Warning: Spoilers for American Horror Story: Delicate.


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Summary

  • American Horror Story: Delicate was a disappointment. The slow and predictable storyline made it a bore and the stunt casting of Kim Kardashian was a bad start.
  • Delicate borrowed too heavily from Rosemary’s Baby, making the plot painfully predictable. The show lacked originality and failed to surprise viewers.
  • American Horror Story needs more diversity. The show has sidelined characters of color and under-utilized queer characters. Season 12 had the opportunity to address these missteps but instead went with an over-familiar storyline.

The revelation that Ryan Murphy canceled a season of American Horror Story focused on a more diverse cast makes American Horror Story: Delicate part 1’s failures look even worse. American Horror Story: Delicate had a lot of hurdles to overcome. For one thing, Ryan Murphy’s uneven horror anthology series has been losing viewers, critical acclaim, and even regular cast members for some time now. As more and more stars abandoned the series, the show’s reviews gradually grew worse in recent years. To make matters worse, American Horror Story season 12 took a lot of creative risks on top of this.

Not only did American Horror Story season 12 have a new showrunner, but the season was also the first outing of the series based on a book. Author Danielle Valentine’s novel Delicate Condition, described as a “Feminist update of Rosemary’s Baby,” followed the story of Anna Alcott, an emerging actor who fears her pregnancy journey was sabotaged by shadowy forces. Emma Roberts starred as Alcott while Kim Kardashian played her best friend, fading star Siobhan Corbyn. While Kardashian’s casting was risky since the reality star isn’t known for her acting, this turned out to be the least of Delicate‘s problems.


American Horror Story Season 12 Part 1 Was A Disappointment

Billie Lourde in American Horror Story Delicate

While American Horror Story: Delicate was less fast-paced and frenetic than earlier seasons, this wasn’t a good thing. Shamelessly stunt casting Kim Kardashian in an American Horror Story season 12 role was a bad start, but this paled in comparison to how slow and predictable the season’s story was. American Horror Story: Delicate managed the impressive feat of making the story about a mysterious cult that trades demonic babies for material success into a bore. The show’s plodding pace meant viewers were always a few twists ahead of the heroine.

Meanwhile, the fact that Delicate owed an obvious creative debt to a famous horror movie didn’t help matters. There is nothing wrong with borrowing from horror history and this can be effective, but American Horror Story: Delicate’s debt to Rosemary’s Baby was so blatant that it made the plot of the season painfully predictable. Part 1 of Delicate recreated the plot of Rosemary’s Baby as Anna realized that her friends and partner were all in on a plot to use her pregnancy as a conduit for something creepy and devilish.

American Horror Story’s Missing Season Would Have Avoided Delicate’s Big Problems

Angela Bassett and Angelica Ross in American Horror Story

Ross and Murphy’s proposed collaboration would have been a lot better than American Horror Story: Delicate both because this would have felt less derivative and because it would have given the long-running series a bold new direction. Not only would the season have seen Ross return to American Horror Story, but Ross’s emails with Murphy also revealed that it would have finally starred Gabourey Sidibe in a lead role and added Keke Palmer to the cast. Meanwhile, Ross proposed stars like Lupita Nyong’o, Viola Davis, and Kerry Washington to round out the line-up.

This cast would have been much less risky than American Horror Story season 12, which has few exciting new faces. The show’s few additions to its usual lineup were mostly overshadowed by Kardashian, who played a main role despite her dearth of acting experience. While Kardashian was a surprisingly solid presence, her funny supporting work couldn’t fix Delicate’s overly familiar story. With a slow, repetitive storyline, American Horror Story: Delicate Part 1 failed to outdo the potential of a season that could have featured an all-star cast of newcomers as well as Ross’s return.

American Horror Story Needs More Diversity

Angelica Ross with Emma Roberts from American Horror Story Edited

To date, American Horror Story’s lead actors have been almost universally white and, while the show’s recent eleventh season did try to take on the AIDS crisis, an outing led by a Black trans star would have been a lot more daring than what season 12 went with instead. While Mike Flanagan’s Netflix horror shows used the same diverse cast to tell a wide range of stories that addressed everything from mental illness to addiction, to LGBTQIA+ issues to healthcare access, American Horror Story has often sidelined characters of color and has historically under-utilized and killed off promising queer characters.

Ross’s emails with Murphy prove that the horror anthology show had a chance to make up for these missteps in season 12. If American Horror Story season 12 had gone with the showrunner’s original plan instead of pursuing an over-familiar, slow, and predictable pregnancy horror story, the show might have improved its critical reception and its status among longtime fans. As it stands, American Horror Story: Delicate seems likely to contribute to the show’s steady critical decline.

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