American Horror Story: Coven. Above: Madison Montgomery, played by Emma Roberts
**Spoiler Alert: Details from the season 3 premiere of AHS: Coven ahead***
AHS, or American Horror Story, Season 3 has a lot of self-proclaimed “feminist themes” contained within it, and after finally watching the season 3 opener the other night I can totally see what they mean.
Some of the real horror in the show is not so much exhibited via witchcraft or black magic, but rather, by way of the racism and sexism demonstrated throughout the series. Already, in this powerful first episode, the character of Madison Montgomery (played by Emma Roberts, pictured above) and her new witch cohort, Zoe, go to a frat party where Madison is drugged and raped by multiple frat brothers.
I think the following quote sums this up best:
“Madison is brutally date raped by several of the frat brothers, and we were forced to witness most of it from her drugged-out perspective. This is Horror Story. Any other series would have had Zoe bursting through the doors in the nick of time. Nope, not on Coven.”
I’m not gonna lie, it’s a pretty disturbing scene, and while it induced some serious cringing and nausea, I also couldn’t help but think of how trite this plot detail could sound to some. You know the story: Girl goes to frat party, girl gets roofied, girl gets raped. It’s disgusting how trite this sounds. Yet it’s trite because this shit actually happens. It’s not just a scene out of a show, or a movie— it’s Steubenville, Ohio, it’s Richmond, California, it’s the reality of many girls and women— it’s real life. Yet the show did such an amazing job of visually representing something that could sound so trite as so disgustingly, nauseatingly, horrific, I felt a deep sense of gratitude at the portrayal of it. It took something that could sound trite and made you see it for what it really is: appalling, sickening, gruesome, horrific.
It’s actually a positively galvanizing scene.
When I was 15, I was one of the weird goth/punk girls in high school and I was roofied and sexually assaulted by a football player. It sounds so cliche, right? Yeah, I know. Yet it actually happened. And it was anything but cliche. I was drugged. We were out and about in an outdoor mall and I woke up with kids just a couple years younger than me (around 13) slapping me awake, trying to feed me coffee, asking “Hey, are you okay? No, no, don’t close your eyes, keep em open, okay, stay awake. Are you okay?”
This shit happens.
And it’s not okay.
Perhaps we need a show like American Horror Story, holding up a mirror to our collective face in order to make us so violently repulsed by what we see so that we can begin to change it…
So once again, I, for one, am really glad that AHS put this scene in it’s show. It’s a shockingly powerful way to represent something very real that may end up seeming [sadly] cliched and commonplace due to it’s regrettable ubiquity. When representing rape within popular media there is a fine line between gratuitous content and content that serves a purpose, and I truly think that the galvanizing nature of this scene and it’s context was well-employed. If you’re not already watching this show, you totally should— especially if you’re a feminist. It’s some of the best subversive feminism out there in the mainstream media (not that there’s much to choose from).