive to these kinds of issues, but it's still a decently put together show with interesting social commentary.

Whilst his shows come with their fair share of controversy, when an idea is executed well it really pays off

Credit: IMDb

However, despite these shows having their ups and their downs, it's pretty unanimous that American Crime Story is great. It follows the similar trend of Hollywood and American Horror Story where each season has a different plot, but this time it just works. I'm not sure why, maybe because it doesn't seem to pander to a teenage audience or the fact that Murphy is only an executive producer of this show, but it truly is stellar. Each season goes through major high-profile crime events in America, such as the OJ Simpson case and the assassination of Gianni Versace and each episode is tension-filled, beautifully shot and gripping. I cannot express enough how good this show is.

Ryan Murphy has clearly had an expansive career over the years, and whilst his shows come with their fair share of controversy, when an idea is executed well it really pays off. Murphy's shows display diversity and queer representation in many of them, just sometimes the shows don't quite hit the note (sorry Glee). However, even when they aren't at their best, they still spark important discussions about everyday issues, such as mental health, which may not have been provoked by a teen audience if Murphy's work had not existed.

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AUTHOR: Sophie Hicks
Former TV Sub-Editor for The Courier and BA Media Communication and Cultural Studies graduate

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