Salem

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Salem TV Poster Image
Sex, violence, and witchcraft make for tantalizing drama.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show takes artistic liberties with truths of Puritan life and 17th-century historical figures, but it does so to enhance the show's drama. The overriding message reminds viewers that looks can be deceiving and that hysteria can spell disaster for otherwise level-headed citizens who fall victim to the panic. The story makes bold statements about the viability of supernatural powers, so the mystery isn't in whether witchcraft existed in Salem in the late 1600s, but rather in who was behind it and why. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

John Alden proves himself courageous and undaunted in his search for the truth and in his loyalty to his longtime love. Evildoers are sometimes difficult to distinguish because of the element of possession. It's sometimes tough to tell whether a character's actions are of their own accord or the byproduct of evil taking over their person. 

Violence

Gory, bloody scenes of corporal punishment congruent with the Puritan era. Offenders are put in stocks, whipped, and branded; others are hung or have their chests crushed with stones. Under possession, a teen thrashes her own body and bites off her finger. Creepy spirits and other supernatural beings roam the area, threatening and terrifying people. Guns and other weapons are prevalent, and some killing occurs.   

Sex

Bedroom scenes give the full effect of intercourse, showing nude adults engaged in the uncensored act. Genitalia and breasts are obscured, but everything else is visible. It's suggested there's a sexual element to a relationship between two women, with hints at masturbation and ties to witchcraft. Nudity is common even in scenes without a sexual element, but the most sensitive areas are still covered. 

Language

Sporadic use of "s--t," "hell," "pissed," "bastard," and the like. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Salem is an intense drama series set during the Salem witch trials of the late 17th century in the United States. The portrayals of spirit possession are very disturbing, causing a teen girl to contort, writhe in pain, and inflict harm on herself like biting off her own finger. Witchcraft practitioners are doused in blood for group rituals, and capital punishment is exacted by hanging and, in one case, crushing with stones. People are shot, whipped, and branded for various crimes. Sexuality is similarly explicit, showing intense bedroom encounters that obscure only genitalia and breasts, plus hints at masturbation and a link between sexuality and witchcraft. This is by no means a historical retelling of the events in Salem in the 1690s, but it does extrapolate from documented facts a compelling story for a mature audience.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 12 and 16 year old Written bymrsbbjr June 10, 2014

Turned on my TV early one evening...

...and thought HBO was on. There on the screen was a scene of a man behind a woman having intercourse. They were clothed, but it was obvious what was happenin... Continue reading
Adult Written bySteve4056 February 9, 2016
Kid, 10 years old May 24, 2014
Teen, 14 years old Written byRka0102 April 12, 2016

Surprisingly sexual

I was surprised when I was about 25 minutes into the very first episode when the scene changes to a full on sex scene, all nude except the genitals are not visi... Continue reading

What's the story?

SALEM opens with the exodus of the village's most eligible bachelor, John Alden (Shane West), for war, leaving his beloved Mary (Janet Montgomery) behind in the strict Puritan community. When he finally returns seven years later, he arrives to find Mary married to the town's merciless elder, George Sibley (Michael Mulheren), and Salem gripped by witchcraft hysteria, led by the duplicitous Cotton Mather (Seth Gabel). As accusations fly, powerful forces divert the public's attention from the true instigators and curse the lives of innocent bystanders. John and town outcast Isaac (Iddo Goldberg) search for answers to the mysterious happenings in and around the village, while Mary attempts to cloak her own involvement by casting aspersions on her neighbors.

Is it any good?

Salem is a scintillating series that takes a slightly different approach to dramatizing the well-known happenings in the famous Massachusetts town. Rather than dwelling on the plausibility of witchcraft in this time and place, the show runs on the proclamation that the supernatural definitely was at play and redirects the mystery to the unveiling of the guilty parties and their motivations. As viewers, you're privy to this information almost immediately, so the hook is in watching the characters piece it together.

Salem marks WGN's first play at delivering a competitive scripted drama series, and it performs fairly well in that regard. With intriguing characters and a dark, tense storyline that embraces elements of horror and sci-fi along with some historical facts, it's easy to get drawn into this highly produced show. Montgomery in particular entrances as the cunning Mary Sibley forced to make the impossible choice because of the impossible circumstances of the time and place. That said, its graphic violence and explicit sexuality make it unsuitable for most teens, so proceed with caution when it comes to sharing it with your own. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how explicit sexual content affects viewers. Are the sexual scenes necessary in this show? Do they suggest a certain tolerance of sexual freedom in our society? 

  • Did you find any of the violence in this show to be excessive? Is this kind of content more forgivable if it's meant to reflect the reality of the time and place? Is there potential fallout from witnessing violence in the media? 

  • This series explores the effects of hysteria on a community. Is it possible that a similar scenario could occur in modern times? How does our constant access to information help avoid this? Could it possibly contribute to it? 

TV details

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