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February 11, 2018

Amazon Prime Original Content: Cutting Corners of Corporate Decency

Amazon’s status as a sales and television giant is no secret, but what is less obvious is the complacency with which it treats video content and ratings.

Amazon Prime, a service offering unlimited television streaming to members, brings these shows directly into millions of American homes every day, many of them produced by Amazon itself. Where such streaming can often provide hours of quality family entertainment, a recent analysis by NCOSE’s team of 115 reviews of TV shows exclusively owned by Amazon showed that the company’s primary concern is neither producing large amounts of family-safe material nor ensuring that this media is accurately labeled. This article will detail two major findings of said analysis.

Extensive Nudity

Though Amazon original content shows employ diverse themes, span through time and space, and explore various genres, they seem to have one common denominator—nudity. Amazon is clearly no stranger to the economic benefits of nudity in media, which they have included in 66% of their original series. That’s right, two out of every three Amazon original series will at some point display nudity. What perhaps is most striking in this statistic is the blatant sexism that the referenced objectification follows. An astronomical 87% of cases incorporated female nudity, whereas male nudity was found in only 13%. This is a common trend in pornographic material, as objectification often disproportionately targets women.

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Methods: This data represents a sample of reviews from Common Sense Media and not a detailed analysis of all Amazon content. Shows that were reported to contain both male and female nudity are represented in both the ‘male’ and ‘female’ sections. Many entries reported nudity but did not specify gender, and these entries were not included.

Ambiguous Ratings

The second observation made clear in Amazon-exclusive content was the complacent ambiguity with which Amazon treats its rating system.

Amazon patterns ratings for their shows after the TV Organization TV Parental Guides to create four rating categories—General, Family, Teen, and Mature. With the use of these categories, however, comes a crucial omission. TV Organization TV Parental Guides include content labels to warn parents of what may be included in the show. Recall the little black box in the corner of the screen of TV shows—a rating is posted, and underneath letters indicating content (for example, D for suggestive dialogue, V for violence, and S for sexual situations).

Amazon has discarded these content warnings completely. Not only this, but they provide no information whatsoever on their site regarding reasons for ratings. This means that a TV-MA series could feature anything from “crude or indecent language” to “explicit sexual activity”, but which of these actually exists on the show remains a mystery.

In other words, a parent approving a series for a teenage child will have no indication as to whether said child will be exposed to “indecent language” or a full-blown sex scene complete with extensive nudity.

The only option for parents in such a predicament would be to visit separate sites such as Common Sense Media to read reviews written by other parents; however, much of Amazon’s exclusive content cannot be found on such sites.  Pilots, for example, are generally not—approximately three quarters of Amazon-exclusive pilots cannot be found on outside sites, leaving parents with absolutely no indication of content.  Amazon also features many exclusive acquisitions—series not produced by the company, but streamed exclusively by Amazon.  One third of these acquisitions are also not found on separate content sites.

Certainly Amazon has concrete guidelines upon which they base show ratings, and certainly they keep a record of rating justifications.  Amazon makes an effort to make product details such as supporting actors, original network, producers, and formatting information extremely accessible on rental pages; certainly it would not take so much time and money to include a short content warning (or even one or two letters of categorization as displayed on normal television ratings).

In each of these observations, it is clear that in an effort to make money, @Amazon has cut corners of corporate decency. #DirtyDozenList2018 Click To Tweet

Feasible changes to problems detailed above can make the online marketplace a better defender of human dignity as well as a promoter of safe family environments across the nation and the world.

Eliza Powell


Eliza Powell is a Public Health intern at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Eliza is a senior at Brigham Young University, where she is pursuing a degree in Public Health with an emphasis in Epidemiology and a minor in International Development. At BYU, Eliza works as a Writing Fellow. Previously, she has served as a volunteer missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Curitiba, Brazil and speaks fluent Portuguese. Outside of work, Eliza enjoys hiking, camping, distance running, and cheering for the Denver Broncos.

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