A Game of Thrones? Or a Game of… ahem.

First: These post will deal with something of a mature topic – namely, nudity on film. For those not familiar with the show or still catching up on its progress, this post will be spoiler free so far as plot is concerned. It merely touches on the sort of physical content in the show. My wife and I were recently loaned the first season of HBO’s A Game of Thrones.

Evidently, at her work, they were awed when she admitted she didn’t know anything about the show. Mind you, I wasn’t any more familiar with it. I knew of it. And I knew it was based off A Song of Ice and Fire. But I had never read any of the books or otherwise been familiar with George R.R. Martin’s work. My wife and I set a date night to begin watching the first season and find out what everyone was always prattling on about. Prior to then, I asked one of my coworkers about the show. He said he hadn’t watched it much, but that his fiancee was into it and she thought it was very good. When the time came, I was taken by surprise by the sheer volume of nudity. I’m not a choir boy or anything, I’ve definitely seen worse. And the female form is appealing to me, both genetically and artistically speaking, but I don’t consider this the same as series of nude paintings in an art gallery. My wife and I waited it out for a couple more episodes, figuring the content would mellow out a little after the violent, sex-drenched pilot had caught the audience’s attention.

It didn’t, really. Surprisingly, no one had thought to say anything regarding the content of the program. My coworker admitted he almost warned me it wasn’t the sort of show to watch around the kids, but he never got around to saying it out loud. Mind you, the storyline is phenomenal, and I certainly want to watch more than the first season. I’m invested in the characters and the setting. They’ve shown us what is at stake, what needs to be done, and put things into motion that we want to see through to a close. But my wife and I bought into the show while stopping to look at the ceiling or at one another while a pointless nude scene plays across the screen for 15 or 30 seconds. If we can converse during such a scene – asking one another how work was or joking about the content of the show – and still not miss anything relevant to the plot,  is it anything more than fan service?

Perhaps I’ve been away from mainstream television for too long? I’ve done a little searching and found that this isn’t too far gone from some other programming, especially those shown on the likes of HBO. It’s been six years since I’d had access to cable or satellite, but when I did, I primarily watched Discovery and Cartoon Network, or the occasionally cheesy film on Sci-Fi. (I refuse to use its new, stupid moniker). When I was sixteen or so, I admit to sneaking late-night peeks at shows such as Emmanuelle on Cinemax. And as a child of the eighties, I remember many movies throwing in a random group of topless women to scamper pointlessly across the screen, because they were trying to push the censorship envelope at the time – they could now have topless women and still keep a decent rating, so I guess they figured why not? Many of those programs pale in comparison to the sort of ‘frontals’ A Game of Thrones provides.

I expected mature content to be sure. Fantasy is full of adult themes like murder and politics, and adults tend to be sexually active. The television content seems to follow suit with the themes of Martin’s ‘gritty fantasy.’ Reviews I’ve read state that the show handles this ‘maturely’ but I’m not so convinced: I can almost hear the staff giggling about boobies in the background as they lay out the storyboard for the new episode, and the directors grinning as they advise their film crew to forget that head and shoulder shot and let the lens plunge down to buttocks level.

What I want to know is when did we as viewers tell everyone that we’ve lost our imaginations? When did writers start thinking they need this content to tell a good story? There are plenty of times when the show forgoes outright showing us what happens during a violent scene and let’s the camera wander off, implying that it took place. Seconds later, these implications are often proven, showing that it isn’t just a storytelling device to keep us in suspense for an entire ten seconds. But in my opinion, there aren’t enough of those times. If two lovers exchange banter after their heated affair, we know she’s naked. She hasn’t made any move to get dressed, after all. Why can’t you imply that they are still naked below the lens, and let us infer the rest like the intelligent audience we are? Isn’t it enough to keep the camera above breast level? Instead you rub our noses in it.