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Was anyone else surprised by the "adult" content in Roots? [Archive] - DVD Talk Forum
 
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View Full Version : Was anyone else surprised by the "adult" content in Roots?


moocher
05-22-03, 04:57 PM
I was torn between the DVD and TV forum and decided it fit better here since my questions relate to the content on the DVD version. Mods may disagree...

Anyway, I've had the 25th Anniversary Roots DVD set for several months and finally took it out last night to watch it. I was rather surprised (actually shocked) by the amount of adult content in this 1970s "family" TV miniseries. I did not think the overt sexual themes and nudity that were prevalent in the first episodes were allowed on TV then (some of it even now).

How was this content allowed past the 1970s censors of the day?? Not that I mind. I mean I don't think the story could have been properly told without it. I'm just surprised because I have never seen as much nudity on network television even in today's more "open" environment. Why did NYPD Blue create such a stir when Roots had more sexual themes/nudity (even rape) and was created 20 years prior??

Another thing is that I have always heard and read about families gathered around the set to watch this series. Roots is NOT a "family" drama IMO. This story, although excellent and a "must" watch for adults, presents graphic images and deals with themes that are too mature for children and young teens(again IMO).

Any thoughts on this? I am particularly curious about the censorship issue. Does the DVD version contain a "non-edited for television director's cut" or something?? I saw nothing about this being anything other than the original version shown on network TV.

Tsar Chasm
05-22-03, 05:13 PM
I watched this series as a child with my mother in the room. There is nothing dirty about nudity and sex. You don't find slavery and whipping to be far more obscene? ;)

It was the perfect family mini-series and sparked a lot of conversation in its time.

fnordboy
05-22-03, 05:19 PM
Originally posted by Tsar Chasm
There is nothing dirty about nudity and sex. You don't find slavery and whipping to be far more obscene? ;)
My nudity and sex usually involves slavery and whipping :eyebrow:

Mutley Hyde
05-22-03, 05:27 PM
Used to be a time kids had bedtimes, and parents actually monitored their activities. Most of the kids who did end up getting to watch Roots, like me, did so with their parents.

Great set by the way. I was more surprised at how well the production held up. :up:

moocher
05-22-03, 05:48 PM
Originally posted by Tsar Chasm
I watched this series as a child with my mother in the room. There is nothing dirty about nudity and sex. You don't find slavery and whipping to be far more obscene? ;)

It was the perfect family mini-series and sparked a lot of conversation in its time.

Somehow I knew that I would basically be called a prude by some who skimmed over but did not read my post. I never said sex and/or nudity was "dirty" or "obscene". All I said was that I was surprised that it got by the censors. I said the story could not be effectively told without it and I DID NOT MIND that it was there. Don't put words in my mouth.

My comments about it not being a family drama and not suited for kids is more in reference to the sexual themes regarding rape. My opinion is that rape is a very mature subject. Your opinion might be different.

And, yes I do find the slavery/whipping to be obscene...but necessary just like the sexual themes and rape.

Buttmunker
05-22-03, 05:52 PM
I saw the series on TV not too long ago, and didn't see any sex (because I saw it on TV, most likely). What did I miss? Can you describe the scenes? Were the sex scenes between the Africans or was it more attuned to rape between owner and slave?

moocher
05-22-03, 06:06 PM
Originally posted by Buttmunker
I saw the series on TV not too long ago, and didn't see any sex (because I saw it on TV, most likely). What did I miss? Can you describe the scenes? Were the sex scenes between the Africans or was it more attuned to rape between owner and slave?

I was talking about the sexual themes. They never actually showed the sex - only nudity prior to implied sex and rape. The rape of Kizzie is particulary (and appropriately) disturbing with scenes afterward of the effects of the beating she took during the rape. There is only implied sex between slaves showing scenes leading up to the sex and discussions of it - not the act itself.

The nudity was not full frontal. However, there were numerous scenes of topless female slaves both of a benign and sexual (once again just prior to rape) nature.

Once again, I am not appalled or disturbed that they are there only how they got on the tube in the 1970s.

Pants
05-22-03, 06:09 PM
moocher- basicly they got around being cut by network censors the same way Saving Private Ryan and Schindlers List avoid it: The filmmakers argue the "social realism" in their films is essential to understanding the important issues in them. Really its just BS. Theres no reason why a mediocre film like Saving Private Ryan should get to be uncut while Shawshank or Caddyshack get cut to ribbons. All films are art. "Importance" is subjective. They should be shown in their entirety or not at all.

Nocturnaloner
05-22-03, 06:13 PM
I think it's all about context and presentation. If a similar amount of nudity had been presented in the context of a movie about a serial rapist, or a slasher film, I agree that in the 70s it might've been cut. Since it was Alex Haley's 'Roots', and viewed as an 'important' film, I think that censors were more likely to let it slip by. You can see that as cynical or appropriate, as you wish.

Iron_Giant
05-22-03, 06:14 PM
I have the DVD set of Roots and it is one of my best DVDs.

I would not change a thing.

Used the show as a way to teach my kids that slavery is bad and that each person should be respect no matter their skin color.

Pants
05-22-03, 06:21 PM
Originally posted by Iron_Giant
Used the show as a way to teach my kids that slavery is bad Good thing you taught them that important lesson or they might be tempted to buy someone

moocher
05-22-03, 06:38 PM
Originally posted by Iron_Giant
I have the DVD set of Roots and it is one of my best DVDs.

I would not change a thing.

Used the show as a way to teach my kids that slavery is bad and that each person should be respect no matter their skin color.

Actually I agree with you. It is an excellent program and I would not want it changed or edited either.

Where we part ways is the appropriateness of this material for young children. One of my reasons for buying it was to teach my children about the evils of slavery as well. However, I found the show too intense and graphic for my children (not due to the nudity -rolleyes-). I'll wait a few years before showing it to them.

I understand some may disagree. Let's not degenerate to name calling and parental lectures please :).

moocher
05-22-03, 09:25 PM
On TV censors and attitudes:

Even with the comments about context I still think the comparison to NYPD Blue is appropriate. When that show exposed a bare butt in the context of a sexual situation there was an uproar of sorts. This was in the mid-1990s.

Yet Roots back in 1977 showed a bare breasted woman just prior to a rape and another bare breasted woman being chased around a boat by men wanting to rape her.

How can this be explained?? Why was the nude scene in NYPD Blue such a "shocking event"??

Dimension X
05-23-03, 12:06 AM
Roots was able to show bare breasted women with little (if any) controversy in 1977 for the same inexplicable reason that National Geographic magazines with pictures of bare breasted women could be sold in stores that would never have sold Playboy. Whatever the reasoning, topless "native" women were acceptable, but not topless white women (as evidenced by another TV movie, Gauguin the Savage (1980), which, if I recall correctly, had topless Tahitian women in several scenes).

Vampyr
05-23-03, 12:49 AM
Originally posted by Dimension X
Roots was able to show bare breasted women with little (if any) controversy in 1977 for the same inexplicable reason that National Geographic magazines with pictures of bare breasted women could be sold in stores that would never have sold Playboy. Whatever the reasoning, topless "native" women were acceptable, but not topless white women (as evidenced by another TV movie, Gauguin the Savage (1980), which, if I recall correctly, had topless Tahitian women in several scenes).

You make an excellent point:thumbsup:

Ginwen
05-23-03, 02:32 AM
I guess I was probably 14 when this came out and I watched it with my family. Some of it was intense, but not too intense, considering the subject matter.

It lead me to read the book soon after.

whomod
05-23-03, 04:35 AM
How was this content allowed past the 1970s censors of the day?? Not that I mind. I mean I don't think the story could have been properly told without it. I'm just surprised because I have never seen as much nudity on network television even in today's more "open" environment.

This is where I disagree with you. People always assume that as time passes, people become more "open". I only need to look at most "R"rated films today as opposed to say, the early 80's. Back, then, having a gratuitous buxom bare breasted woman, especially in slasher films and fantasy sword & sorcery" B" films was almost prerequisite. Nowadys, that sort of nudity would probably get you a NC17.

The fact is that the O's are by far more conservative and repressed than the more sexually free '70's. Sometimes social mores become freer, sometimes they become more restrictive and back again. It's a constant tug of war.

That and the fact that they were non-caucasian women, as posted above...

Giantrobo
05-23-03, 05:48 AM
National Geographic Nudity is NOT all that exciting.

It's like "beating off" to the nudity in SCHINDLER'S LIST. :down:

MaudlinHarold
05-23-03, 12:19 PM
I remember watching a few parts of Roots in elementary school back in 1980 or so. It was very powerful. But one thing that sticks out in my brain was a bunch of eight year olds (guilty as charged:) ) giggling during the first part when you first see topless Africans. These scenes were not violent, but occurred early on. Nevertheless, even though we were kids and we giggled at the bare breasts, that passed and once the story began, such things were forgotten (until we were in the hallways spreading rumors how we got to see naked women in school!)

Thanks for reminding me about this set... it's on my wishlist and I never seem to have gotten around to it. One of a few stark reminders in film of what the medium can do to inform viewers.

JimRochester
05-23-03, 01:10 PM
Not much that I can add other than the fact that it did create some discussion in it's day but was allowed due to the many reasons already stated. Social relevance, national geographic relation, etc. I was wondering how the fact that much of it turned out to be made up, or only based on real events vs. true to life timeline would effect the popularity of it. But the brutality of the middle passage should be told no matter what.

letterbox
05-23-03, 03:28 PM
Having just watched People v Flynt s.e., I think the key was that the nudity and rape were not gratuitous, prurient, or titillating. Also, there was definitely a view discretion disclaimer run before each episode.

moocher
05-23-03, 04:09 PM
OK. The points about "National Geographic" are interesting. Is society saying that black breasts are not really nudity but white breasts are?? Somehow black breasts are not erotic but white breasts are? This is kind of ironic considering the subject of Roots.