• Should You Be Concerned About “Game of Thrones,” Even If You Don’t Get HBO?

    by  • April 11, 2014 • Cable Choice, Violence • 3 Comments

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    The fourth season of critically-acclaimed HBO series “Game of Thrones”  just got underway, and stirred-up controversy here and overseas when ten minutes into the episode, the prince is shown stripping a group of prostitutes before selecting the one he will spend the night with.

    The UK’s Daily Mail reports that even loyal fans of the program are complaining about how explicit the content has become. One Twitter user said, “I can’t watch Game of Thrones. There’s too much rape and murder.” Another posted, “I swear Game of Thrones is just a rape festival.”

    Although Game of Thrones airs on a premium cable channel known for racy content there is good cause to be concerned about the trickle-down effect this kind of content may have on basic cable channels — which come into virtually every American home — and eventually the broadcast networks, too.

    HBO has been putting greater emphasis on its taboo-breaking original series since the early ’90s . The Sopranos quickly became a favorite with critics because of the morally complex criminal protagonist and superior production values, but also earned notoriety for scenes set in a strip club and almost non-stop use of the F-word. Sex and the City was ground-breaking for its explicit sex scenes and frank talk about unconventional sex acts. But those programs eventually made their way to advertiser-supported basic cable, and even to broadcast.

    Today, you can turn on the E! Network and watch a two hour Sex and the City marathon between the hours of 4 pm and 7 pm (times when high-school-aged children may be at home watching television unsupervised).  And although the harshest language and most explicit content may have been edited out for basic cable, it’s virtually impossible to edit around the thematic elements that pervade entire episodes.

    Likewise HBO’s Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm have also made the jump from premium to basic to broadcast.

    But even if Game of Thrones never makes it to basic cable, there is still reason to be concerned about the influence it will have down the road on television content.

    In an article for Time magazine, James Poniewozik quotes an anonymous producer of Game of Thrones who told the show’s director, “I represent the pervert side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene.”

    Basic cable and broadcast executives view these premium cable series as their chief competition, even though top-rated HBO series generally garner fewer than 1 million viewers – small potatoes compared with even poorly-rated broadcast series, and have asserted their need to push the content envelope based on the supposedly stiff competition they’re getting from the anything-goes premium channels. It’s a bogus argument used to justify their own desire to obliterate any common-sense decency standards, yet it remains and its effects can be seen daily. There was a time when even bleeped uses of the “F-word” or “S-word” were rare and notable. Today they’re largely ignored because audiences have gotten used to them. Sexual content on both broadcast and basic cable has become more explicit. The violence seen on HBO is virtually indistinguishable from the violence on AMC, which is virtually indistinguishable from the violence on CBS.

    So yes, we should be concerned about Game of Thrones, even if there’s a 0% chance your child will see it, because it’s influence will be felt throughout primetime in very short order.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    3 Responses to Should You Be Concerned About “Game of Thrones,” Even If You Don’t Get HBO?

    1. Emily
      August 12, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      So what’s the solution then? Get it off the air? It’s an adult show, it even has warnings for this before every episode. Also you’re worried about an edited version of Sex in the City in regards to HIGH SCHOOLERS? Jesus. Maybe you should just throw away your television

    2. Mike
      April 12, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      Who cares its just a TV show, it’s entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with Game Of Thrones. Also for someone to say that it’s just another rape fest really hasn’t watched the show or read the books. Game Of Thrones is very character driven and has a very politcal plot. And of course there will be murder, the families are at war. Stop attacking shows just because they are popular.

    3. Peter
      April 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      I don’t think we should be SO scared of this.
      Game of Thrones is a super violent show, so it is a special reservation.

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