Most of the shocking and taboo scenes in television history are from yesteryear. This is because times have certainly changed. It used to be considered shocking to show an interracial kiss on television. Saying the word pregnant was a big no-no and you better not even think about having a married couple share a bed. These days, the only scenes that shock people consistently include seeing something that used to be confined to our dirtiest thoughts. We’ve already covered once-taboo scenes that first broke TV’s barriers. Besides, so many of those things, like showing the family toilet, aren’t shocking to even the most innocent of small children these days. Where’s the excitement in discussing more now-tame examples like that? We want to shock you. We want to talk about the things that we’ve seen, relatively recently, that shocked us all. These are the most vile and daring scenes, the scenes that made even the most risqué of television audience members think to themselves, are they allowed to show that on TV?
There was a time when onscreen intimacy was relegated to the adult video store. Today, it’s all over and it’s graphic and intense. Each year, what’s allowed on screen is pushed into new grounds. Many of the scenes on this list are adult-themed, so if that scares you or offends you, you can run now. Close your eyes and press the power button on your computer. If you’re a real Rockstar, you might think that much of this stuff is just normal at-home activity. For everyone else, the people or characters involved in these scenes make them taboo and/or shocking. It might not be right that some of these things are considered taboo, but they are. Still, most of the scenes included here are so dark and off-putting that everyone will instantly understand why they’re here. These are the scenes that have had the most people talking. Here are the 15 Most Shocking and Taboo Scenes In Television History.
15. Taboo – Nightly Visits
When a show is called Taboo, you have to expect to see some rather unnatural things. Well, the most unnatural to date took place in episode four of the show’s first season. It features the protagonist, Tom Hardy‘s character, Horace, performing some voodoo magic. Through this magic, he somehow allows himself to visit his half sister, Zilpha, while she sleeps. As Horace does his voodoo thing, we see his visions merging with those of Zilpha getting intimate with a masked man. We learn that the masked man is a kind of spectral visage of Horace. Later, when he speaks to Zilpha, he tells her, “You feel me, don’t you, when I break in? And I could come more often, but I spare you.” This is one thing that will never be anything but taboo in society, so we don’t expect this one to ever be less than shocking.
14. X-Files – “Home”
While many X-Files fans call “Home” one of the best episodes in the series’ run, it is one of the darkest and most shocking as well. Actually, it’s definitely the darkest and most shocking. The episode is centered around the Peacock family. A family who has been inbreeding for many years. When a baby corpse with severe birth defects is found, Mulder and Scully travel to Home, Pennsylvania to investigate. There, they discover that the Peacock men and their mother have been bringing new Peacocks into the family. When they finally find the mother, they see that she is a quadruple amputee that has been stowed away out of sight. It’s very disturbing to see and think about.
13. Seinfeld – “The Puerto Rican Day”
“The Puerto Rican Day” episode is one of Seinfeld’s final episodes to ever air, the second most popular episode to ever air and one that is the most taboo to ever air. In the episode, Kramer accidentally allows a Puerto Rican flag to catch fire. To put it out, he throws the flag on the ground and begins to stomp it. Predictably, Puerto Ricans everywhere were upset by this. The episode was subsequently pulled from airing and was withheld for several years. You can now catch the episode, but at the time, it was thought to be one of the most offensive scenes for a large section of the US population.
12. Girls – Money Shot
Lena Dunham‘s show, Girls, always strives to be forward and blunt about its subject matter. Many of the intimate scenes come across as crass and awkward, but they aren’t usually that crazy. For TV, yeah, they’re sometimes nuts. But for real life, maybe not so much. One scene, however, is shocking for both reality and television. It’s shocking for reality because of how awkward it is and how uncomfortable it makes us feel. It’s shocking for TV for how much they show and the intensity of the scene. The scene in question features Adam Driver’s character, Adam, and Natalia. They have a strange intimate encounter, but at the end of it, it gets stranger when Adam does his thing on Natalia’s chest. She’s shocked. We’re shocked. We’re wondering afterward if that was the first time we’ve ever seen something like that on television. Well, it was the first time it was shown for a TV drama. So, yeah. The scene caused quite a bit of controversy afterward. But because it was “necessary” for the story, they left it in.
11. Family Guy – “Partial Terms of Endearment”
Family Guy is another show that has never shied away from controversy. While “Partial Terms of Endearment” might be the episode we’re talking about today, we could have probably swapped this one out with a few others and the entry would be every bit as poignant. But, in the US, the issue of abortion has always been taboo, especially when treated lightly. In this episode, Lois becomes a surrogate mother for two hopeful parents that end up dying. After that, Lois and Peter must decide whether they should keep the child or not. Though Family Guy did present all sides of the argument and seemed educated on the matter, the show still has its humor. Because of this, the network banned the episode, fearful that it would scare off advertisers. It is available on DVD, but is not on the streaming services.
10. Ellen – “The Puppy Episode”
The two-part episode “The Puppy Episode” from Ellen is one of the most famous episodes of television because it featured the character of Ellen (and the real-life) coming-out to audiences. The network didn’t want to air the episode for fear of advertiser backlash, but in the weeks leading up to the announcement on the show, Ellen DeGeneres and the character, Ellen Morgan, kept dropping that they were gay, which put pressure on the network to allow it. The title of the episode, “the Puppy Episode,” is in reference to the fact that the network was frustrated with the lack of traditional sitcom love storylines in Ellen. When it was suggested that Ellen Morgan get a puppy to mix things up, they were apparently ecstatic. Ellen DeGeneres came out in real life two weeks before the episode aired, an episode that was one of the most popular in television history at the time.
9. Californication – Three-way
Californication was a show that really broadened people’s horizons about seeing matters of the bedroom on television. It was a central element in the show, so viewers were confronted with it in every episode. But, when it comes to new, shocking, and taboo, one scene takes the cake. It involved Hank and Charlie with a girl in bed. As the girl prepares to climax with Charlie’s head down low, Hank tries to get his attention, warning him to move by saying he just remembered why he stopped seeing this girl. Just then, the men’s girlfriends come through the door to surprise the guys. As the camera trains on Charlie’s face, he is hit with plenty of fluids. It’s something that you may never see on TV again.
8. South Park – “200,” “201,” and “Super Best Friends”
It’s not just the episodes titled “200,” “201,” and “Super Best Friends” that have generated controversy. So much of what South Park does makes people scream and get angry. That’s also why the show is so popular and beloved. Still, those three episodes, “200,” “201,” and “Super Best Friends,” may have generated the most controversy of all because of the mockery and cartoon depictions of the prophet Muhammad. This isn’t the first time that South Park has gone after Muhammad and radical Islam before, but these episodes got the most press. After making the latest episodes, the radical Muslim organization, Revolution Muslim, sent the creators death threats. There were calls for the creators to be killed by Allah and by followers. In the end, though, Comedy Central aired the episodes, pulled them from any streaming site, and censored it in other places.
7. True Blood – Bill And Lorena
True Blood is not a show for the fainthearted, but it was typically just rough and sexy. Any True Blood fan, however, knows that there is one scene in particular that takes this to an entirely different level and caused many people to cry foul. The scene involved Bill and Lorena in a very forceful bedroom scene. While it may not be ‘forced intimacy’ in the scene, it’s still very close to it. Bill is incredibly violent in the act and, before the end of it, turns Lorena’s vampire head all the way around, breaking her neck as he does. Now, she’s still enjoying herself and even says “I love you” with her head turned around 180 degrees. This is one hell of a disturbing image.
6. Game Of Thrones – Inappropriate Twins
Game of Thrones includes a lot of nudity, violence, and mature content. When all this is combined, however, that’s when most people start talking and complaining. ‘Forced intimacy’ is present in the show; often even. Many, if not all, of those scenes are rather disturbing. But the one that shocked the most people came from a character we didn’t expect it from, Jaime Lannister. After Jaime and Cersei’s son, Joffrey, had died, the siblings met next to the boy’s dead body. There, in a fit of rage, Jaime forced himself on Cersei. That’s several taboos in one.
5. The People v OJ Simpson – The Big Bad Word
Even though cable television channels like FX don’t necessarily have to play by the same rules as those from traditional networks, flagrant swear words are still avoided for the most part. Sure, you’ll catch the odd F word or something else that might catch your ear but nothing that would ever make advertisers think twice about who they’re supporting. Well, recently, when The People vs OJ Simpson was airing, viewers all heard something that hit their ears in a way that they all perked up. At the end of one of the episodes, prosecutor Marcia Clark said the MF word. That, friends, was the first time a television show, network, or cable used that word, at least as far as we can tell. They decided to allow it because it was the final line and one that really brought home the feelings of the scene. If you were near the screen, you definitely heard it because it’s something so rarely witnessed on TV.
4. Preacher – The Jesus Scene
The first season of Preacher was violent, but it never really pushed the envelope into daring territory, especially not like how it’s done in season two. Maybe not so surprisingly, the scene that has the most people up in arms is a scene that shows Jesus shortly before the Last Supper, engaging s*xually with a woman. The scene is not necessarily very graphic, if only because it’s shot using silhouettes. But displaying Jesus in that way had Christians feeling very defensive. Many lashed out angrily afterward, calling for boycotts, bans, charges, and arrests. None of those things happened. The show has done a lot of grotesque things, so if that type of thing shocks or offends you, Preacher is probably not your kind of show.
3. Sense8 – Christmas Special
The pans*xuality of Sense8 was a big part of that horribly boring show, but many viewers thought that there were a few too many s*xual scenes and not enough of a compelling show. The Christmas Special really brought this to a new place when it had lengthy ‘group fun’ with everyone sharing everyone. There were so many limbs and body parts that it was tough to keep track of who was who. If onscreen intimacy bothers you, this scene might have made you pass right out. But even for the Sense8 veterans, this scene was shocking. It’s not often on television–even on Netflix television–that you watch eight people engage with each other while in the buff. It was unusual, to say the least.
2. Sex and The City – Stray Fluids
S*x and the City reveled in discussing all things related to the bedroom. At times, there was nothing else that mattered in the show, so we weren’t really surprised about anything that we saw or heard. But, in the episode that the women watch a tantric massage demonstration, we were surprised. We were even disgusted a bit; so was Miranda when she was hit with flying fluids from the man in the demonstration. This, aside from a 1999 documentary, was the very first time that male fluids were shown on television. Obviously, the comedic setting helped to make the scene not so adult. It also helps that it wasn’t graphic since nothing, except for the fluids, were shown. But it was still new and very taboo at the time. Hell, it’s still new and rarely happens so you could still call it that.
1. American Gods – The Jinn
The lovemaking scene between Salim and the Jinn in American Gods has been talked about a lot. There is the talk about how we so rarely see a gay male couple in a scene like that on TV. There is the fact that they are both Middle Eastern, making the scene even rarer. There is the graphic nature of the scene, which might be one of the most detailed in TV history. All of those things were shocking. But for us, the fiery climax in the scene was the part that took us aback. That’s something that we’ve definitely never seen before, and we know you haven’t either because it’s just never happened.
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