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Appointment Viewing: Late Night Naughty Bits

Appointment viewing… is a regular column which features a Spinoff writer watching one or more episodes of a current show and attempting to decode its appeal. This week: Alex Casey watches The Naughty Bits, a brief history of censoring nasties in New Zealand. //

What’s it about?

The documentary series is a three-part journey through the history of NZ’s rudey nudey bits. Sort of. Funded by NZ on Air, the audience is invited to explore the changing nature of censorship over time in New Zealand. The Naughty Bits is a crash course lesson in blurred-out boobs, beeped-out swears, and how the public have dealt with them being on our screens throughout history. We also meet the mighty moral guardians behind the scenes, who have spent their lives saying “yay” or “nay” at the censorship office in Wellington.

The first episode focussed on the big S-E-X, tracing it’s censorship origins beyond television (gasp!) to early colonial New Zealand. Revealing that the moral policing of sex occurred as early as removing peens on Maori marae carvings, no sexy historical stone is left unturned. From aggressive looking penis rings (supposedly to stop wet dreams?) to pornographic books being banished from library shelves, it charts the evolution of attitudes towards sex in New Zealand from A-Z (or, S-X).

Who’s it for?

All New Zealand consumers of film and television. Especially if you have a penchant for swearing and butts, and want to know how much is too much on our telly screens.

What’s working?

It’s incredibly detailed historically, consciously taking time out to flesh out each social context (excuse the pun) surrounding the censorship in question and hearing from as many different perspectives as possible. I was very grateful to come away with some saucy knowledge about pre-colonial Maori, and the impacts of the British on their sexual expression. We didn’t cover that sort of stuff in fifth form NZ History.

Another aspect I adored was hearing lewd tales from the censors themselves. A great onscreen talent is former Chief Censor Bill Hastings who, as demonstrated in this interview with the show’s creator José Barbosa, is a wonderful talker. He shared one incredible anecdote about how him and his (all male) colleagues spent a whole day debating whether an act they had witnessed on screen was urination (rating: banned) or female ejaculation (rating: R18). Talk about getting better work stories.

What’s not?

Pretty much nothing. My only struggle was that, for a late-night slot (9.30-10.30pm), it’s pretty dense with historical information. This is alleviated greatly by the use of archival clips, frisky as graphics and a quick pace. But this is hardly a criticism of the show itself, I guess it can’t help that I’m slow and it got a late night time slot. Bloody censors.

Plus it’s available online, so us sleepyheads can get our Naughty Bits fill in the light of day.

Should I get amongst it?

I’ll censor myself here. S*** yeah. F*** yeah.

Watch The Naughty Bits Monday 9.30 on Prime, or watch the first episode here