Amazon Prime Video & Original Content
** We applaud Amazon’s move in 2020 to finally implement parental control options for Prime Video. Learn about these much needed improvements and some of the remaining problems on our blog here. **
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 Video, 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. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos recently reported that Prime now has over 100 million subscribers. Unfortunately, Amazon often produces original programming portraying gratuitous nudity, graphic sexual acts, and even graphic depictions of sexual assault. Many of Amazon’s most popular and most heavily-advertised original shows are rated TV-MA (mature audiences only) frequently containing graphic sex scenes, nudity, and violence. Amazon contributes to a culture of toxic sexual pressure in the media industry by producing content that requires actors to do nude scenes.
Unfortunately, a sample survey of third-party reviews of Amazon Prime original content shows that 66% of it contains nudity, 82% of which is female, and 36% of the surveyed Amazon Prime original shows contain simulated sex.
In the age of #MeToo and the rising problems of male sexual entitlement to women’s bodies, producing such material is socially irresponsible.
We are calling on Amazon Studios to improve its parental controls so that they are more easily visible and accessible for parents and to consider policies to produce less sexually objectifying content.
While streaming can often provide hours of quality family entertainment, a recent analysis by NCOSE’s team of 115 third-party reviews by Common Sense Media of TV shows exclusively owned by Amazon indicated that Amazon Studios has several problems:
Extensive Objectification and Exploitation of Women in Original Content
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, according to third-party reviews, 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.
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 does not provide adequate content warnings. 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.
A sampling of Amazon Prime content that includes graphic sexual content:
- When Night Is Falling originally received an NC-17 rating for its graphic sex scenes
- Obsession (2015) has an unrated, sexually graphic version streaming on Amazon Prime
- Bound (2015) is on Amazon Prime and often described as softcore porn by reviewers
- The Handmaiden (2016) is on Amazon Prime and is unrated though the sex scenes would have required a NC-17 rating at minimum.
- The Case of Unfaithful Klara (2009)
- Come Undone (2010)
- Extase (2009)
Plans to Expand Graphic Sexual Content
In 2017, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos mandated a programming shift at Amazon Studios: Bring me “Game of Thrones.”
They have moved towards just that. Amazon increasingly inserts gratuitous scenes of nudity and sexual violence in their Amazon Original content (and has a long trend of recommending those pieces right next to kids’ content).
Amazon might also be gearing up to hypersexualize the fantasy world of one of the 20th century’s most popular books among children and adults alike—with over 150 million copies sold in more than 35 languages—J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy series, The Lord of the Rings.
Amazon Studios has issued casting calls for actors who “must be comfortable with nudity.” Furthermore, Amazon Studios has hired an “intimacy coordinator,” a job described by SAG-AFTRA as “an advocate, a liaison between actors and production … in regard to nudity and simulated sex.” On top of all that, Amazon Studios has also brought on a consulting producer, Bryan Cogman, who formerly served as writer for HBO’s Game of Thrones where he helped develop some of the most grotesque rape and incest scenes in the series.
More information here.