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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.

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