• Streaming-TV’s Obsession with MA-Rated Programming Leads to Exploitation

    by  • January 6, 2020 • Sex, Sexualization • 2 Comments


    If you subscribe to one or more streaming services, you may have noticed the glut of MA-rated original programs being produced and distributed exclusively for those platforms. Netflix and Amazon Prime, even CBS All Access tend to run toward not merely adult content, but extremely adult content with their original series and movies.

    Streaming video providers are neither constrained by broadcast decency laws nor by pressure from sponsors or would-be sponsors, and it shows. As we pointed out with CBS All Access’ Twilight Zone reboot and Netflix’s acquisition of Designated Survivoreven shows that were successful and well-established as PG-rated family viewing have been given the TV-MA treatment.

    But those sitting at home, waiting to be entertained by this bumper crop of sex, nudity and profanity probably haven’t given much thought to how this content shift is affecting the young actresses who are being asked to participate in explicit sex scenes for entertainment.

    Game of Thrones star Emelia Clarke made waves earlier this fall when she admitted that she was terrified during the filming of violent rape scenes for the popular HBO fantasy drama. So much so, that she drank vodka and cried to get through filming. “I took the job and then they sent me the scripts and I was reading them and I was like, ‘Oh, there’s the catch,’ …But I’d come fresh from drama school and I approached it as a job: if it’s in the script then it’s clearly needed. This is what this is and I’m going to make sense of it and that’s what I’m going to do and everything’s going to be cool…I’ve never been on a film set like this before…and now I’m on a film set completely naked with all of these people, and I don’t know what I’m meant to do, and I don’t know what’s expected of me, and I don’t know what you want, and I don’t know what I want…Regardless of there being nudity or not, I would have spent that first season thinking I’m not worthy of requiring anything. I’m not worthy of needing anything at all.”

    When Clarke later tried to push-back on producers about the nude scenes, she was told, “You don’t wanna disappoint your Game of Thrones fans.”

    More recently, Golden Globe-winning actress Ruth Wilson left the Showtime series The Affair amid “ongoing frustrations with the nudity required of her.

    One source told media outlets, “Over and over again, I witnessed [showrunner] Sarah Treem try to cajole actors to get naked even if they were uncomfortable or not contractually obligated to.”

    The Hollywood Reporter notes that “Wilson was often asked to be unclothed in scenes where there seemed to be no clear creative rationale for the nudity other than for it to be ‘titillating.’”

    According to news reports, executive producer and director Jeffrey Reiner tried to get a mutual acquaintance to convince Wilson to “show her t*ts or at least some vag.”

    The rampant nudity, violent rape scenes and explicit sexual content is clearly not about artistic integrity.

    As one GOT director noted, producers are constantly pushing for more sex, more nudity – just because they can. “The weirdest part [of directing GOT] was when you have one of the exec producers leaning over your shoulder, going, ‘You can go full frontal, you know. This is television, you can do whatever you want! And do it! I urge you to do it!’ … So I was like, ‘Okay, well, you’re the boss.’ This particular exec took me to one side and said, ‘Look, I represent the pervert side of the audience, okay? Everybody else is the serious drama side, [but] I represent the perv side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene.’ So you go ahead and do it.”

    So before you sit down to stream another TV-MA series, think about the human cost on the other end of your entertainment and whether you want to feed the demand that is taking such a toll on young actresses.



    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.

    2 Responses to Streaming-TV’s Obsession with MA-Rated Programming Leads to Exploitation

    1. moax429
      January 7, 2020 at 6:20 pm

      I remember reading about a similar situation that happened to Raquel Welch in 1970 when she was filming (the sickening) “Myra Breckinridge” (which, of course, went on to become one of the “50 Worst Films of All Time”). Ms. Welch said she was crying during filming her scenes in that film because director Michael Sarne had her do scripted things she felt uncomfortable doing.

      No wonder that film (which was *properly* rated X when it was first released) was such a bomb.

    2. StraightAndPure
      January 6, 2020 at 7:37 pm

      This is the perfect article for you to post on this blog. This will make people think twice about watching TV shows with sexually explicit scenes. There are a lot of people who don’t really care about hurting themselves, but would never in a trillion years want to hurt another person. You have made me glad I am not a Game Of Thrones fan. I am glad I am not enabling Ruth Wilson’s or Emilia Clarke’s misery.

      Of all the articles you have written, I firmly this one will prove to be the most powerful.

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