Is America Ready for Animated Sex?
VANCOUVER, CANADA – If you grew up watching Wile E. Coyote being blown up, or Tom beat up Jerry, you’ll notice that there has been a long history of violent animation – much of it aimed at young children. Older viewers can’t escape the never-ending supply of sex and violence in live-action shows like Game of Thrones, Versailles, or Girls.
“When you combine the two and make adult-themed cartoons people suddenly seem to question it. Did that guy just get stabbed? Whoa, is that animated sex? It’s crazy,”
says Hernan Zajec partner at Last Studio Standing and the creator of a new TV show Machetes.
“From South Park to Archer to Family Guy, this is just a natural progression of what has been happening in animation for the last few decades,”
says Jonathan Kitzen partner and executive producer at Last Studio Standing.
“We have combined adult comedy with the sexy look of Archer and Japanese manga. “It’s a hybrid that makes sense. I wasn’t originally sold on the idea, but I realized there was more to the story than what first meets the eye. Machetes is a drama-mystery wrapped in a veneer of sex and impossible violence.”
When tested, the audience scores were high, and there was one overarching comment on all scorecards:
“Will anyone be able to see this? Isn’t this type of material banned?”
The results from test audiences revealed a split between viewers. Fans of manga loved the show while viewers who weren’t fans of the genre were put off by the very content that won over adult animation aficionados. This begs the question: Is there a split between what people want and what networks think they can show?
“After people stop laughing, they are likely to be confused and wonder: ‘Am I turned on by a cartoon and is that OK?’ “
explains Dr. Timothy Shary, a teen film researcher. Cartoons – it appears – can upend our senses and values, depending on our cultural scripts.
“If you think about it, 200 years ago, long before photos and movies, many paintings were considered offensive, yet that work which depicted sexuality and violence now adorns the walls of museums.”
“In recent times, we have tended to realign drawings and paintings with art aimed at children, such as cartoons, rather than at sophisticated adults, as was historically the case,”
adds Dr. Shary. Curiously, in countries such as Japan, the form has maintained its adult roots. Case in point: hyper-violent and sexual manga. A recent example is the film Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson, which performed better worldwide as an animated production versus a live-action one.
Machetes follow the enigmatic El Curador on his quest for truth, justice, and the Mexican way. El Curador confesses to a crime he never committed, so he can avenge his wife’s murder and kill the cartel boss who was locked up behind bars. Four years later, the prison has transformed him into the “MacGyver of death” and he can turn mundane household objects into lethal weapons.
Through the use of exaggeration and absurdist commentary, Machetes is a TV show that has an anti-violence message. Watch the clip here: vimeo.com/laststudiostanding. We’re not advocates of more violence on TV, but it’s interesting how people react to content that challenges their perceptions,” says Kitzen.