Temporal drag, radical negativity and the re-articulation of disabled identities in American Horror Story

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Alison Wilde


American Horror Story, narrative inequality , temporal drag


American Horror Story (AHS), a US anthology horror series created for cable network FX by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk, broke new ground in its capacity for presenting disabled bodies in most of its interconnected miniseries. In an (almost) ensemble cast throughout, disabled characters were most in evidence in series four, ‘Freak Show’, with several parts played by disabled actors, e.g., Mat Fraser (Paul), Jyoti Amge (Ma Petite) and Rose Siggins (Legless Suzi). Additionally, Jamie Brewer, an actor with Down Syndrome, was featured in several of the series (as Addie, Nan, Hedda. Marjorie, before reprising Nan, allowing her to run the gauntlet of character types). AHS has been seen to offer much potential in ‘queering’ representations on many axes, especially, sexuality and gender; Geller and Banker (2017), for example, have argued that the show creates ‘temporal drag’ through its rejection of ‘historical verisimilitude’. Women, particularly female ‘stars’ also played significant central and recurring roles, once again challenging the conventional positioning of women within the horror genre, whilst simultaneously troubling, repeating and neglecting some familiar tropes, e.g., the excision of the monstrous woman and the whiteness of history (King, 2016). Taking forward the idea that the show queers the normativities of reproductive futurism (argued by Geller and Banker) this paper considers the value of the show for the depiction and rethinking of disabled people’s subjectivities, particularly in terms of use of ‘temporal drag’, and ‘radical negativity’, e.g., embracing sex, death and violence. The paper concludes that progress in disability representation has been made, but that significant narrative and representation inequalities remain within AHS.

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