The premiere of a new TV show begins, it opens with dramatic music, awesome title graphics, memorable lines and heart wrenching drama. Now the show has grabbed your attention until the actors start undressing and—wait, what? Society’s concept of the “social norm” for television has become blurred in reference to content and ethics. Popular shows such as Game of Thrones, House of Lies, Da Vinci’s Demons and The Tudors all have audiences wanting more… but more of what, exactly?
Intriguing characters, dramatic story-lines, high resolutions and cliffhangers may keep audiences interested, yet somehow the shows can’t fully be enjoyed because scene after scene is inundated with nudity or an unnecessarily lengthy sex scene. Sexual content in recent years has risen tremendously as producers continue to allow the depiction of sex and nudity to be heavily explored for the sake of maintaining audience interest. In 2011, sexual actions in TV shows rose from 20.7 percent to 23.4 percent within a year. In recent years, concerned parents and organizations have voiced complaints about the problem of excessive nudity and sexuality in the media.
However, the media’s inclination to censor material has been rapidly declining. Why? Well, for one, the age-old mantra “sex sells” seems to be holding true in our society just as much now as it ever has. And content on cable television shows such as Game of Thrones continues to push the limits even further into sexual depravity. Relevant Magazine mentions: “Game of Thrones not only possesses sex and violence, but incest—this is becoming a problem, especially when the sexual content involves rape”. A question is brought to mind when considering the immoral volume presented; are such extremes to receive audience viewers necessary? The answer is no, it’s not.
Sex may sell but too much sexual material is, well, too much. The writers and producers may set shows in harsher times, but not everything needs to be exaggerated or even shown for viewers to understand the concept of what’s about to happen. It seems Hollywood has little to no faith in our ability to use our imaginations.
The depth of sexual material may seem to add something extra, but it can actually hinder a show’s true potential. A show can still produce the same, if not more, audience ratings without the need for actors to strip down and bare all. If shows like Merlin, Game of Thrones and The Tudors were to cut out all the sexual content within each episode, would the shows not be as interesting without them? Many shows do well with ratings based on their interesting plots, a well written script and developed characters alone.
With the aim of capturing audiences and giving them more edgy content than they’ve ever experienced before, movies and television dramas continue to push the limits of acceptability for explicit content. And as long as they are receiving the ratings they want, the “sex sells” notion will continue to drive Hollywood. The only way it will begin to go in the opposite direction is if enough viewers prove to the producers that they don’t want such content, which will only happen if they stop watching it. Will this ever happen? Perhaps. Perhaps we’ll eventually decide we’ve had enough, turn of the TV, get a breath of fresh air and decide we don’t need these constant depravity-filled narratives in our lives. But until then, there will be no reason for the media to change anything.