The Rise in Vulgarity on TV leads to Greater Realism

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Before streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, and HBO, commercial broadcasters such as ABC, NBC, and CBS were the only monopolies that dominated the airwaves. 

As commercial broadcasters are under strict regulation by the FCC, viewers are kept protected from vulgar language and nudity. Because, oh the horrors! 

It wasn't until streaming services became standard and started creating their own TV originals, that nudity and cursing have become normalized on some of our favorite TV shows. 

Vulgar Shows - Fleabag

Showing a nipple or two, full-frontal male nudity, or at the very least, dropping a couple of f-bombs here and there is not uncommon on shows like Game of Thrones, Fleabag, Euphoria, and Sex Education. 

And despite the need to warn viewers of explicit material due to vulgar images or language, I argue that these "vulgarities" have a way of improving the reality of these storylines. 

For instance, nudity is an element that many viewers find gratuitous. When Euphoria showed a locker room full of literal dicks there was an uproar in critical reviews and attention. 

Nate  - Euphoria

In an interview, Euphoria's showrunner, Sam Levinson told The Hollywood Reporter, "I think the show is far more restrained than our world, and far more restrained than the internet.

"But there's always been a puritanical streak in America, and just the idea that there is any kind of nudity on screen is always something certain people recoil at."

Of course, any moment that throws a penis on the screen will always remain jarring to most viewers. 

However, the scene in which Nate walked through a steam-filled locker room surrounded by naked jocks, bombarding the screen with uncensored full frontal male nudity furthered an intended environment. 

High school is the time boys turn into men and have to navigate the thin line of showing off manly behaviors in a no-homo sort of way while portraying an acceptance of their bodies even if they're not particularly ideal. 

The scene managed to successfully create the picture of a gross boys locker room full of hyper-masculinity coursing through the veins of a football team who had just claimed a victory. 

Without explicit imagery, it wouldn't have captured the scene as strongly as it managed to do. 

Nudity on screen has also proved to offer empowerment to the actors and their characters.

Daenerys - Game of Thrones

In an interview, Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke told The Sun, "I just wanted to come out and do an empowered scene that wasn't sexual -- it was naked, but it was strong."

While Clarke received backlash for being anti-feminist by baring it all, she expressed that these claims themselves were anti-feminist and that women hating on women is an even greater problem. 

Furthering the message of empowering women through appreciation of their bodies, Workin' Moms, a Canadian show that can be found on Netflix, normalizes breastfeeding.

It opened with a scene of new mothers examining their breasts in a Mommy and Me class and noticing the changes their bodies had gone through since giving birth.

Mommy & Me

This particular scene allowed for breasts to be shown in a non-sexual way.

Culturally, many of us see nudity as a sexual act or image, while in other cultures such as French, nudity is seen as an art form. 

This scene granted appreciation for women's bodies and the role it plays in motherhood and completely debunked the common belief that women are no longer beautiful or sexy after motherhood.

As for sailor mouths on tv originals, as long as it's used in a manner that furthers authenticity within a characterization or a plot, I think it's acceptable. 

Fleabag in church

Especially in shows like Fleabag, the main character's use of the f-word authenticates her personality. She's a woman who doesn't abide by the boundaries society has placed around her. 

Women are expected to have prim and proper language, so when female comics push the envelope and include vulgar language, I think it offers a truthful narrative. 

Women are just as likely to talk about sex and drop one too many f-bombs, and it's important these shows offer realistic representation to viewers. 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel holds many similarities to Fleabag. Exclusively about a female comic in the mid-1900s, Midge is a woman who breaks out of the mold her culture and society placed her in. 

Midge - The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

She makes sexual jokes, uses the f-word, and even shows her breasts on stage.

All of that "vulgarity" furthered her character as a strong and independent woman who found success in showing the world that boundaries are meant to be pushed. 

Most viewers are less averse to iffy language on tv shows than they are to nudity, however, both are of actual importance to storylines. 

TV creators and writers are looking to share genuine stories that resonate with viewers. Many times these vulgarities are spread thin throughout the show and placed intentionally. 

Alyssa and James

A show isn't going to do too well if it's simply crude without intention. 

As long as the actors are comfortable with the stories they are written we shouldn't negatively judge.

Trust in writers and creators; they know what they're doing. Explicit scenes and explicit language are meant to offer a realism to a show that otherwise is left out on many network broadcasted TV shows. 

So, if you feel offended by the vulgar elements included in these shows, you were warned beforehand. 

Please leave your thoughts and comments down below. I'd love to continue the conversation!  

Inga Parkel was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She left the organization in June 2020.

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