LOS ANGELES – "Game of Thrones" viewers have seen burned toddlers hanging on the walls of Winterfell, a brother seemingly rape his sister in the tomb of their dead son, daughters raped and abused by rebel members of the Night’s Watch, a pregnant woman fatally stabbed in the uterus, an incestuous royal affair caught by a minor who is then tossed from a tower, a death by beheading, a male brutally tortured before having his penis chopped off while another is poisoned and chokes to death – blood pouring from his eyes and ears – as others watch on.
That’s just a small slice of the wildly popular “Game of Thrones” on HBO. It’s a show where extreme violence, murder, sex and all forms of repugnant behavior is the standard.
“’GOT’ is certainly pushing the envelope for violent and cruel content. The show is taking advantage of its pay cable pedigree and testing the boundaries of just how far a TV series can go in depicting wince-inducing moments,” L.A-based entertainment reporter Scott Huver told FOX411. “The visual depiction of violence on the show, sexual and otherwise, provokes a very visceral viewer response that can often be considered creatively genius.”
The blood and brutality, at a level rarely ever seen on the small screen, is clearly not turning audiences away. Despite some social media outcry that it’s all too offensive, particularly the back-to-back episodes of apparent rape scenes, American audiences just can’t seem to get enough of “Game of Thrones,” now in its fourth season. This past Sunday episode hit a record ratings high, drawing 7.2 million viewers at its 9pm start and 8.6 million for the night.
And according to experts, the show’s success is likely to set a television precedent when it comes to depicting disturbing scenes of sexual and physical brutality.
“Remember, what starts in pay cable moves to free cable and then to broadcast shows. ‘Game of Thrones’ is deliberately escalating its levels of violence and sex to outdo competitors. And that means the next shows will even be worse,” said Dan Gainor, VP of Business and Culture at the Media Research Center. “I love the concept of a fantasy world where dynasties clash for power. Yet every time I force myself to watch this show, it makes me sick. Is there any line ‘GOT’ won’t cross? What’s next, rape of children or necrophilia – both of which have been discussed on the show?”
And apparently the show's content can't all be attributed to the books written by George R.R Martin, on which the series is centered. In the recent episode entitled “Breaker of Chains,” which involved Jaime’s supposed rape of Cersi by the deceased body of their child, social media lit with arguments that the tone was distinctly different in the books, in which the sexual relations were consensual. The outcry was so much so that Martin released a statement indicating that the dynamic was indeed different in the television show, and that while it was intended to be disturbing it was not intended to be disturbing “for the wrong reasons.”
Additionally, in last week’s “Oathkeeper,” things strayed once again with what some critics are calling “gratuitous rape,” in which Craster’s daughters were sexually assaulted.
But according to pop culture expert Andrea Ruffalo, the excessive bloodshed which makes up “GOT” isn’t a turn-off due its fantasy genre and mythical setting, and the same such savagery and plot lines would perhaps not fare as well if other programs set in modern day or in the context of realism were to follow suit.
“’Games of Thrones’ is artfully balanced with top-notch storytelling, which can be taken further than some other types of media or genres. This show has more leeway,” she explained. “’Game of Thrones’ is a show where you can dream like a child, while still being pulled into adult themes that have relevance.”
However, only time will really tell if the agenda-pushing violence eventually backfires .
“Given its long-term format, ‘Game of Thrones’ may indeed rewrite the rules for hard R-style violence on TV,” added Huver. “Or it may be the sword that ultimately slits its own throat.”
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Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay