How does a story keep its edge in a society jaded by mediocrity? In the TV world, it might just be by pushing boundaries. The rules are no longer decided by what has been done, but by what hasn’t.
The FCC is what controls the censorship of TV. To be considered obscenity, content has to “appeal to the prurient interest” and a host of other things. But the FCC needs actual complaints from people before it can exact fines or take any action, which explains how some of this stuff was created in the first place.
ABC's “How to Get Away with Murder” showcases a lot of controversial content, but audiences are zeroing in on one thing: the gay sex scenes. Writers have stood by their claims that writing real gay characterizations will help make up for the plethora of straight sex scenes stuffing TV. The intention is to “get people used to two men kissing.” So far ABC itself has had no complaints.
Along the line of sexual content is “Game of Thrones,” which of course has different rules because it airs on HBO. The problem is although “GoT" is chock-full of female nudity, only two male characters have ever stripped down completely: Theon Greyjoy and Hodor. Even Prince Oberyn, with his fondness for orgies ended up having a grand old time in bed while still wearing pants.
Although “HTGAWM” writers seem to be criticized for pushing their own envelopes, “GoT” writers have been frowned at for perpetuating female sexualization at the assumption that most of its audience is sexually attracted to women. News flash: not everyone is.
The boundaries are even being pushed in animation. “Legend of Korra,” the sister series to the hit “Avatar: the Last Airbender” is in the midst of its run. The first few seasons premiered on Nickelodeon as usual. But as the content grew more mature and audiences shifted, producers yanked the show from the air and set it to premiere online only. That week, they aired their first on-screen character murder.
The trend is extending. Sexual content, LGBTQ+ content and nudity have been buzzwords for years, and the social shift is finally starting to show up in our fictional media as well. This extends to cursing as well, with shows bleeping out, disconnecting words, cutting away, using euphemisms and similar words to get around expletive restrictions. There could probably be a whole separate post about that topic alone. At any rate, television is a changing field, and these broken boundaries are just indicators for more radical changes in the future.
TCA SUMMER PRESS TOUR 2014 - "How to Get Away with Murder" Session - The cast and producers of ABC's "How to Get Away with Murder" addressed the press at Disney | ABC Television Group's Summer Press Tour 2014. (ABC/Rick Rowell) JACK FALAHEE