American Horror Story co-creator Ryan Murphy explained at a New Yorker festival this Saturday that he trimmed the scene out of the respect for the Vegas victims: “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."
“The way the world is” is the very basis of American Horror Story, which, since its first season, has relied on real American tragedies -- like slavery, conversion therapy, the Manson murders, and the Salem Witch Trials -- to craft its horror tales. “Mid-Western Assassin” isn’t the first time the show got specific with gun violence, either; in Murder House, Evan Peters’ Tate Langdon was the perpetrator of a Columbine-esque massacre in which he shot 15 of his high school classmates.
Alluding to real-world horrors has landed American Horror Story in a surreal spot, where it must edit fiction because reality is too traumatic. Cult always ran the risk of this sort of divine intervention, as it’s set in the present and specifically addresses President Trump’s election and the divisive shadow his win cast over the country. Who knows where this season’s going, but that collision of reality might easily happen again.
And though it may seem safe or even cowardly to edit an episode to protect viewers from triggering violence -- especially as gun violence continues to mount -- American Horror Story joins a long line of shows that have postponed, edited, or never aired episodes after traumatic shootings.