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HBO's hit drama series Game of Thrones is known for several things: Its jaw-dropping plot twists, its sprawling cast of characters, its fantasy nerd-appeal, and — above all — its many (many) naked women. The show's relentless use of nudity has become so outlandish, says Anna Holmes at The Washington Post, that it "often overshadows or distracts from the actual story." While critics continue to extol the Emmy-winning drama, which chronicles a power struggle in a fantasy medieval kingdom, its soft-porn leanings can no longer be forgiven, Holmes argues. Is the show's nudity groaningly gratuitous?
Absolutely: The nudity is "completely unnecessary and throws me out of the story," says Corrina Lawson at Wired. It's too often used as a cheat to punch-up scenes in which dry chunks of backstory are delivered. The most offensive example: Petyr Baelish recalls his character's personal history while two prostitutes randomly pleasure each other in the background. George R. R. Martin's books are so rich that the TV adaptation needn't resort to such desperate titillation. Other cable series pack in sex and nudity but their eroticism feels more integral.
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Actually the nudity is thoughtful and necessary: The nudity is used strategically to shed light on characters' personalities in clever ways, says Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress. When, for example, the prostitute Ros flashes Theon, she shows "her comfort with her body as a commodity while also reinforcing Theon as kind of a randy idiot." Such scenes aren't gratuitous because they carry the sort of subtext that gives the female characters "personality and humanity they don't have in the novels."
At least be fair about it: It's bad enough that Game of Thrones' nudity is so cynical and expedient, says Holmes. At the very least, the show could be egalitarian about it. "There is something wearying and numbing about the series' relentless ogling at the female form." Does HBO honestly think Game of Thrones is only watched by heterosexual men? How about some male eye candy, too? By my count, only one male character has bared all — hardly fair.