This past weekend there was a lot of controversy over subject matter on two popular television programs. A quick search for either "SNL controversy" or "Game of Thrones controversy" will yield the necessary context if you’re not already aware. The reason these issues generated any notoriety seems to stem from widely available public access to digital soapboxes. The voiceless (who should remain so) armed with Shift+3 can express outrage over anything they see/hear, and all of a sudden the angry mob with torches and pitchforks is digitally mobilized without having to get off the couch.

I am amazed that people are shocked by the fact that the psychopathic character who dismembers, tortures, murders, and skins people alive is also a rapist. It must be difficult for networks and producers not to bend to the will of these easily offended upstarts, since 100 angry tweeters seem to be given representative authority over the millions of people who observed the same content and aren’t narcissistic, egomaniacal megalomaniacs who feel the need to share every thought on every subject that coincidently happens to be trending.

The problem is that eventually everything will be played safe, no boundaries will be pushed, and old models that previously worked will be rehashed. There is going to be a Full House spinoff. Ghostbusters will soon be ruined. Avengers 2 flat out sucked, but that didn’t stop it from achieving the second highest domestic box office record.

Saturday Night Live: Louis C.K.

Louis CK SNL controversy 

It figures that the first actually funny thing SNL has aired in the past 20 years would generate a huge backlash. During the 40th season celebration we were reminded that after 9/11 SNL came on the air and let us know it was okay to laugh again; well, it’s been almost 14 years of waiting and they finally made me laugh.

Louis C.K. delivered a charming monologue that touched on two subjects that make most people uncomfortable: introspection and self-awareness.

I’ve always loved comedy for its ability to make me look at a situation from a different angle and challenge my beliefs on a subject. I would hope an intended audience of adults who willingly and voluntarily tuned in to a television show at 11:30pm on a Saturday night would possess the maturity to watch a comedian (on a sketch comedy show) tell jokes they may not like or agree with, and move on with their lives.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, SNL made a mistake having a funny host perform on the show. Clearly they should go back to the tried and true formula that made their program safe to watch while recovering from abdominal surgery.

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Meanwhile Rihanna’s clearly lip-synced performance of "Bitch Better Have My Money," a song featuring lyrics (and onscreen depiction) of the kidnapping of a woman with the threat of execution if Rihanna is not paid her money, received rave reviews. Rolling Stone called the performance "remarkable" and "visually stunning" while praising the pine tree air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror as a "clever detail." The woman in distress, bound and gagged in the backseat of the car, was not mentioned.

Game of Thrones: Sansa’s Wedding

Game of Thrones Sansa Wedding rape scene 

*** SPOILER ALERT: The following contains spoilers for the show and book. ***

Sansa Stark

Spoiler #1: The characters are fictional.

Anything that happens on the screen or on the page did not actually happen. The actors portraying the fictional characters are pretending to do everything they do. No one endorses rape and it is not shown in a positive light. I am amazed that people are shocked by the fact that the sadistic, psychopathic character who dismembers, tortures, murders, and skins people alive is also a rapist, plot twist.

But is he really?

I’m not here to argue the definition of rape, but didn’t she agree to marry him? Don’t the marriages in this universe conclude with a bedding ceremony in which the consummation is witnessed? Isn’t this her 3rd marriage and part of an unclear plot she’s participating in? (The books tell a different story in which Sansa is never in Winterfell and doesn’t marry Ramsay.) Also, just to be an advocate of the devil, the audience does not witness the act. The act is suggested and implied, but not explicitly shown, unlike the thousands of murders (including infanticide) that are portrayed with stunning violence and graphic gore (see "Game of Thrones Deaths" on YouTube).

We seem to be willing to suspend disbelief at the existence of dragons, ice zombies, giants, and shadow monsters. We don’t boycott or protest the onscreen portrayal of incest, regicide, tyrannicide, torture, murder, and slavery (you may recall the show actually has characters endorsing slavery), but this off-screen rape has gone too far (the show depicting the rape of 14-year-old Daenerys by her husband Drogo and the rape of Cersie by her brother Jamie over their son’s corpse was excusable).

And all of this from a premium, subscription-based, critically-acclaimed adult content provider: HBO.

Sorry, I was too busy paying extra for your content to realize that I have to go out of my way to be offended by your show.

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The thing that strikes me as odd is that historically HBO’s content did not included mature subject matter such as violence (Sopranos), sexual assault (Oz), sexual violence (True Detective), or the supernatural (True Blood). I haven’t seen The Wire yet, but I’m sure my children can watch that instead of Saturday morning cartoons. Go ahead and stop watching the show, just don’t tell me about it.

So this is how liberty dies, to the sound of one hundred and forty keystrokes.

I get it: the media, blogs, websites, critics, they all have to make their money by pandering to the status quo. If SNL makes jokes about celebrities, they won’t be able to book popular guests. If critics disagree with the popular opinion, no one will read their reviews. If something is funny, it probably has offended someone directly, or more likely, someone has taken offense on behalf of a group they do not belong to. No matter what, we will hear about it.

I think the negative rabbling is enough to destroy the creative process though. Content is produced to make money and the customer that complains is always right, not the majority who silently continue to purchase a product they enjoy, even if they don’t support or share every comment or opinion expressed.

Instead of protesting a rape that didn’t actually occur, why not join an anti-sexual assault organization? Angered by a joke (a thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter, especially a story with a funny punchline) about child molestation? Join NAMBLA. Use your access to information and the ability to share information to make a positive change in the world we live in, not to censor the worlds we escape to.

I don’t think anyone benefits from a "shut your eyes and ears" approach to social issues, and there is no benefit to crucifying the people who bring up those issues. No one watches an onscreen depiction of sexual violence or listens to a joke about it and says, "Hey, that sounds like a good idea, I should try that." And if they did, there are pre-existing issues that would inevitably lead those people to crimes regardless of complete censorship of all media.

Believe it or not, rape and child molestation existed prior to last weekend, before television, before Christopher Columbus. Stop pretending that this is the first time you’ve heard about it and go volunteer or something instead.

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