Culture

Why Is Incest All Over Prime Time?

From "Dexter" to "Game of Thrones," incest resonates -- not because a taboo has been broken, but because it endures.
Spoiler alert: If you're behind on "Dexter," or pretty much any popular HBO series, you might not want to keep reading.

After subverting the taboo of murder with “Dexter,” a series about a lovable serial killer, Showtime has set its sights on the last nearly universal prohibition — incest.

In the sixth season finale, which aired last night, Debra comes to terms with her amorous feelings toward Dexter, her non-blood brother. The cliffhanger ending: She goes to confess her feelings and happens upon Dexter murdering another serial killer.

Dismemberment, disembowelment? Eh, no big thing. But the idea of a woman falling in love with her brother, now that gets people talking.

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Incest is on the cultural radar in a big way. Again. Within the last month, a handful of popular TV shows – three of which run on the same network, HBO — have introduced incest plotlines: “Dexter,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Game of Thrones” and “Bored to Death.” What’s more, late last week, a video of a high school “incest prank,” in which student athletes were blindfolded and tricked into kissing their opposite-sex parent, went viral and was heaped with public opprobrium. Of course, incest is an age-old theme in literature, and real life, but why is it that these narratives seem to have cropped up right now?