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Why American Horror Stories' The Naughty List Has Fans Divided

With such a dedicated fanbase, it's not surprising that the latest addition to the "American Horror Story" franchise has had fans divided since its two-part series premiere. "American Horror Stories," a bite-sized version of the FX anthology series, offers standalone scary stories that occasionally pull from its predecessor's universe.

The latest episode, "The Naughty List," follows the fallout of an influencer collective after they post increasingly problematic content to their YouTube channel. Their attempt to return to their off-the-cuff vlogging roots results in beefing with a mall Santa Claus, who happens to be a killer in a festive disguise.

Some fans on the show's subreddit negatively compared the episode's use of social media to a bad episode of "Black Mirror," while others thought it was fun and timely. However, that isn't the divisive element that caused endless debate on the episode's live discussion thread.

So, why are fans divided over "The Naughty List"?

Campy or corny?

"At some point we're gonna have to have a serious discussion about what it means for something to be camp, some of y'all seem a bit confused," said u/RainRunner42, referring to the back-and-forth bickering over whether or not "The Naughty List" was campy, corny, or just plain cringe-worthy.

An admittedly difficult aesthetic to define, "camp" was popularized in a 1964 essay by literary critic Susan Sontag. After the 2019 Met Gala and its "Notes On 'Camp'" theme, the term was seemingly everywhere in pop culture criticism. "American Horror Story" fans quickly jumped on the term, though producer Ryan Murphy finds the term insulting (via New Yorker).

Described by Sontag as "love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration," fans couldn't agree on whether or not this terminally online episode fit the bill (via TIME). "This is not campy, this is just cringe," said u/yaoigay. "Campy is fun, this isn't funny it's embarrassing."

Others described the episode as a campy ode to the "simple popcorn slasher," though replies to their posts insisted that it was "just embarrassing." From "cringe and boring" to "the best episode yet," fans were completely split on the tone of the episode.

Perhaps the most succinct comment came from u/nebraskatox, who said, "I thought it was good- I think some of y'all forget AHS has always been kind of corny. ALSO forget Ryan Murphy is the literal creator of glee."