Watching HBO with your Parents

These HBO Go advertisements are both very funny and incredibly perceptive about the dynamics of TV watching and family togetherness.They also make me want to revisit an essay I wrote for Screen several years ago (it came out in 2012, but most of the ads I discussed were from 2010 or so) about the ways in which portable media platforms have been marketed to audiences as a means of promoting family harmony through individualized consumption.

All of the ads mock the discomfort that parents and children feel when watching provocative, mostly sexual, content, whether explicit sex on Lena Dunham’s Girls and references to homosexuality on Game of Thrones. By showing this discomfort, they remind viewers (especially teenagers and young adults living at home) of the benefits of watching these shows alone–on personal devices such as laptops, iPads, or even cell phones–rather than viewing them on the main TV in the home. If TV advertisements in the past promoted family harmony through shared viewing experiences, these advertisements seem to suggest a new family harmony through avoiding the shared discomfort of watching a scene from Game of Thrones with your mom in which two women make out.

They also serve as a not-so-subtle reminder that HBO the primary source of provocative TV content, producing the shows you want to watch, just not with your parents.

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