No other writer active in Hollywood today can mix melodrama and gore as efficiently as Ryan Murphy. The worlds he creates are comprised of gilded and bright setting and morally ambiguous and over-the-top characters. While his unique style and brand of television have set him apart from virtually any other content creator, it does expose him to some criticism as his projects tend to have similar looks and plot devices across the board. Even before Netflix’s ‘Ratched’ came out, the series garnered some commentary on its perceived similarities with ‘American Horror Story’, which Murphy has created for FX. In this article, we try to find out if ‘Ratched’ is indeed based on ‘American Horror Story’, as some are claiming.
The Similarities between Ratched and American Horror Story
Aside from the fact that both shows are co-created by Murphy, they share several leading stars. Sarah Paulson, Finn Wittrock, Jon Jon Briones, and Charlie Carver are long-time Ryan Murphy collaborators and have appeared in various episodes of ‘American Horror Story’. Evidently, Murphy likes to work with the same group of actors in his projects. Considering how extreme, bizarre, and off-the-rails his shows tend to be, there has to be a level of trust and comfortability between him and his actors, and that can only develop with time.
‘Ratched’ does have some similarities with season 2 of ‘American Horror Story’, titled ‘American Horror Story: Asylum’. It also stars Paulson, though unlike in ‘Ratched’, she is part of an ensemble cast there and doesn’t get the top billing. Like the 2020 series, ‘Asylum’ is set in a mental health institution (fictional Briarcliff Manor) and revolves around the facility’s staff and patients. Paulson is cast as Lana Winters, a high-achieving journalist who goes to Briarcliff for an interview with a killer named “Bloody Face” and has an unpleasant interaction with Sister Jude (Jessica Lange), which ultimately leads to her being admitted in the facility on the pretext of her homosexuality. This is where ‘Ratched’ and ‘Asylum’ have similar subplots. Both are predominantly set in times (‘Ratched’ in 1947 and ‘Asylum in 1964) when homosexuality was still considered a taboo. Like Mrs. Cartwright (Annie Starke), Lana endures barbaric torture in the name of psychiatric treatment.
Wittrock played multiple roles in ‘American Horror Story’. The closest of them to Edmund Tolleson, his character in ‘Ratched’, is Dandy Mott, the serial killer from season four, ‘Freak Show’.
The Differences between Ratched and American Horror Story
One of the key differences between the two series is that ‘American Horror Story’ is an anthology series and ‘Ratched’ is a traditional multi-season mystery drama. Each season of ‘American Horror Story’ has a different plot and focuses on a brand-new collection of characters, though some characters (Lana Winters for instance) have appeared in multiple seasons. ‘Ratched’, on the other hand, focuses on the life of the titular character, who was originally conceptualized by Ken Kesey in his 1962 novel ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ and brilliantly portrayed by Louise Fletcher in the 1975 film of the same name.
The two shows also differ in terms of how diverse they are thematically. ‘American Horror Story’ is a quintessential example of horror television, while it’s hard to assign ‘Ratched’ to any particular genre. If in one moment, it seems like a romance drama, it transforms into a slasher horror in the next. As Wittrock correctly surmises while answering a question about what the fans of ‘American Horror Story’ should look forward to in ‘Ratched’, “There is a horror element to it. There’s a suspense element to it. There is some gore to it. That’s the thing that will get people hooked, but then it goes in very different places. I think it’s a different type of show. It’s not purely genre. It’s sort of combining the darker Horror Story elements with some of the more elevated stuff like a Crime Story and Hollywood. I think it combines a lot of different of his [Ryan Murphy’s] worlds.” (Via Rue Morgue)
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