Last Wednesday, American Horror Story: Coven premiered, introducing the world to a brand new set of characters and problems. Although AHS may stick to a general theme, creator Ryan Murphy seems to have no issues with branching off into alien territory (no pun intended) and incorporating various elements of horror, both fictional and societal. Last season’s AHS exposed a corrupt mental institution in Massachusetts; set in the 60s, Briarcliff is home to a zealous nun, an Anne Frank impersonator, and possibly a Nazi doctor. American Horror Story: Asylum was eerie enough, but the social commentary spanned from uncovering mental illness in America, to resurfacing the horrors of WW2. In the 3rd season, Ryan Murphy once again does not shy away from exposing some of the ugliness and true “horrors” of society.
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Madison Montgomery, played by Emma Roberts, represents many young women who have been taken advantage of, molested, and raped within our supposedly safe institutions. Madison, an actress who seems naive enough to believe men will respect her based on her looks and cold demeanor, falls prey to a malicious group of fraternity brothers. One of the young men roofies her drinks, and once Madison is passed out on a bed, he and his friends take turns raping her. The scene is extremely explicit and shocking; the boys are depicted as drunkenly taking damaging photos of the girl as proof of conquest.
This fictional rape scene in “Bitchcraft” directly mirrors the very real Steubenville, Vanderbilt, and Maryville, Missouri rape cases that have surfaced over the last several years. All three incidents involved a group of young men, alcohol, and some form of virtual documentation. In both of these highly publicized trials, several men took advantage of a young woman who was in no way capable of defending herself. Inebriated, and completely unconscious, these young women were raped over and over again by individuals they thought they could trust.
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These frequently occurring rape cases demonstrate the true terror within American society. This kind of culture that our country has failed to diminish creates fear among young women, parents, school-teachers, and professors. The extremely controversial scene in “Bitchcraft” brings the issue to light without glamorizing it, which is extremely important. By taking advantage of AHS‘ spotlight and popularity among a broad age spectrum (there were 5.5 million viewers last Wednesday), the writers of the show are able to bring awareness to the social issue.
Is the point of the show to discuss current events? Absolutely not. But the beauty of AHS is how dynamic and multi-leveled it proves itself to be every single season. A successful and well-written television drama series should be able to conquer many grounds while still giving its viewers entertaining plot, dialogue, and visual aesthetics. American Horror Story: Coven will not be the impetus that rape culture needs in order to disintegrate. But it could certainly help in the long, arduous battle.
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(Image courtesy of FX)
Slideshow’American Horror Story: Coven’ Cast and Episode Photos