Believe it or not, Ryan Murphy warned us about the extremely disturbing rape scene that occurred about 25 minutes into the premiere of American Horror Story: Hotel back in August. He announced during a TCA panel that the anal rape of Max Greenfield's junkie character with a spiky conical dildo (yup, that happened in full, graphic detail, and it was every bit as horrifying to watch as it sounds) was "the most disturbing scene we’ve ever done." But, Murphy saw a purpose for it. He calls the blank-faced creature doing the penetrating "The Addiction Demon." It's this season's answer to Season 1's Rubber Man, Asylum's Bloody Face, and Freak Show's Twisty the Clown. AHS: Hotel, you see, is all about the various addictions people face, with Hotel Cortez being the sort of flophouse where lost souls go to deal with addictions to sex, eternal youth, drugs, alcohol, and even blood. For Murphy, showing Greenfield's heroin-addled character being assaulted with a pointy metal strap-on by the demon is a metaphorical representation of the terrible hold the drug has over addicts. Yeah, I'm going to have to throw a flag on the field for that one. Heroin is, of course, a terrible drug with tragic effects. The CDC has reported a "dramatic rise" in heroin-related deaths in the United States since 2000. Still, there are subtler ways to get this point across. So You Think You Can Dance did it powerfully and evocatively with this routine. No one's going to think AHS: Hotel is glamorizing heroin usage if a junkie doesn't get brutally sexually assaulted in the throes of a high. We get it, Ryan Murphy; heroin is no bueno. Also, to work the ol' feminist/humanist angle: if that rape scene had happened to a female character — or even a straight male one — the internet would be losing its collective mind right now. "It's fun to cast a comedy actor in a brutal gay rape scene because gay rape is funny," Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson tweeted last night. It's definitely something to think about.
Other AHS: Hotel viewers also chimed in to voice their disappointment with the scene. "Why do people always gotta use rape as shock value?" @artheauxs tweeted. "AHS: Hotel is less than entertaining. Also rape... This is the last episode I ever watch of AHS. I will not support this," @thenicolescape wrote. User @itgurl_29 brought up a much larger problem with this season of the show: "This is the most stomach turning season opener yet. And the most boring. There's no plot, just gore and rape. SMH." Last night's AHS episode merely seemed to hop from shock-value incident to shock-value incident. It felt like we were watching performance art in which couture-clad characters moved from orgies to shooting heroin to getting anally penetrated with spires. Meanwhile, towheaded Children of the Corn, who appear to live in a dream game room somewhere in the Cortez, hang out eating candy all the time (I assume there's an on-site dentist). There wasn't really a through-line or much plot at all. Just attractive people succumbing to their addictions in very decorous settings. Listen, I like seeing Matt Bomer's butt as much as the next person with eyes, but there's at least got to be some semblance of a reason for it to be flailing about. Otherwise, we're just watching softcore porn. Again, softcore porn is fine, but don't pretend it's an episode of American Horror Story. And please, no more anal rapes with unicorn-horn dildos as metaphors for heroin addiction — or anything else. It's not provocative; it's stunt outrage, and kind of disrespectful to anyone who's actually battled a heroin problem (or survived sexual assault, for that matter). As far as laying the groundwork for the season to come, this premiere didn't set AHS off to a great start.