The season premiere of basic cable network FX’s show American Horror Story: Cult, was set to feature a scene in which a mass shooting occurs. After the horrific real-life shooting in Las Vegas, series creator Ryan Murphy (who was also responsible for FX’s Nip/Tuck) had the episode re-edited so that most of the gun violence occurs off-screen. But this action raises more questions than it answers.
But if graphic violence in media is “explosive or incendiary” and “could trigger something or make [people] feel bad,” it will continue to have these effects a week, or a month, or years after a tragedy like the Las Vegas shooting occurs. Certainly, shooting victims and their families might be “triggered” and “feel bad” even decades after they are involved in such a tragedy. So why is it ever appropriate to show this kind of graphic violence at all?
But Ryan Murphy has an answer for that, too. Murphy claims he was making “an obvious anti-gun warning about society.”
We’ve been here before. A Hollywood “creative” produces a scene of graphic violence. Then a real-life act of violence occurs; the creator fears a backlash from the public (or, more likely, from his show’s sponsors, as advertisers are notoriously skittish about controversy); and the episode containing the violence is edited slightly, or re-scheduled for a later date.
But the core problem remains. The entertainment product still contains graphic violence. But rather than stop making entertainment with graphic violence, the Hollywood creator inevitably gets on a soapbox and disingenuously claims to be “warning society” or “starting a conversation” about violence. (Well, except for Quentin Tarantino. His response to the school shooting at Newtown was, “There’s violence in the world. Tragedies happen. Give me a break.”)
(Oh, and within the show, what was the “heroic” biker gang’s answer to the problem of school violence? Murder the little boy’s mother.)
This is the favorite claim of allegedly more “enlightened” Hollywood types, anytime they are confronted about their proclivity for promoting graphic violence. But this cynical lie rings totally false.
Dr. Christopher Gildemeister is the head of research operations for the Parents Television Council (www.ParentsTV.org), a nonpartisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment.
Views expressed in op-eds are not the views of The Daily Caller.