Posted by: Garret | September 27, 2014

No Guts, No Glory: The Rise of Gross-Out TV

The Strain's "banned" billboard, courtesy of 20th Century Fox & Rolling Stone

The Strain’s “banned” billboard, courtesy of 20th Century Fox & Rolling Stone

We are definitively seeing this merger between B-movie aesthetics and High Definition spectacle on Television or Televisual Programming and it communicates a number of implications regarding the medium being utilized, the industry-in-transition, the shifting economics, improving technologies, audience taste, and perhaps most unnerving the allegorical ramifications such content suggests. In a handful of works, I’ve teased the introduction of the “Rotten Aesthetic” as a newfound genre convention explicitly endorsed in/by the television industry. Indeed, like all good genre, this aesthetic comprises fluent mixtures of ‘imitation and innovation’ (Cawelti, 1977, Kaminsky, 1985, Alman, 1999, & Phillips, 2005). As I’ve been drawing research on this specific phenomenon within the contemporary mediascape since 2010, the practice represents not a flighty wave but a legitimate narrative entanglement between the TV Studies tiers of Industry-Audience-Content-Context. I look forward to sharing more depth and detail at the National Communication Association 100th Annual Convention in Chicago, November 20-23, 2014 (specifically the morning of the 23rd). In the meantime, we’ll all keep watching and waiting for the next shock to set-in and/or wear off.


This post originally appeared on Rolling Stone.

Maybe you started to notice it last March, when AMC’s The Walking Dead featured a zombie’s head gets bashed in repeatedly by the butt of a machine gun. Perhaps it was during a key episode of Game of Thrones when the Red Viper, Oberyn Martell, unwisely lets his guard down in a fight — and the result is something that resembles a ripe melon given the Gallagher treatment. Or it could have been the moment on FX’s pandemic procedural-cum-horror show The Strain when an airport worker is drained of blood and skull-pummeled until there’s nothing left but a red blotch of punctuation on the floor.

And those are just the heads.

On television shows built for old-fashioned scares (NBC’s Hannibal, Showtime’s Penny Dreadful) and on those aiming for a little more prestige (Steven Soderbergh’s new Cinemax series The Knick, HBO’s

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