Posted On March 4, 2014 By In Television

Ass and Abject Horror: The Naked Body on TV


Bare with me and we’ll get to the butts soon, I promise. First, let’s get somewhat educational, but not too much.

The content provided by television has long adhered to rules, regulations, and procedures, both political and corporate in their design. These rules and regulations I speak of served the general purpose of censoring out what was considered culturally “obscene” or “indecent” to the American Public, today we know it all as the FCC. In laymen’s term’s (and because I just want to), these regulations worked to ensure that the content being broadcasted to every American’s boob-tube weren’t actual boobs.

No boobs here. Just traditional All-American values.

No boobs here. Just traditional All-American values.

Herein lies a problem that has plagued television for over fifty years: Culture is fluid; as a people, we are in a constant state of flux. The prejudices and anxieties of yesterday don’t match up with the cultural mindset of today. And while what can be shown on national television today has many differences to the content of the past, there is still one thing in common:

The naked human body with all of its genitalia, boobies, and butts remain absent from the nationally broadcasted screen. That is, however, unless said naked body is dead and mutilated to the point of abject horror (or just mutilated, you can take your pick).

Case in point: the recent season two premiere of NBC’s Hannibal. The episode featured waterlogged, rotting, yet partially preserved corpses of both men and women. The bodies here are naked and shown to the audience. So grotesque are these bodies that it is difficult to discern between man and woman. The episode then takes this a step further in its conclusion and shows the audience a grain silo full of naked preserved dead people, arranged so perfectly into an artistic spiral. What’s better is that each corpse was intricately placed so as to cover up their preserved sexy parts. The difference between these guys and the waterlogged ones in the beginning being that these guys might as well have been napping for all we know, and are therefore liable to cause some sort of arousal… If you’re into that.  You might be. I don’t know you…

Hannibal’s first season also has its moments, such as the naked girl impaled on antlers, a totem pole crafted entirely of scantily clad corpses, and a couple with their backs flayed into angel wings without pants on. However, while Hannibal did spark me to have this discussion, this isn’t the first time the abject has been turned all sorts of sexy on TV. Most of the crime procedurals—CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds, etc.—are rife with sexualized macabre, and even The Walking Dead has shown us zombies that might as well have been high end fashion models shuffling down the runway.

My point here is that while we’ve come a long way in terms of what is accepted on television, I can’t help but wonder: where have we gone to when abject horror has become something which blends together both the erotic and the macabre, this questionable horror which demands your gaze instead of begging you to look away? Is this the doing of studio executives and politicians? Maybe it’s both? Or maybe our own culture itself has just facilitated it? Where did this come from, and is this all actually okay? Am I okay?

Hell if I know.


Yet, Bryan Fuller, the creator and showrunner of Hannibal, stated during a panel at last year’s comic-con that he fought over some “butt cracks” with studio executives in the episode with the flayed angel wings mentioned earlier. The studio executives wouldn’t let him show the raw, naked, butts, so they came to a consensus that let both parties win. Fuller could show the butt cracks in all their sexy glory, as long as he covered them in blood. And that’s Hollywood for you.


Don’t believe me? Click here and Bryan Fuller will tell you the story himself.


You can watch Hannibal on Fridays at 10pm on NBC. We can sort out our feelings later.

Dat ass?

Dat ass?


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Matt Walsh is a writer for Writtalin. Matt lives in Los Angeles and is currently working his way up through the Hollywood machine. He fancies himself a writer, filmmaker, funnyman, and irresistible human being. Most people he knows fancy him only three of those things. That's okay with him.