AHS: Hotel stirs controversy for inappropriate usage of 'hemophiliac'
American Horror Story: Hotel is off to an awesome, creepy-crawly start, largely due to the bloodthirsty Countess and the rest of her plasma-sucking sucking clan.
The Countess, portrayed by Lady Gaga, feasts on a never-ending supply of human blood and engages in orgies with other like-minded, flawlessly gorgeous people such as Donovan, played by Matt Bomer. The Countess, her disturbing clan of fair-haired mini bloodsuckers and Donovan never age. And while the show itself has yet to address what these creatures truly are, for all intents and purposes, the behavior and characteristics of those inhabiting the Hotel Cortez perfectly meet the description of certain mainstream monsters that have set the plot for shows like True Blood and movies like Twilight.
Other than alluding to the fact that they have some kind of blood virus, the storyline hasn't defined what plagues the curious characters, but AHS creator Ryan Murphy offered a more in-depth explanation to Entertainment Weekly back in August.
"It's not vampires. I prefer the term 'ancient blood virus,'" Murphy said. "It's really a form of hemophilia, in a way."
Actors from the show, such as Lady Gaga, and the media have since adopted the term, and now it's very common to see the group of characters referred to as hemophiliacs.
But Murphy and Gaga really need to slow their roll. At this point, it's important we take a moment to step back and recognize how horribly wrong Murphy is in the diagnosis of his own characters, and what his misuse of the word really means for an entire community of people that really do have hemophilia.
Hemophilia is defined as "a rare bleeding disorder in which the blood doesn't clot normally," according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. It is an inherited genetic disorder, but in rare cases it can develop later in life when antibodies attack clotting factors in the bloodstream. It is not a virus.
People with hemophilia may suffer internal bleeding and excessive bruising. Minor cuts may bleed excessively and a bloody nose can come on suddenly, without reason. Their joints may become swollen from bleeding and bloody stool may occur.
One symptom hemophiliacs don't suffer? The intense desire to drink human blood. That would actually be Renfield's syndrome, otherwise known as vampire personality disorder and/or clinical vampirism, according to Psychology Today.
Onset begins at a young age, when a child becomes sexually aroused by an event involving blood injury or the ingestion of blood. "At puberty, it becomes fused with sexual fantasies, and the typical person with Renfield's syndrome begins with autovampirism," said Dr. Richard Noll, via Psychology Today. "That is, they begin to drink their own blood and then move on to other living creatures. It has... compulsive elements."
People who become sexually obsessed with blood early on in life. Sound like anyone you know?
It's also possible that Murphy meant to use the term "hematophagy" — which is defined by The Free Dictionary as "an animal, such as a leech, that sucks blood" — or "haematophagia" — which Dr. Mark Griffiths defines as "the eating and/or drinking of blood products"— but slipped and said "hemophilia" instead.
But considering the genius and massive amount of thought that goes into his intricate plots, it's curious that Murphy would skip out on researching such an integral part of his show.
The hemophilia community has caught wind of the AHS "hemophiliacs," and they're not exactly happy.
In an open letter to Gaga — which brilliantly starts "'I'll have a cheeseburger with a cup of blood on the side,' said no hemophiliac, ever" — broadcast journalism student and hemophiliac Matthew Gates addressed his concerns with the use of the word in reference to the American Horror Story characters, and gave a personal look into what it is to live life as a human with hemophilia.
"The way [h]emophilia is perpetrated within the media, school textbooks, medical world, etc. is very skewed," Gates wrote. "Gaga, I will always support you as an artist and overall person. It is understood that you spoke on [h]emophilia the best way you could. Hopefully this will give you some insight to [h]emophilia, our lack of fangs, and treatment for the disorder."
The National Hemophilia Foundation also released a statement calling Murphy "inaccurate and uneducated about hemophilia."
"Mr. Murphy made this sensational statement while trying to maximize publicity for his show's new character and upcoming season," said the CEO of the foundation, Val D. Bias, in response to Murphy's comments to Entertainment Weekly. "However, that is no excuse for making comments that are completely inaccurate and may confuse the majority of people who don't understand hemophilia and, equally as important, are hurtful to members of the bleeding disorders community."
This isn't to take away from our love of the AHS franchise, and Hotel has been nothing short of awesome so far this season. We're just hoping that Murphy will take responsibility for his misuse of hemophilia and publicly acknowledge his error.