American Horror Story is a television series that prides itself on the shock and awe of gory, horrific, and griping thrill. Each season is set in a different time period and location in America and brings the viewers into a horror movie that lasts through several episodes. This series is no stranger to putting controversy, sex, and gore to work in order to terrify watchers, but this season the show has added a new element to make viewers squirm: reality.
It is no secret that there is nothing more fear jerking than presenting scary things that can actually happen. As a child, I was scared of the dark and monsters in my closet, but I was truly terrified of murders and kidnappers because I knew that those were real. Additionally, throwing up the “based on real life events” disclaimer before, or after, a horror film has the automatic power to drastically increase the movie’s scare factor. American Horror Story: Cult took this concept and really ran with it by using our nation’s real-life presidential election, clown trend, and hate crimes as a scare tactic.
2016 ended on a very unusual note as clowns were galavanting around urban and rural spaces throughout America late at night to scare civilians and one of the most controversial candidates won the nation’s presidential election. Both of these pop culture moments caused fear and chaos in the country (one more arbitrarily than the other of course). AHS: Cult has played off of both of these fear inducing topics to create a horror story that hits home with many Americans.
Along with these two fears, AHS has also depicted some very possible crimes in this season such as race based murder, sexual assault in a public space, physical assault and battery, etc. The next of these real-life mimicking crimes that was scripted for the show was a mass shooting at a large public gathering. Little did the writers of the show know that this scene was going to play out in real life just days before this AHS episode was scheduled to air.
Last Sunday, October 1, 2017, thundering shots from overhead interrupted Jason Aldean’s set at The Route 91 music festival in Las Vegas. This is now marked as the largest mass shooting in American History with nearly 60 dead and over 500 injured. This event is no doubt considered a national tragedy and has affected each individual that attended the festival and the family and friends of those injured or killed.
Despite this still very open wound, American Horror Story aired the episode depicting a similar shooting. Although the episode was edited at the last minute to make some scenes less gory, the idea of a mass shooting was still represented. This decision to air the episode has caused some controversy. Is it too soon to represent such a touchy subject? A question that has constantly been posed while watching this season of AHS with my own friends is “Isn’t this show giving crazy people ideas?”
Personally, I think that the writers of this show are creating a brilliant commentary on the fear that is running wild through our country right now. Last year’s presidential campaign and the widespread division that it caused has created a fear epidemic in America and around the world. Hate crimes are becoming increasingly more prevalent on both sides of our bipartisan political system. Black men, white men, women, children, and everyone in between have been affected by the fear growing in our nation. The more scared we are of each other, the more people act in rash ways; the more rash, violent crimes that occur, the more we are all afraid.
Although AHS is under scrutiny for depicting such real tragedies, I think the show’s satirical, while also genuine, commentary on our nation’s state is raw and profound. We as a people are being run by our fear of each other and there has to be a way to undo the vicious cycle and escape from this real life horror story.