by Diana Black
What has sex got to do with Television – everything and nothing, and I’m seriously not trying to be ‘clever’. No smut intended – but think about it – it’s all about the promise, tease, tension, reveal, fear, pay-off, raw intimacy, honesty or deception etc. etc.
Or is it? Is all this sex really about…sex? Let’s explore ‘the elephant’ in the bedroom. Isn’t TV sex, in essence, actually an efficient – and entertaining – way of presenting something deeper, as in power and manipulation?
Going further, we could contemplate whether that manipulation of power is: balanced or totally one-sided, violent – psychologically and/or physically, or heart-felt tender? Does this all sound familiar? And in no way am I referring to anyone’s ‘status’ regarding virginity.
If we look at every scene worth more than the paper it’s written on – we’ll find a good many of the aforementioned elements; regardless of whether it’s a love/sex scene or not. The manipulation of power makes for compelling viewing, period – within the scene itself and across the narrative arc.
Who cannot recall incidences of bullying – where we stood by for at least a little while, to watch how it would play out, before we of course intervened as best we could. Watching someone else ‘cop it’ resonates deeply in our primal consciousness as a survival lesson…. “There but by the grace of…. go I.”
And that in itself is a salient point – target the primal urges and drivers of the human psyche and embed them deeply within the screenplay/teleplay and it will resonate on an unconscious level.
They won’t know why they find the reading/viewing compelling, but they just do and sex or the promise of sexual fulfillment and/or empowerment over ‘the other’, are prime drivers of the human animal.
Take the current television program, Shades of Blue (NBC, 2016 –) … a crime drama now in its 2 nd season and a great vehicle with which to explore the issues of power and manipulation. For those aren\t up to speed on this series, the creator is Adi Hasak and the tone for the series was set early on by Director – Barry Levinson.
Harlee Santos (Jennifer Lopez) – a single mother and detective with the NYPD, at the bidding of her boss Lt. Wozniak, works to keep the peace between rival gangs and reduce the bloodletting on the street by accepting bribes. All would be well except for being caught red-handed by the FBI’s anti-corruption task force.
They waste no time in ‘hooking’ her for life – either work for them and expose the corruption within the precinct or languish in prison. In a long line of poor choices – each compounding on the other, she’s compelled to rat on ‘family’ – Wozniak and the rest of her team.
As if life isn’t tough enough, with her trying to keep a step ahead of an abusive lover and father of her daughter, Christina (Sarah Jeffrey). And just to ensure she doesn’t forget to question her motives, others do it for her – the rookie detective, Michael Loman (Dayo Okeniyi) – ‘the voice of morality’ in the series.
Wozniak, who’d make an excellent Mafia Don, says, “Every betrayal begins with trust.” And, you guessed it – that’s another ‘driver’ of the human animal – ‘loyalty to one’s own tribe’ at the exclusion of ‘the other’.
Back on the savanna, if you didn’t give your allegiance to your social group as payment for protection – you’d be eaten by the circling predators. Looks like things have changed little, doesn’t it?
So how many of these elements are in your spec teleplay?