Posts Tagged Breaking Bad

Censorship is Dead; Long Live Censorship.

2013 was a landmark year for television; the opus of Breaking Bad came to its much-lauded conclusion, Netflix triumphed with web-streamed series House of Cards, Orange is The New Black and Arrested Development, prompting Cards star Kevin Spacey to speak out in favour of ‘binge-watching’ and echo these sentiments about the so-called ‘watercooler moment’. Beyond this, many actors and actresses famed for movies gravitated towards television and even naysayers couldn’t fight the popular opinion that we had now entered the ‘third golden age of television‘. Finally it is not only acceptable but encouraged to consider television a hobby or interest without sounding like a brainless zombie.

Beyond that however, it was also the most controversial year to date: The Red Wedding aired on HBO and became officially the most shocking moment of the year, Orange is The New Black showed explicit representations of sexual identity and gender roles as well as putting women front and centre, and True Blood showed its first male full-frontal nudity. However, fan reactions to these, such as this and this, indicated that the result of what we were seeing was more important than what we were seeing. Take the True Blood example: for six solid years everyone has got used to regularly seeing female full-frontal nudity from both extras and the main cast members in the vampire-centric show, but the internet went into shock mode the second a main male cast member showed us his wooden stake (ahem.) This video perfectly illustrates the ‘dumb double standard’ that audience reaction backs up:

Beyond this, it is (somewhat cynically) arguable that rather than eschew previous standards of censorship to actually advance equality or promote discussion around tricky or unexplored issues, the TV companies showing us this unprecedented level of violence and sex are in fact doing it for their own gain. Of course, television is an industry just like any other, to assume that decisions would be made without profit in mind would be horribly naive, but to present shocking and thought-provoking content purely to garner a reaction, therefore buzz, therefore increased viewership, seems somewhat problematic.

Rather than furthering any discussion it does in fact simply shine a light on how prudish viewers actually are; indeed, violence has become somewhat passé, so Game of Thrones had to show an ugly, appalling and incredibly shocking act of violence to get people talking. Even that, however, didn’t seem to get people talking quite as much as a black transgender woman being a main character in Orange is The New Black.  Now of course, any promotion of discussion and furthered understanding around previously unexplored issues is positive, particularly in such an accessible medium, but the question remains: are networks doing it for the right reasons? Or are they simply trying to generate more tweets?

Sadly it seems censorship still has a long way to go before it’s broken down for the greater good, as opposed to greater profit.

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Twitter & TV: Symbiosis

Television viewership has skyrocketed in recent years. It might seem surprising, but on-demand availability and time-shifted programming (such as ‘+1’ channels), as well as the range of viewing platforms now available has meant that the public can now fit viewing into their schedule better than ever before. On top of this, television is no longer seen as the ‘low art’ it once was; film’s black-sheep baby cousin has grown up and started garnering the attention it deserves.

Shows like Game of Thrones are receiving Hollywood-sized budgets, and others such as Breaking Bad are gaining the kind of universal critical acclaim once reserved for great literature or theatre, and only the greatest of film (see also this article, comparing the show to the fabled Great American Novel.)

Beyond this, the way we talk about television has changed too; it is now impossible to go on Twitter without risking seeing spoilers for your favourite shows. I caught up with the infamous (and controversial) Game of Thrones episode featuring The Red Wedding about three days after it first aired and in that time I had to enter into complete social media lockdown, lest I accidentally stumbled upon a list of who had died…. [SPOILER ALERT] Turned out it was pretty much everyone, so it was almost a waste of time, but that’s beside the point. Twitter has now become the first point of contact for reactions, discussions, news  questions, so much so that shows are being rated not by how many views they receive (incredibly difficult to measure in the age of aforementioned technological advances) but by how much Twitter buzz they generate.

In fact, nowadays it is arguable that you cannot properly engage with television without having a Twitter account. Even some of my more tweet-phobic friends immediately search for trending reactions to certain televisual events: from the last few months the finales of Breaking Bad, Broadchurch and The X Factor spring to mind. Sure, TV events will no doubt receive press coverage, generate Facebook statuses, inspire blog posts, but for immediate, concise reaction and discussion, nobody does it better than Twitter.

The industry is savvy to this fact as well; TV Line founder and CEO Michael Ausiello has nearly 20,000 tweets to his name and over a million followers. Twitter is allowing audiences to engage with television in a way only previously dreamed of. Watching a show is no longer the final step of the experience, we are implored to involve ourselves further in the world of the episode by becoming immersed in the forum surrounding it, and it’s not even a big commitment, you don’t have to have tons of time or a burning passion, just fire off those speedy 140 characters with the right hashtag at the end, read your ‘Trending’ page and you’re done. Suddenly, since Twitter established itself, television viewing has become a richer experience, more social than ever before; where it used to bring the members of your household together, it now brings you together with every other fan of your favourite show who has a Twitter account… Which every true television fan now does.

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