There is always a response from the entertainment world after these (increasingly frequent) mass shootings occur in the United States. The Punisher cancelled its panel during New York Comic Con citing sensitivity to the Las Vegas massacre, and there have been rumblings that the upcoming episode of American Horror Story: Cult, “Mid-Western Assassin” would be heavily edited in regards to a scene revolving around gun violence. There is plenty of precedent here, like the delay of the USA series Shooter after shootings in Dallas and Baton Rouge, or the Hannibal episode “Oeuf” being pulled in the wake of Sandy Hook, because its storyline dealt with children killing each other.
There’s a certain amount of cynicism that one can have about the hypocrisy of these actions — that ultra-violent or gritty media is held for a “respectable” amount of time, and then is unleashed when (for the last few days, at least) we haven’t had a traumatic episode of mass violence in our country. What makes it ok to show these scenes versus it being in poor taste? As the gap between these horrific events gets ever-narrower, will it ever be “safe” to release this kind of content?
In a statement released today from FX, viewers have been alerted that:
“In light of the tragedy last week in Las Vegas, Ryan Murphy and the producers of American Horror Story: Cult have chosen to make substantial edits to the opening scene of tomorrow night’s episode (Tuesday, October 10, 10 PM ET/PT). This opening, which was filmed two months ago and which portrays an occurrence of gun violence that has sadly become all too common in our country, contains a sequence that some viewers might find traumatic. Only the edited version of the episode will air on the FX linear channel, while the unedited version of the episode will be available on the VOD platform of your cable, satellite or telco provider, as well as on the FX Networks non-linear platforms, FXNOW and FX+.”
The fact that FX is airing the full episode everywhere except on the FX channel also feels a little bit shaky; are they trying to protect people who are channel surfing? And then do you feel like a violence-loving weirdo for seeking out the unedited version? It’s all messy, but it’s certainly giving us plenty to think about. As our media continues to increase its portrayal of ultra-realistic violence, one has to consider the value of it. I watched a series recently that started out with a mother and child being shot to death, and I chose not to review it. It’s no coincidence that some of the shows that are performing the best right now — and getting kudos beyond what they might actually deserve — are “comfort TV” series. Life is hard enough. Isn’t television supposed to be an escape?
American Horror Story: Cult airs Tuesday nights on FX.