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The Daily Beast: "TV Breaks the Incest Taboo"

HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Bored to Death and other TV shows have recently featured incest storylines or themes.

Over at The Daily Beast, you can read my latest feature, "TV Breaks the Incest Taboo," in which I examine this troubling trend in scripted programming.

In 1990, Twin Peaks gave the world a nightmare vision into the seediness beneath the placid veneer of small-town America. But while one of the many puzzles embedded within Twin Peaks’ narrative was the identity of the murderer of teen queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), the true secret lurking at the heart of the mystery was the incest and abuse suffered by Laura at the hands of her father, Leland (Ray Wise) and the psychic damage this secret caused his wife, Sarah (Grace Zabriskie). It’s a reveal so horrific, so destructive, that the creators represented it in terms of the supernatural, having Leland possessed by a demonic entity in order to explain the cruelty and lack of humanity that such a crime would require.

“The act at the black heart of the murder colored the entire narrative,” Twin Peaks’ co-creator Mark Frost told The Daily Beast this week. “Incest is a primal, eternal taboo in civilized culture, and some of the greatest tragedies ever written proceed from it, or lead to it.”

In the 20-plus years since Twin Peaks first premiered, television’s approach to incest had changed little, with few shows daring to break that taboo. But, particularly in the last year, scripted television shows have reversed their disinclination to deal with incest. Premium cable is allowing creators to push boundaries with storylines that weren’t previously permissible. And with incest at the forefront of the national conversation—as classical-music troupe The 5 Browns come clean about the incest they suffered at the hands of their manager father—it is providing grist for the story engines of some of television’s most daring and controversial shows.

Continue reading at The Daily Beast...

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