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The Great HBO ‘Tits vs. Breasts’ Debate

You know you’re reading summertime journalism when the great issue of the day is “tits vs. breasts” on television. Over the holiday weekend, LA Times TV critic Mary McNamara wrote a piece decrying HBO–in particular its show Game of Thrones–for its unnecessary depictions of naked people, particularly topless women.

Wrote McNamara:

[M]aybe it’s time to tone down the tits.

I write the word knowing it is going to render my editors and readers apoplectic — why not use the less crude “breasts?” Because I don’t mean breasts. Breasts are what you see on cable during a lovemaking scene or when a character is caught unawares or when, as in the season finale of “Game of Thrones,” the last of the Targaryens rises, naked and miraculous, from her husband’s funeral pyre with three baby dragons clinging to her.

Tits are what you see in a strip club or a brothel, when conversations or action between men, which usually have nothing to do with said strip club or brothel, are surrounded by nameless and silent women lounging or gyrating about in various stages of undress.

That piece was followed up today with a ferocious defense of defrocked sweater puppies by Salon TV critic Matt Zoller Seitz, who called McNamara’s editorial “a tediously moralizing strain in American criticism, one which insists that all sex and nudity must be dramatically “justified,” even if it occurs on a TV series based on a highly sexual series of fantasy novels that take place in a male-dominated world in which women fight tooth and nail for power, and achieve it.”


“The phrase ‘sexposition,’ however catchy and cute, is a loaded one, and maddening, because it concedes that the makers of a particular R-rated TV series have gone out of their way to blend theoretically prurient sex and nudity with actual storytelling. Not once in any scene of the show’s first season did the filmmakers show unclothed or copulating characters without some kind of necessary plot movement happening at the same time, always giving the narrative element prominence. And when you look at the total running time of season one of ‘Game of Thrones’ — somewhere around 600 minutes — less than five percent of its running time featured sex or nudity of any kind. Viewed in its totality, ‘Game of Thrones’ is a chaste show.”

This Fishie hasn’t seen Game of Thrones, so he can’t properly put in his two cents. For research purposes only, he’s now going spend the rest of the day watching Game of Thrones– paying close attention to every instance of toplessness, side boob, nip slippage and, of course, butt cleavage. It’s going to be a tough job. But that’s why we got into the media reporting business. See you tomorrow.

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