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Taboo

Global subcultures offer eye-opening edutainment.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series examines different cultural practices around the world. It challenges people's perceptions of what "normal" means. People from various racial, ethnic, and other groups from all over the globe are featured (including some who are transgendered).

Violence

Some of the rituals shown appear violent by traditional Western standards, including beating young men as a rite of passage into adulthood, hanging people by the skin with hooks, and mutilating young girls' breasts.

Sex

Some episodes discuss sexuality (including sexual maturity and transgender issues) and courting practices. But these discussions are within the context of understanding a specific culture or ritual and aren't salacious in nature. One episode shows young girls' breasts being mutilated to prevent promiscuity.

Language
Not applicable
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Occasional drinking and smoking visible in the background, but it's not central to the show.

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.

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?

QUALITY

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."

Families can talk 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?

TV details

Premiere date:September 30, 2002
Cast:David McCallum
Network:National Geographic Channel
Genre:Reality TV
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD

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Adult Written byHeroneSilverton April 9, 2008

Very very interesting show

This show, though filled with all kinds of graphic stuff, is very interesting. I have learned a lot of things through it. It can often be bloody and graphic, so I would say it's iffy to 13+
Parent Written byPlague February 26, 2010

Taboo

Fantastic show. The viewer can learn a lot about different cultures all around the world. Wheather its tattoos, nudity, food, sex, or anything else, Taboo informs well and teaches a lot.
What other families should know
Great messages
Kid, 12 years old July 15, 2010
This is definitely one of my favorite TV Shows. It is very interesting and well done. Sometimes it gets a little creepy and sometimes boring but overall it is just plain amazing!!!