Fans of Ryan Murphy's American Horror Story are accustomed to a certain amount of intrigue each year in the run up to each new season of the anthology format show. However, this year, the marketing team have seriously upped the ante in terms of mystery - leaving the fanbase more puzzled than usual, while trying to decipher the clues regarding the theme season 6 will be exploring this coming September.
FX have released a group of promo teasers for the upcoming season to date - all appearing to nod towards differing horror sub-genres. These clips have provoked a frenzy of fan theories concerning themes and possible link backs to past characters, with the overall effect being an eclectic and confusing feeling that something fishy is going on. The latest stage of this sly marketing strategy is the news bomb that this confusion is, in fact, deliberate and all but one of the teasers are actually red herrings.
American Horror Story's seasons exist within the same universe, sharing history and occasionally characters. But each one is a stand-alone plot covering a new horror theme and new set of characters. So far, series 1 to 5 have explored well-known horror sub-genres: Murder House, Asylum, Coven, Freakshow and Hotel. The show's recurring actors that metamorphose into new roles each new season include; Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Evan Peters, Dennis O'Hare, Angela Bassett and Lily Rabe. Until season 5, the crucial role was delivered by Jessica Lange, who has since been succeeded by Lady Gaga after leaving the show.
FX CEO John Landgraf has just revealed season 6's sneaky marketing scheme and discussed why this plan of subterfuge was chosen to consciously hoax fans ahead of the new season, also stating that the mystery will only be revealed in the premiere (as reported by The Wrap):
“We just thought it would really be fun to keep it a mystery, so we are..... [Murphy and Stephanie Gibbons, FX head of marketing and on-air promotions] went out and made many more trailers than you’ve actually seen for hypothetical seasons of ‘American Horror Story,’ meaning different genres and different places..... And one of them is accurate, and the others are just misdirects.”
The anthology format of American Horror Story removes the possibility of end of season cliffhangers from the marketers box of tricks, meaning that other devices must be utilized to maintain fan engagement between seasons. Speculation about new themes and the cast's new roles are the main object of fan's interest - and a unique consequence of this format that can be an advantage from a marketing perspective. Deliberately misleading the fanbase to this degree is a risk for a show that is sometimes criticized for overstepping the line, in terms of over-dramatics and favoring style over substance. This ploy could either increase or decease interest in this new season, depending on what the ultimate payoff is.
American Horror Story season 6 premieres September 14, 2016 on FX.
Source: The Wrap