American Horror Story : Roanoke -The Issue of Unreliable Narrators

Ryan was afraid we would get lost, so he offered us some information. “You cannot trust them,” Murphy told E! “I think all three of them are…what they said and what they explained in their version of events is not actually the truth.”

It is important to remember that when Ryan dropped the hint, we were watching the talking head interviews of MRN. Shelby and Matt were still together. They had not been to Palley Fest where Dominic made a move on Shelby. After MRN Shelby and Matt offered us very little about their story or perspective other than Shelby agreeing to return in order to win Matt back. There really was no opportunity for us to not trust what they say after MRN because they really aren’t conveying anything outside of their behavioral responses to what was going on around them. This hint was really to help us figure out what is going on in these interviews.

Let’s get Lee out of the way. Lee might be misrepresenting things because of Mason. It turns out this is true. Interestingly, I believe the primary reason Lana is introduced in the end is for the purpose of rehabilitating Lee’s reputation in our eyes. In this universe, Lana is the final word on someone’s character, she can read them. She tells us Lee is much like herself, and can be of singular focus, like a dog with a bone. Lee was all and only about her love for her daughter.

I believe the key reason that Matt and Shelby, particularly Shelby, should be viewed as unreliable narrators is Sydney. The whole MRN was “inspired” by a true story. Sydney bought the house and paid them to participate so long as they went along with his embellishments. (If you can’t suspend your disbelief in this theory, and go along with this for a while you might as well stop reading.) After Matt’s traumatic head injury, memory issues and being the object of Scatcat’s affections, I wouldn’t trust Matt to tell me the correct time.

Shelby said that the night Matt was knocked out was the worst night in her life. Really? Worse than a blood moon night in the Roanoke house visiting their cannibal neighbors? And how could they ever return after that experience?

It wasn’t such a big deal to go back because most of the big horror was Sydney’s fictional, extreme enhancements to spice the story up. Shelby and Matt’s real story was scary and mystifying, and searching for little girl in the woods is worrying, but what actually happened to them was not deeply threatening or horrifying.

Do you remember how there was really something “off” about Shelby when interviewed? Something didn’t seem right? The brief eye twitchy flutter just that once? It drove me crazy. Lily Rabe is such a fantastic actress, what was it about the character Shelby? The reason Shelby seemed so off was Sydney had her well beyond her comfort zone with the lies and exaggerations he spiced the show up with. But she had no choice. She committed to it, for Matt.

In this short essay we have covered many causes of unreliability of the story told.  But there may also be an issue of omission from the story, a collusion of omission by all three narrators.  Omission can be quite evasive while deceit is more readily unmasked.

And we shouldn’t forget there is an even more important narrator to all we see, Sydney.  I suspect he is the most deceitful narrator of all.


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