I could be really crazy or really insightful (or both) but it dawned on me this morning, after catching up on three more episodes of American Horror Story last night, that FX's creepy new series about ghosts is actually about something entirely different.
(Fair warning if you haven't watched the show or if you're behind me on the episodes -- I've seen six so far -- that what follows includes spoilers, so beware.)
Some background: American Horror Story is about a family -- husband, wife and daughter -- who move to Los Angeles from out east and buy a house they find out soon enough is haunted by previous owners and 100 years of unlucky flotsam and jetsam who died in the house (often at the hands of other owner-ghosts and as-yet unexplained PVC-covered sadomasochistic demonic entities). This show, improbably created by the same minds who brought us Glee, does not let up. In fact, it's so intense and chalk full of unwholesome creepiness that I'm not quite sure I'll get through this first season, let alone the recently announced second one.
But as I alluded to earlier, at its core I don't think this show is really about ghosts at all. It's about love and relationships -- specifically people floating around like ghosts in their existing relationships without a clue that they or their partners or the relationships themselves are dead, dead, dead.
Once I had that epiphany, the entire show made a lot more sense. (Spoiler extravaganza coming.) The home's owners Ben and Vivien (Dylan McDermott and Connie Britton) love each other but their marriage is clearly over. Their neighbor Constance (fanfuckingtastically portrayed by Jessica Lange) is alive (I think) but clinging to lingering, long-gone relationships with her dead children and dead housekeeper -- who, by the way, Constance shot in the eye and killed in a fit of jealous rage when she discovered the woman schtupping her husband 30 years ago. There are the ghosts of the original owners of the house who stayed together in spite of his drinking and general creepiness and her decision to open an abortion clinic in the basement. There are the ghosts of the most recent owners of the house, a gay couple who found themselves trapped in the house and in a sexless relationship. And perhaps the most glaringly obvious example of my initial premise, Ben's and Vivien's suicide-prone daughter Violet whose boyfriend is a mass murderer who can't get an erection because he doesn't realize he's been dead for 15 years.
The message here -- in spite of the complex web of relationships going on in this clearly fucked up house -- is simple. Many of us are like those ghosts or living with partners who are ghosts or clinging to long-dead relationships that are themselves ghosts. Why do so many of us stay? Because those ghosts represent people we once loved, still love or fear losing forever.