A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that many of the unique cultural traditions examined in this documentary series -- including gender transformation, painful and often life-threatening initiation rituals, and physical mutilation -- will seem bizarre or extreme from a mainstream American point of view. Since the topics are approached from a thoughtful, educational perspective, mature teens should be able to handle the show, but its graphic imagery and complex subject matter could upset or disturb younger or more sensitive kids.
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What's the story?
National Geographic's provocative documentary series TABOO raises questions about what's socially acceptable among subcultures in the United States and around the world. Each episode presents groups who engage in norms, traditions, and rituals that fall outside of the mainstream -- from gender bending and eating rats to scarification (the art of creating scars on the body by piercing, tattooing, or burning) and body modification. These acts are often seen as strange, unacceptable, or forbidden by those who don't perform them.
Is it any good?
Taboo doesn't attempt to change people's minds about what's "right" or what makes something an acceptable social practice. Instead, the series focuses on exposing viewers to people and practices that they might never see otherwise.
While the series is quite educational, the seemingly bizarre and sometimes-grotesque imagery can create a carnival-like quality that's more entertaining than informative. But the shocking nature of the show's visual images also pushes viewers out of their comfort zone -- they're instrumental in challenging people to open their minds and consider the fact that every cultural group has their own definition of what's "normal."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how traditions differ in cultures around the world. When do these traditions cross the line and become abusive or unacceptable? How does your own background affect your perspective of other cultures' practices? Can you truly understand a group's traditions without being part of that group? What are the consequences of misunderstanding other cultures' traditions? Families can also discuss the use of graphic pictures and video footage in documentaries. Even though these images are showing real life, is it necessary to include shocking pictures? Why or why not?
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