Sexposition – cinema aesthetic or manipulation of the audience?
Sexposition, not to be confused with sex position, is an art in cinema that involves narrating the history of a character (background information) against a backdrop of sex or nudity. In short it is using sex for exposition, hence the portmanteau SEXPOSITION.
This term was coined by US blogger and critic Myles McNutt in reference to the critically acclaimed fantasy series Game of Thrones (GOT). Premiered in 2011, GOT blends the political tug of wars of the seven noble families with explicit sexual content in a rich plot where you either win or you die. However, for a sexual scene to qualify as sexposition, it has to contain the element of narration as the major activity with sex or nudity on the background as a minor mise en scene. According to the Guardian UK (2012), sexposition has always been there looming in the background in shows like The Sopranos, vampire show True Blood and Deadwood. However, it is its conspicuous use in Weiss and Benioff’s Game of Thrones that caught the attention of critics and made the word a cultural meme.
This technique is used to arrest the attention of the audience and thus manipulate them to remain glued to the screen. Audiences have little patience when it comes to what they watch, and boring scenes even in good shows will only make them change to other channels. Or worse, switch off the TV set completely. For advertising purposes, audience ratings are important for any TV show as this ensures profit for the TV station. To escape cancellations by their host stations, TV show creators have to come up with ingenious techniques to keep ratings up.
And what better way to use humans’ greatest weakness: SEX. Humans by nature are sexual beings. Sex grabs the attention and maintains it. And the media, in its role to influence has built upon this reality under the dogma that sex sells. Traditionally an advertising adage, ‘the sex sells’ is slowly gaining prominence in mainstream media and programming. Use of sexposition openly exploits and manipulates the sexual side of human nature as TV shows demand attention. Information about a character’s history, either through monologue or dialogue sounds like crap to the ever impatient audience, spicing such scenes with sex and nudity in the background will keep the audience addicted and skyrocket ratings.
Some critics have been rather reluctant to applaud sexposition. James Poniewozik, an American critic says excessive use of sexposition insults the intelligence of the audience. By using this technique, show creators are of the idea that audiences have to be lured and somewhat aroused by sex or nudity in order to pay attention.
Manipulation or not, the aesthetics behind sexposition are working. Since its inception in 2010, Game of Thrones has become a successful series, both critically and financially. It is the most watched TV series of 2012 with the premier of the 2nd season to its third episode hitting 6.3 million viewers according to EW. The show has garnered 26 Emmy nominations in 3 years, according to emmys.com, 2 Golden Globe nominations among other notable nominations and awards. It has also turned little known British actors into household names. Going by this alone, the art of sexposition used in the show was a major boost, drawing audiences and ever keeping ratings and reviews high. Internationally, GOT has been a hit even in Kenya. As I am writing this, a student in Moi University is downloading the latest episode while another one is engrossed in the constant outbursts of the mad child king Joffrey Baratheon as he rules the Iron Throne with an iron fist.
Game of Thrones creators Benioff and Weiss have previously stated that the use of sex and nudity in the show represent the pervert side of the audience. Although in employing such technique, a question lingers: who is the pervert? Is it the audience that consumes the content or the media that produces the content?
Posted on June 1, 2013, in Film/TV and tagged Benioff, critics, game of thrones, GOT, James Poniewozik, Joffrey Baratheon, manipulate, media, sex, sexposition, Weiss. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.