A Mass Shooting in Real Life Means an Edited Mass Shooting for AHS;Cult
By Brittany Granstrom
American Horror Story is in its 7th season, after many successful seasons that grasped the attention of millions of horror fans. This season is Called “The Cult”, and leads watchers through many horrible encounters, including a mass shooting. In reality, the United States just dealt with the same tragic experience. On October first Las Vegas was traumatized with a mass shooting that killed 58 people and left 546 people injured. Stephan Paddock fired bullets down onto a country music festival from his hotel room window, leaving the United States in absolute fear. Videos from the shooting showed the concert goers huddling for their lives, as bullets hit the ground around them. Coincidentally, American Horror Story’s sixth episode in “The Cult”, featured a mass shooting, except at an election rally. Would it be too soon to show it’s release date a little more than a week after the Vegas Shooting? If so, should the full un-cut version be shown? The Director had a big choice to make in order to satisfy victims, critics, and fans alike.
American Horror Story is known for its blunt violence and disturbing images. In past seasons the show has shown beheadings, suicides, gun violence, and a lot of blood shed. The fans obviously enjoy the violence based on ratings, but it seemed an episode revolving around a mass shooting would hit too close to home for many people. In the episodes leading up to the shooting, the show follows the Director Ryan Murphy’s parody of the 2016 presidential election. An American Flag opens up the episode, followed by the sound of loud gun shots fired. Even the sounds alone in this episode were sure to set off some triggers to even the most die hard fans. Murphy announced on October 7th that he had made the choice to re-cut the scene before its release on the 10th. This was a very hard decision for Murphy and the whole team behind American Horror Story, because taking out the gore could mean lower ratings for the show. “ Should I air it? Should you not air it? How do you be sensitive?” Murphy hoped that the fans would understand the situation and how he was trying to shed light on such a devastating topic.
Watching the un-cut scene next to cut scene shows you many differences that you might not notice unless you watched them side by side. The non edited shooting scene has gunshot noises that are plentiful, loud, and targeted. The cut version has far less gun shot noises that are softer and less abrupt. Even though the original un-edited scene has far less blood than the rest of the season, Murphy decided to remove any scenes of the actual characters getting shot. Three people were repeatedly shot in the original, and in the edited none were shown being shot. Instead the scene shows people on the ground assumedly “dead”. Even the people dying on the ground, and the man dead in the water fountain don’t have pools of blood around them which is rare for the show. Murphy stated “I just made the decision that I’m going to have all of that violence be shown for the most part off camera.” The shots of the shooters hand are cut down when she is firing, along with the time of the scene altogether almost by a whole thirty seconds. Altogether the scenes images are changed a lot but the message is the same. Shootings are scary and very real. They can happen anywhere public and can happen in the blink of an eye.
So why didn’t the show take out the scene all together to avoid any emotional damage? To make a point. Murphy is a progressive director who wanted to make the point. He made sure to highly publicize the edits as well, to let the watchers know that America has a problem. A BIG problem that we shouldn’t motivate, but we shouldn’t completely hide either. Gun violence is a problem very unique to the country. We have had acts of public gun violence that trumps many other countries. Murphy stated “the whole point of the piece was to be an obvious anti-gun warning about society.” Cutting the scene was only to avoid triggers, not to avoid the message all together. Guns are our right, but it is not our right to harm others.
After the airing if the episode on the tenth, Murphy was highly praised for his decision. Successful actors like Colton Haynes highly supported the decision and thought the edit was very appropriate for the situation. In the end Murphy stated “So our decision was to re-edit it and I felt that that was the right move. Nobody ever talks about victims’ rights. That’s sort of a weird emotional discussion that’s never bridged. But I felt great sympathy for people who were affected, certainly, and family members and loved ones and people who are upset about the way the world is.” It was a win-win for AHS, and an important message for the United States.