Sex and gore on TV

Sex and gore on TV

Rod Dreher posts a note from a friend who notices that network TV has a habit of mixing sex with murder:

Why can’t they show a good-looking woman without showing her in a pool of blood 30 seconds later, then cyanotic on the autopsy table with her heart and lungs being weighed? Are that many people aroused by dead girls?

Rod surmises it’s the old “loose woman gets what she deserves” syndrome, which is one of Hollywood’s weirder memes, especially since it goes against the industry’s libertine ethic.

But I want to go back to his friend’s question because it does perplex. Why is it okay to display gaping and graphic wounds—bloody impalements or even explicit autopsies—or even hearts and lungs and brains being excised from a corpse, but it’s not okay to show certain sexual organs? Not that I’m saying that it should be okay for either, but what is the reasoning behind the double standard?

Perhaps desensitization of one is a preparation for the other.

  • That “loose woman….dead” happens to be the principal theme of horror movies.  Started (in modernity) with Mary Shelley.

    The Bates Motel, the Chainsaw…

  • Exactly the opposite of the UK, where violence and organs are verboten and sex and nudity are okey-dokey.

  • Now, for the first part, there is a basic dramatic principle at work here.  There are three basic reasons for “woman (or man) has sex, then dies” cliche.  It really depends upon the context which is at stake.  The original questioner is partly right: there is a “thrill” element going on.  There is also what Ninenot said, the horror story theme of punishing sinners (cf. Hawthorne, O’Connor).  But also, whenever the story involves the aftermath of a death, there is an effort to quickly make the audience either like or be attracted to the dead person, so that they will share in the process of grief or the quest for justice.  Shows like _Matlock_ did this just as much as shows like _CSI_.

    But as for the gory autopsies, _The X-Files_ pioneered this.  In some ways, it’s not so much “pushing the envelope” of censorship as it is the ambition of special effects people to try and make it “look real.” 

    Now, that is not necessarily a positive assessment of the fact that they do these things or how excessively they do them.  Just to say that there are some legitimate dramatic or “artistic” reasons why the TV shows do this stuff.

  • “Why is it okay to display gaping and graphic wounds——bloody impalements or even explicit autopsies—or even hearts and lungs and brains being excised from a corpse,”

    Changing subjects some here…why is it medical shows on cable will show all sorts of surgeries and procedures, yet I am unaware of a show covering an abortion. It is just a medical procedure right?