Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

This Was The Most Controversial Moment In American Horror Story: Murder House

From the very beginning, FX's American Horror Story has lived up to its name. Retroactively christened (or, you could say, anti-christened) Murder House, the first season's 12 episodes managed to fit in murder, Frankenstein-style activities, suicide, ghosts, abusive parents, more murder, rape, a tragic car accident, a devil child, and, oh yes, more murder.

Anyone who knows the entire American Horror Story timeline can tell you that the series only got more gruesome and violent from there. It also arguably got more controversial, especially when it started introducing more American Horror Story characters based on real people and explicitly delving into historic murders. To date, the show has covered the Salem witch trials, the lost colony of Roanoke, and the tortures and murders carried out by serial killer Madame LaLaurie — just to name a few.

However, one particular moment in that first season shocked viewers more than the rest because it felt so horrifyingly similar to very real incidents from the recent past. This was the most controversial moment in American Horror Story: Murder House and why people hated it.

Murder House depicted a mass school shooting

Two episodes of Murder House cover a mass school shooting, carried out by Tate Langdon (Evan Peters). He shot 15 of his schoolmates and was later killed by a S.W.A.T. team in the Murder House. However, he hasn't realized that he's dead and is now a ghost, believing his memories of the incident are just fantasies.

The episodes don't depict the entire massacre, but they do show Tate methodically stalking five students and a librarian in the library as they try to hide, call for help, and even stand up to him. American Horror Story isn't generally shy about showing violent murders and gallons of fake blood, however in this scene, we hear the gunshots but don't actually see any of the teens being shot. (We do see the poor librarian thrown across the room by a shotgun blast to the chest, though.) But by that point in the episode, we already know about the injuries Tate had inflicted on these particular victims: In a previous scene, their ghosts confronted him about the massacre.

The school shooting in Murder House was too close to reality

There's a reason this is still one of the most controversial American Horror Story moments in the show's long run. Seeing a scenario about a very real and dire issue facing the United States juxtaposed against plotlines with ghosts and demon children makes the treatment of the shooting feel flippant — like just another plot twist thrown in for shock value. It's even more egregious when you consider that Tate receives more attention than the victims (pictured above) themselves.

By the time the two episodes about the shooting aired in November 2011, there had already been 11 school shootings that year, killing three people and injuring 16, per CNN. The most recent had taken place on Oct. 24, 2011, about two weeks before American Horror Story's first school shooting episode. It had also only been four years since a lone gunman killed 32 people and wounded at least 18 on the campus of Virginia Tech. And although the show couldn't have known it, about a year later, on Dec. 14, 2012, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place, taking the lives of 20 children and six school employees. 

More pointedly, the American Horror Story school shooting draws directly on elements of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. It's set at approximately the same time, the majority of the carnage also takes place in the library, and one victim claims that Tate asked her a question that one of the Columbine shooters asked one of his victims. The use of these disturbing specifics makes the scene feel like fan fiction — of a mass murder.

That wasn't the last time the show got in trouble for depicting a mass shooting, either. In 2017, American Horror Story had to cut several scenes from an episode of its Cult season eight days after a gunman opened fire on a crowd in Las Vegas, killing 58 and wounding hundreds of others. It seems that showrunners Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have finally learned their lesson: Mass shootings aren't fodder for entertainment. Period.