Monday, 5 March 2012

Sex, Violence and History

There are some great history shows on television. I am a big fan of HBO’s latest drama, Boardwalk Empire (it’s set in the 1920’s, what’s not to love?) but it raises some issues about content, and not necessarily historical accuracy. Historical dramas like Boardwalk Empire, Rome, and The Tudors contain graphic scenes of sex and violence, forcing us to ask – is this necessary? Does history need sex and violence to become successful, or is it part of mainstream society? Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude – the violence doesn’t bother me, although I can understand why it may bother other people. However, the graphic sex scenes make me a little uncomfortable, so much so that I could never watch it with my dad, who has expressed an interest in watching it with me (my reply: “No I don’t think you’d like it”). I don’t want to be a hypocrite here – if it makes me slightly uncomfortable, why do I watch it? Because it’s great TV – the 1920’s is a fascinating era, and all the actors are incredible, especially Steve Buscemi as crime boss Enoch ‘Nucky’ Thompson and Michael Pitt as Jimmy Darmody. There’s nothing wrong with sex on television – just when it verges on soft porn. Perhaps the show’s success does ride on the level of sex and violence. I love the show, and ultimately it doesn’t bother me enough to stop me watching it. It’s just a shame that this might put off people who have a genuine interest in history. Let the amazing performances, beautiful sets, and interesting history attract the audience, not the sex. 

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