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on Cursing, Cocks, Cha-Chas, Cunts and Consistency

So this week I watched the entire series of Westworld. It had beed recommended to me a few times, but I had been too busy to try it out. Now I’m caught up. I enjoyed it. The season finale was…. ennnh… good and bad points. There was one thing that bothered me about it a bunch. And it’s probably not any of the things that bothered most Westworld fans. My friend Max was watching it as it went along and he was keeping up with the internet communities, and he was wondering if I’d have the same reactions as them since I binged it rather than watching it over a period of a couple of months. I imagine that they were bothered by the weird timeline (I figured that out pretty early on) and the question of who is real and who is a robot. I guess it was intriguing. I get how it might grate on you once it’s stretched out over a long period of time. But that’s not what I really want to talk about.

TV is good now. Alan Sepinwall wrote a book a few years ago, called The Revolution was Televised, which makes the argument that changes in the way television dramas were made in the 1990s have rewritten the television landscape. It has been rewritten into something new and something better. There’s been a real drive to tell GOOD stories. Complex and interesting stories. There has been a drive to invest in television as an art form.

I like that. I like that a lot! Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it fails. Sometimes a show just isn’t for me, and that’s fine. I just love that people are trying to make artistic and literary statements with the medium. One of the things that I’ve loved best is cable television. I love that cable shows have thrown out FCC regulations and just do the right thing to tell a story. Nudity, swearing, it doesn’t matter. It’s not so much that I’m looking for gratuitous adult content. Actually, I kind of hate when a show just suddenly has a naked person (even a hot one) for no reason at all. That pulls me out of story. But it also really screws with my ability to enjoy something when I feel like a show is artificially avoiding nudity or swearing. I’ve often said that it really irritates me when I’m watching a cop show on broadcast TV and a character gets shot and screams “Darn It!” Never in the history of the universe has anyone been shot and said “darn it.” The correct phrase in this situation is “Holy Shit! Jesus Fucking Christ I’ve been fucking shot!” That is what you say there. That or just unintelligible screaming is fine. Similarly, I hate when I’m watching aa husband and a wife argue about an extramarital affair and wife says “Bob! How could you? How could you make love to another woman?” Nope… doesn’t happen. What you want here is “How could you fuck that bitch you motherfucking asshole!?!?” Maybe for variety, she switches out the word “bitch” for “cunt” but you get the idea.

Cable fixes this. No seven dirty words. All bets are off and for the most part people talk like people. I like that!

It also fixed the nudity problem. MOSTLY… There’s something I hate about American television. After a love scene (or after a scene cut where we move to a couple who has clearly just had sex), broadcast television always shows people with magic double-length sheets. You know the ones. The sheets that are longer on the left than they are on the right. That way the man can lay in bed with the sheets only going up to his waist, but the woman gets them up to her collarbones so they can cover her boobs. We all that those sheets, right? I mean, I don’t… but I always just assumed that’s because I was too poor to afford magic double length sheets. And I probably wouldn’t buy them anyway… because if a woman is goodly enough to let me do sex to her, I like having an excuse to look at her boobs afterward. I’m sneaky that way.

Even more egregious than the magic sheets though is the fact that after sex, if one person decides to get out of bed to go to the bathroom or to answer the door or make pancakes or whatever, they always take the sheets with them wrapped around them like a toga. I don’t understand this at all. I personally am not adverse to walking around naked after sex. I get that not everyone feels this way. But you know what, that’s what robes are for. Or put your underwear back on. But why the fuck are you taking my sheet with you? That doesn’t even look comfortable.

Cable fixes that. Mostly. Sometimes people are just naked. And that’s great. But Westworld, really exposed one of my problems with this new age of television.

Contractual non-nudity.

The problem with a TV show where people are nude is that not every actor wants to be nude. I’m actually perfectly fine if an actor doesn’t want a part where they have to be asked. Cool, whatever, don’t take the part. But lots of roles in Westworld basically REQUIRE nudity. And it was really weird for me to be watching a show where some people are just walking around with naughty bits flopping about while OTHER people are using magic double length sheets. This has been a problem with other HBO shows before. It happens on Sex and the City, True Blood and Game of Thrones. Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall, Anna Paquin, Natalie Dormer and Sibel Kekilli clearly didn’t mind being topless during sex scenes. Other actresses like Sarah Jessica Parker, Debra Ann Woll and Sophie Turner do and so their characters tend to either have sex with their clothes on or use creative camera angles where boobs are always hidden by their or their partners arms or something like that. I have no problem with the decisions that any of these actresses make (or male actors for that matter). But in the context of watching those shows, the inconsistency just makes no diegetic sense. It actually takes me out of the show even more than broadcast shows where you never see naughty bits at all.

In Westworld this was somehow even worse. Particularly in the NON-SEXUAL nudity scenes. It especially hurt the show in several scenes where some actors clearly didn’t mind and the others did. There were several scenes where we would pan across a bunch of naked people and the camera would be like: boobs, cock, boobs, cock, boobs, vagina, cock, boobs, man’s torso cropped right before cock, and woman’s head down to the collar bone. It weirded me out. If you’re going to do that just show everyone only from the collar bones up. We’ll get it. Really we will. Consistency is important!

Honestly… it’s not so much that I need to see lots of cock or boobs. I just really hate being explicitly made aware of the fact that I am NOT seeing cock or boobs. I feel like Westworld tried to mix it up a bit to trick me. It was pretty clear that Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood knew that they were going to be naked for large portions of the show. So sometimes the camera shows naughty bits and sometimes not. That way, the hope is maybe you don’t notice when you see naked Tessa Thompson only from behind or the collarbones and up… It doesn’t work. It makes me notice more. And I was REALLY aware of it during the big orgy scene. There was a LOT of cock i that scene. Apparently, extras were informed that if they wanted to be on that show they were going to have to be naked and there was a good chance they’d be touching the genitals of another actor. But there was so much cock in that scene that I was SUPER aware of the fact that four principle actors in that scene were completely clothed. And moreover, it made me aware that most of them were never naked in the show at all. I couldn’t not think about it. If you’re going to have that much nudity in a show, then you really need to just not cast anyone who isn’t comfortable with it.

So this is me imploring Hollywood (and HBO) to make a decision. Fucking commit. Either more boobs and cock or none at all. Either way. Your art demands it.

18 comments for “on Cursing, Cocks, Cha-Chas, Cunts and Consistency

  1. avatar
    December 21, 2016 at 1:34 pm

    Good points. However, I do think one of your examples doesn’t quite hold up. Sophie Turner is playing a character who will only be 19 as of the next season, which means the character was under 18 in every single sex scene she was in (if I am remembering timelines correctly). Furthermore, the actress was barely 18 by her first sex scene (and younger when her character was married to Tyrion).

    I’m pretty sure the reason she isn’t naked in any of her scenes is a combination of the actress / character being too young for such scenes to be legally broadcast on television.

    • avatar
      December 21, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      In real life she’s 20. So she’s been “legal” for a couple seasons now… But its not the legality of it I’m concerned with any more than it is the titilation aspect. In fact, in the books the characters are even younger. So they only aged them to where they felt like they could get away with doing lots of sexual things to them and not having it be TOO creepy. They could have made her even older. But that doesn’t super matter.

      In point of fact, at least as far as I can remember, every time Sansa has actually had sex on the show it has been a rape, so in her case, it actually makes more sense to have her clothed. Not just because rape is bad, but because in the context of the ways she’s had sex, it hasn’t been in a situation where it would make sense to undress her. So those are actually fine.

      It actually bothers me way more that Emilia Clarke is naked “when she feels like it.” The character is written to be innately sexual, and she uses the magic sheets when no one else does and that’s weird. It’s even weirder when you realize she didn’t used to. But I had used this example in a different post and didn’t feel like over explaining it here.

    • avatar
      December 21, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      I actually wondered for a moment if you meant Emilia Clarke and accidentally wrote Sophie Turner, since she seems to be the much more on point example.

    • avatar
      December 21, 2016 at 2:08 pm

      Yeah… I was just specifically not using her.

      Originally I was gonna say Gemma Whelan, but I was afraid no one would know who she was.

  2. avatar
    December 21, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I didn’t notice any of the nudity stuff, I was too worried about Elsie. Still am.

  3. avatar
    December 21, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    I imagine that’s something that’s easier to notice when you’re binge watching it for sure. I can definitely see something like that taking you out of it if you manage to notice it. Out of all the shows that have done nudity however, Westworld does a fantastic job of making it sterile, clinical, and probably the scariest parts of the show.

    • avatar
      December 22, 2016 at 3:17 am

      I did not binge watch and I noticed the same thing. I think Mav hits the nail on the head on this one. When it does crop up, if you notice it, it completely pulls you out of the immersion.

    • avatar
      December 22, 2016 at 3:29 am

      James Marsden (teddy) is a big one here. It’s not that I want to see his cock. It’s just that I am very much aware that I haven’t.

      Like i agree that they treated nudity in the lab as clinical and sterile. Except that whenever Marsden was in there I couldn’t NOT notice that they were shooting him differently than they shoot Thandie Newton or any of the random extras.

    • avatar
      December 22, 2016 at 3:37 am

      Funny enough I never noticed Teddy’s lack of nudity, but then again the only times I ever remember seeing Teddy naked is when he was badly injured as opposed to the “naked interviews” a lot of the other characters went through. But, yeah I can totally see that pulling someone out of something if they’ve noticed it.

  4. avatar
    December 21, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    Not directly relevant, but any excuse to post one of my favorite YouTube videos.

    https://youtu.be/pvLoheKYmLI

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