Dear HBO, I can't take you seriously

Recently, I moved apartments, and was forced to use Comcast for cable service at the new place.  On the plus side, my lovely girlfriend has taken it upon herself to pay for the service, and she wanted the full package, so we have 6 months of HBO.  This is my first direct, persistent experience with HBO, so I was quite excited to finally watch all these shows people wont shut up about.

We started by watching the first season of Boardwalk Empire.  We both thoroughly enjoyed it, and are looking forward to the next season.  However, there are some aspects of the show that... well... come off as ridiculous to me.  More on this in a moment.

Yesterday, we decided to check out another much-acclaimed HBO series, Game of Thrones.  It shared many of the same qualities as Boardwalk, notably the aforementioned "ridiculous" ones.

After taking in this HBO material, the network itself has become kind of absurd to me.
So, what am I talking about here?

The over-the-top, constant graphic sex and gore.

Let's be clear: I'm not some kind of religious prude who decries all violence or sex in entertainment.  It has its place.  I like boobs and naked women.  I play "violent" video games.  I watch porn.  However, I find there is a certain level of such things which come off as absurd in "serious" media.  HBO shows have surpassed this level.

I feel that, since HBO is a subscription-only premium channel, ostensibly only intended for an adult audience, they do this simply because they can, and not actually in service to the plot or atmosphere of the show.  To me, that is kind of... well, stupid.  Graphic sex and violence should be used sparingly.  When used appropriately, it can have an impact, some poignancy.  When used gratuitously, it becomes almost comical and demeaning to the rest of the presentation.

I'm being slightly hyperbolic when I say this, but it seems almost every 10 minutes in either show, you are going to have a graphic sex scene (just barely not porn), and someone with internal organs splattering all over the screen.  If there hasn't been such a scene within the first 10 minutes of an episode, I'd probably check to see if I was on the right channel.

What I find funny about this is that no one I've ever heard speak about these shows has ever brought this up.  Usually they are too busy gushing over how spectacular and marvelous they are, how amazing the cinematography is, or some such thing.  Critics and non-critics alike.  Everyone seems to take the shows incredibly seriously.

Don't get me wrong, the shows are immaculately produced, and extremely well-acted.  They are engrossing.  The underlying story-lines are certainly worthy of "high-brow" entertainment.  However, the inclusion of all this constant graphic material gives them a decidedly low-brow feeling.

This has lead me to conclude that these shows are popular because they give people an excuse to watch what might otherwise be porn and slasher flicks without the guilt and societal shame that comes with watching those things.  People can even talk about watching them in public — and because HBO shows are regarded as cutting-edge and top of the line, people who like them are even seen as "better," if you will.

Bottom line:
It's base entertainment in a dressed-up package that allows people to indulge in guilty pleasures without fear of social reprisal.

So my problem with it (aside from the implied hypocrisy of anyone who praises these shows but wouldn't openly talk about watching, say, Big Boob Milf Fuckfest 3), is that it just kind of makes the shows themselves feel stupid.  Like I said, I like the shows.  I like their premises, their plots, characters, acting, production values, etc.  But when multiple times an episode it will cut to a gratuitous scene of people going at it doggy style, or to pause and focus on someone's intestines falling out of their abdomen, it undercuts the drama and tension and everything else "serious" going on.  It also sort of makes me feel like kind of a loser for watching it (there's that societal guilt, I suppose).  If I want to watch people doing it, I will go watch some porn.  I don't want porn interrupting my serious drama.

Use graphic scenes sparingly, use them when you really want to shock someone, use them purposefully.  Just stop using them all the damn time.  It's silly.

Leave a comment if you think I'm full of shit :-)

No comments: