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The Big Question American Horror Story Fans Have About Tate

In the first season of "American Horror Story," "Murder House," audiences received an unnerving introduction to a horror technique for which the series is by now well-known for its unabashed use: the reveal. After developing both sympathy for Evan Peters' depressed teen Tate and an affinity for the blossoming relationship between the angsty adolescent and his equally angsty counterpart, Taissa Farmiga's Violet Harmon, fans were hit with a rude awakening in episode 6, titled "Piggy, Piggy." The episode opens with a flashback to 1994, and in what is still considered one of the most disturbing scenes in all of "AHS" history, audiences witness a group of high schoolers cowering in fear of a school shooter ultimately revealed to be none other than the formerly endearing Tate Langdon himself. 

The scene is both visceral and stomach-turning, not least of all because school shootings —as an unnecessarily common occurrence in The United States (via EFSGV) — need little dramatization to be gut-wrenchingly horrifying. Following the all-too-real revelation of Tate's backstory, fans were forced to come to terms with their attraction to what had previously seemed both a justifiable and harmless, if juvenile, "bad-boy" persona. 

In a single scene, Tate went from being a misunderstood Romeo to a mass murderer, and his unforgivable acts didn't stop there. Audiences also learned that Tate murdered the home's previous owners, and — even after he'd kindled what appeared to be a genuine love for Violet — raped and impregnated his girlfriend's mother while dressed up as The Rubber Man. And yet, though his list of prior "bad acts" suggest Tate is a wholly irredeemable monster of a human being, a scene in Season 8, "Apocalypse," still has fans questioning whether or not Tate is fully responsible for his heinous crimes. 

Was Tate evil, or did the Murder House make him that way?

Recently, on the "AHS" subreddit, user Strange-Slice2581 asked fans a question many have been asking themselves since Season 1: "Was Tate bad to begin with or did the house change him?" 

Nearly 60% of the 461 voters felt Peters' character was simply "born bad," but a formidable 185 voters felt the house itself was to blame for his turn to the dark side. The latter faction can presumably be chalked-up to a scene in "Apocalypse," wherein — upon returning to The Murder House to gather information on Michael Langdon's upbringing — Madison Montgomery (Emma Roberts) explains to a still forlorn Violet that Tate "wasn't the real evil" in the home, and that "the house used him as a vessel to create something way, way worse." Montgomery suggests that "any evil inside Tate left with Michael." For those fans who didn't see Season 8, but are still willing to give the rapist and murderer the benefit of the doubt, there's also the fact that in Season 1 alone, the house appears to cast a trance over both Ben (Dylan McDermott) and the father of new family who moves in at the end. Finally, there's the fact that it's sometimes just extremely hard for people to let go of their love for a favorite character.

Madison's seemingly credible theory notwithstanding, as user BrianTheReckless pointed out, "(Tate) definitely had the capacity for murder already. After all there were several others who lived in the house and never did anything to hurt anyone." It's a valid point, and one echoed by other fans in the thread. "He was bad already," one user writes, "but the house amplified it." 

Others believe there's one more mitigating factor in Tate's narrative — his mother, Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange).  

What role does Constance's parenting play in Tate's behavior?

While Lange's frequently self-righteous and toxic Constance merits occasional bouts of sympathy from fans, she is all together too cruel and in denial of her own shortcomings to garner the same degree of pity or rationalization bestowed upon her son Tate. 

As user la_draya_fea put it in the same Reddit thread, "I think he was cursed to begin with because of Constance and who she is." Not only does Constance have her own disabled child murdered for the sake of convenience, she also repeatedly berates and abuses another of her children, Adelaide (Jamie Brewer), and manipulates Denis O'Hare's unwitting Larry into believing she loves him in an effort to reclaim what she feels is her house, with dire consequences. Moreover, there's her treatment of Travis Wanderley (Michael Graziadei), an ostensible inability to care about anyone's needs or emotions but her own, and the fact that — oh, right — she murdered her ex-husband as well as the victim of his sexual advances, Moira (Alexandra Breckenridge), whom she blames for his infidelity. Mother of the year she is not, but is she as responsible as the house's malignant forces for what Tate ultimately became? 

"I don't think anyone sharing half their genetic makeup with Constance Langdon is going to come out unscathed," wrote KelliCrackel in response to the O.P.'s poll. 

Although Constance's approach to parenting and Madison Montgomery's seeming absolution of Tate's crimes go a long way toward allowing some fans to feel better about their affinity for the character, it appears that, for now at least, most are still under the impression that the house can only work with what its given.