Television Taboo: Spartacus (TV Series)

Posted: July 7, 2013 in Taboo in the News
Tags: , , , , , , ,

In the recent success by HBO’s Game of Thrones television series some similar shows have fallen into the shadows. Starz’s Spartacus is one of those television shows that not many have talked about but perhaps more should’ve. The series, which lasted for four seasons and concluded in April, follows the life of Spartacus, a Thracian slave forced into the Roman arena where he must serve as a gladiator. As Spartacus is a true historical figure that led a slave revolt against the Roman Empire, the series goes on to detail those events in dramatic fashion.

Throughout the span of the show violence and sexuality are overtly put on display, owing most of its reasoning to the accurate portrayal of a Roman society. Spartacus, unlike most movies and shows, doesn’t at all blush at the sight of the naked human body. In fact, the show constantly exposes the male body as much as it does the female. Here, full-frontal male nudity is commonplace—something that in the film industry is still taboo although becoming more prevalent. In many ways, Spartacus functions as a pornography meets historical drama, but not so much porn that it overtakes the story.

In truth, Game of Thrones and Spartacus work on the same level for entertainment: violence, sex, and intrigue. Whereas Game of Thrones has the edge in dialogue, Spartacus takes the edge in plot. What makes Game of Thrones less interesting is its slow pacing and numerous characters. Sometimes show after show finishes with almost nothing new occurring. Spartacus, on the other hand, rolls along like a rock moving down the hillside. Each show has a destination, unlike Game of Thrones where each episode is really just a build up to the final show of the season. Game of Thrones is a good show, however it suffers in its constant feeling of stagnation. Every episode of Spartacus feels like it has beginning, middle, and end. In a Game of Thrones season a third of the episodes feel like beginnings, a third feels like the middle, and a third feels like endings, before the last episode makes it all a conclusion.

For those who like Game of Thrones, I recommend that you try watching Spartacus, and for those who don’t like Game of Thrones for some of the above reasons I recommend you try watching Spartacus, also. Sometimes the more taboo, less popular shows are the more important and entertaining ones.

Taboo Offerings: 1) live action anime-like violence 2) sexuality 3) genre breaking: soft-core pornography/historical drama

Watch the trailer for season 3 below.

  1. I can’t say I entirely agree about Game of Thrones, but I think you’re right about Spartacus being under-rated. The script’s occasionally a bit wobbly, but there’s a good tense plot hidden beneath the nudity and violence, and its use of sex and violence is usually purposeful in demonstrating character or moving events on, rather than just gratuitous.

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