Television’s bait and switch tactics are working too well
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 19, 2014
Any good salesperson knows that in order to sell a product, they first need to catch the consumer’s attention. Television, for lack of a better word, is a marketplace and you’re the customer who’s passing through. Since you’re just passing through, or channel surfing if I may, you don’t have time to linger and enjoy six seasons of anything, let alone one with multiple character arcs and complicated plot twists. Solution: nudity!
Sex sells. It’s not just a phrase used in advertising, but a legitimate formula for commercial success. But by applying this tactic repeatedly, like so many independent broadcasting networks and entertainment providers are choosing to do, the content itself turns into one of two things: pornography or satire.
Don’t get me wrong, I love nudity. I can appreciate a well-photographed love scene and smut on different levels. But I also believe there is a time and place for it. The audience should be able to control their own intake of controversial images. Once I’m hooked to the storyline, there is no reason to overindulge me with unrelated nude scenes. I care more about the progression of the storyline, the plot, and the characters’ expositions, than some attractive female lusciously draped over the screen—at least for now.
No, I’m not a prude or immature, but we all have a perv-side to us—that’s why sex sells. We have all experienced sitting down as a collective to enjoy a show with explicit nudity peppered throughout. When nipples appear on the screen, a few things could happen: either the room hushes up with slight discomfort, or someone will break the silence with a blatant statement addressing said nipples, and laughter might or might not ensue. Regardless, that little pulse of misplaced horniness is harmful to the storytelling.
Sure, it might be the artistic direction to include sensible nude scenes; there are many reasonable situations to showcase boobs, etc. But it’s clear that certain producers, with the intention of getting the largest viewing audience possible, are jeopardizing the artistic craft of filmmaking by pumping more nudity into the shows, thus turning an adult drama into soft-core porn.
Naked women should not be used as props to engage an audience. They should not be strategically placed in the background, while main characters discuss betrayal. They should not appear randomly to seduce the leading man only to disappear, never to be seen again. They should not be used to arouse or tease an audience without justified reasons. Am I angry that sometimes they are? No, not that angry, but when I see some of my favourite shows subjected to these low level bait-and-switch tactics to garner more viewers, I feel ashamed to like the show—and I know that true fans are not watching to see Lena Dunham naked or the next Westeros femme fatale.
We love the stories, we love the characters, and we love the fact that the show isn’t some homogenized Canadian show about life in the Prairies. Television producers should understand that by using nudity as a lure for viewers, they are only misguiding people, offering them something that is unsustainable on television and that there is already so much of on the Internet.