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American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

*spoilers*

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American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace

Courtesy of FX

Courtesy of FX

Courtesy of FX

Courtesy of FX

Chloe Chigro, News Staff

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If you ask someone about the brand Versace, many will be able to imagine the impactful articles of clothing created by the stylist, but only some will think about murder of the iconic man Gianni Versace. Even less will think of the entire story of him and his untimely demise caused by Andrew Cunanan. This mini-series strives to change that. WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!!!

Created by Ryan Murphy- who created other shows such as Scream Queens, American Horror Story, and Glee– this show stars actors including Darren Criss (plays Andrew Cunanan), Edgar Ramirez (plays Gianni Versace), Penelope Cruz (plays Donatella Versace), Ricky Martin (plays Antonio D’Amico), and Cody Fern (plays David Madson). The story follows Cunanan through a 7-year span as his obsession with Gianni Versace grew to a deadly extreme.

The show begins with the assassination of Versace, who was shot on the steps going up to his gate, and works backwards to show the events leading up to it. This may sound like a dealbreaker for some, but the backwards storytelling definitely helps to explain and beautifully convey the tragic events.

These events are all tied together with the murders Andrew Cunanan committed before the ultimate murder of Versace. The four people murdered were Jeff Trail, David Madson, Lee Miglin, and William Reese.

Four of the five victims (and Andrew) had something in common, however- they were all gay. William Reese was the only exception, as he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Jeff Trail (played by Finn Wittrock), Cunanan’s first victim, was- coincidentally- someone he met at a gay bar. Trail was discharged from the navy, which we find out fairly early in the story, and the reasoning behind it just further solidifies the message the show has to tell. Jeff Trail was discharged because he was a gay man.

David Madson (played by Cody Fern), the second victim, was a growing architect from Minneapolis who Andrew had a crush on. A crush that bordered more towards obsession. He met him at a restaurant and tried time and time again to woo Madson over, first with a drink, then with a ridiculously expensive dinner in Cunanan’s hotel room, and then at Cunanan’s birthday party. Andrew created a facade for himself, pretending he was a rich and lavish person without a care in the world. This backfired, however, as his birthday party brought Jeff and David together. They became best friends immediately, despite having Andrew try to keep them from being more than just acquaintances.

And that was the trigger that led to Jeff’s murder.

The night of Jeff’s murder, Andrew was staying at David’s apartment in Minneapolis. After David’s rejection of Andrew’s marriage proposal, Jeff is invited to come over to the apartment. David goes down to get Jeff since the buzzer for his building doesn’t work, and they both go back up to the apartment together. David steps inside first when he sees that his dog, Prints, is tied up. As he goes to untie him, Andrew slams the door shut and locks it, keeping both Jeff and David inside. Suddenly, Andrew strikes Jeff across the head with a hammer. He does this several times, and then, once Jeff is dead, he rolls him up in a rug.

This scene is one of the most chilling in the entire show, partly due to the occurence, but mostly due to the wonderful acting done by both Criss and Fern. Both men seem so different from themselves in this scene, and you can barely tell if they’re acting or not because they’re that good.

Afterwards, Cunanan convinces Madson to escape with him, telling him that they’re both wanted criminals now. They take Madson’s car and drive into a secluded wooded area. They stay there a night, and then Madson works up the courage to try and run, though it was futile. He was shot once in his back, and then, while pleading for his life, shot in his eye. But Cunanan’s demeanor takes a turn when he lays his head down on Madson’s lifeless chest, making us question his true motives. Then, when a smile spreads across his face, we all realize it: he had an unhealthy obsession with someone who could never love him, so he had to kill him in order to keep him from leaving.

In what seems like no time at all, a man named Lee Miglin contacts Cunanan, asking him to come and visit. When we see Miglin’s face, we learn that he was shown on the show before- he was one of the men Cunanan was “connected” to back when he was in Florida. Then, when Miglin mentions that his wife would be gone during the weekend, everything clicks. Lee was a closeted gay man who married a woman because that was the only way to truly hide in a homophobic world.

Sadly, though, Miglin found the wrong man to love.

Andrew killed Miglin in his garage by breaking his ribs with a bag of cement, then shot him in the face. He then stole Lee’s car and escaped- but not after staying at his house and eating his food.

But him stealing Lee’s car was a blessing in disguise.

Back in the 90’s, some cars had telephones built inside. This telephone connected to phone towers as he drove, which gave the cops a map of where he was, as well as where he was going. Andrew realized this a little later, though, and ditched the car.

After he ditches the car, he obviously needs to find a new one, so he targets William Reese so he can get his car. He follows Reese home, then corners him in the basement and shoots him in the head. Cunanan takes Reese’s car and drives back to Florida, where he then kills Versace and, eventually, himself.

Meanwhile, during Cunanan’s killing spree, the show goes through Versace’s life in the spotlight and all of the struggles he dealt with during it. It also talks about how Donnatella, Gianni’s sister, took over the brand when he passed away, and it shows her own struggles with dealing with the overwhelming responsibility of keeping the brand running, thus protecting Versace’s legacy.

The show also covers the lives of Versace and Cunanan as children, showing how both of the men were raised in fairly middle-class conditions. Versace was the son of a dressmaker and a salesman, and Cunanan was the son of a stay-at-home mom and a businessman. Versace’s upbringing, though, was full of much more love.

Cunanan’s family was broken and corrupted, and if that wasn’t bad enough, his father gave Cunanan anything he wished. So, not only was he in a broken home which definitely gave him some issues, he also was seen as the golden child, fueling his narcissism. His father eventually became a wanted criminal and escaped to the Philippines, leaving Cunanan and his family to try and survive without him.

Eventually, the story wraps up with Cunanan hiding away in an abandoned boathouse until the police found his location. He learns this from watching the TV and, after some contemplation, kills himself with the same gun he used to kill Versace, Reese, and Madson.

His death was seen as the coward’s way out by most, and many wish that he paid the price for taking the lives of multiple people, and ruining the lives of many more.

This show was extremely entertaining, tragic, and utterly heart-wrenching, but it was also very important. It sheds light on the other victims who were thrown to the side and forgotten, but it also sheds an even brighter light on the heartbreaking reality of what it was like to be a gay man in the 90’s. Many of the deaths caused by Cunanan were forgotten because they were overshadowed by Versace’s death, but they were also just swept under the rug because the men who died were gay. The show beautifully displays the harsh and disgusting truth of multiple things, but still keeps you hooked on the storyline and keeps you wanting more. May the men who lost their lives from Cunanan’s doing rest in peace, and hopefully from this show, may they never be forgotten.

 

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American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace