Cut! Amputation Is Having a Hollywood Moment

The Walking Dead Hershel Amputation - P 2012
Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead Hershel Amputation - P 2012

This story first appeared in the Nov. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Some of TV’s biggest dramas are getting a leg up on the competition this fall with storylines centering on amputation. On ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Jessica Capshaw’s character is being fitted for a prosthetic limb after her leg was amputated following injuries sustained in the plane crash featured in the season-eight finale.

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AMC’s top-rated The Walking Dead, no stranger to gore, recently featured a character (Scott Wilson) having his leg brutally chopped off with an ax in a bid to prevent his transformation into a zombie. And not to be outdone, American Horror Story’s Chloe Sevigny had both legs removed in a torture sequence, marking the FX series’ second amputation this season after Adam Levine had his arm ripped off.

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Why so many appendage removals? Producers seem to have honed in on a basic human fear. (CBS’ Criminal Minds even did an episode centering on a doctor practicing amputations on unsuspecting victims.) But Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara tells THR that beyond the shock value, the storyline highlights a socially relevant issue with so many military veterans returning home with disabilities including lost limbs.

“It’s important to do an accurate portrayal of a person learning to live with a disability,” he says. The trend is even spilling over into movies.

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In the new martial arts actioner The Man With the Iron Fists, the title character played by RZA loses both hands to a torturous amputation. And in awards contender Rust and Bone, Marion Cotillard stars as a whale trainer who loses her legs in an accident.

Notes Sevigny, “The idea of [amputation] is pretty horrifying for a lot of people.”