A&E Touts ‘Bates Motel’ Ratings, Ignores Critics of Violence

The Media Research Center’s Culture and Media Institute, along with the Parent’s Television Council, slammed A&E this week for its gruesome new show “Bates Motel,” which premiered this past Monday. The very first episode contained a graphic rape scene and implied incest. And A&E’s rating board thinks this is appropriate and healthy for 14-year-olds to watch.

The PTC has condemned “Bates Motel” for its sympathetic portrayal of a psychopath and its graphic violence in a show rated safe for kids to watch. CMI also wrote about the violence and attempted to get a statement from the network defending the TV-14 rating. A&E not respond, perhaps too busy preparing a press release in which network President Bob DeBitetto boasted of the 4.6 million viewers the premiere received and applauded it as, “the very best of quality storytelling” while being “edgy and provocative.” It’s disturbing to find out that obscene rape scenes are “quality” entertainment and cool and “edgy” to A&E. 

As CMI previously reported, executive producer Kerry Ehrin actually justified the graphic brutality of the rape scene as somehow being pro-women, saying: “We didn't want to gloss over it, and be, like, oh, and she gets raped.” 

Yes, that’s a great idea. Like anything else, show rape enough times and viewers become desensitized to it. That should be great for women. 

The “Bates Motel” premier is just another incident in an ongoing trend on primetime TV.  The Parent’s Television Council, (which was once a division of the Media Research Center but now operates independently,) monitors the graphic nature of television programs rated as suitable for children. In 2009, the PTC did a study that found a 120 percent increase of violent attacks against women and teenage girls shown on primetime television. In January, the PTC did a subsequent study showing that nearly half of primetime television depicted violence, while 1/3 contained gun violence. CMI counted 65 violent scenes and 185 victims of violence shown in the top five box office movies the first week of January.

Radar Online talked with CMI’s Dan Gainor, who questioned A&E’s decision to label the show as TV-14: “A woman is stabbed, handcuffed to a table, beaten and raped. She stabs her rapist eight separate times and kills him. And that’s on a backdrop of implied incest. Yet A&E thinks that’s TV-14?” 

“The rape scene was among the most graphic I've ever seen,” PTC’s Dan Isett told CMI. The show was "profoundly disturbing" with "thematically heavy content," for a TV-14 rating, he said. Isett said that in glamorizing the twisted personalities of the lead characters, the show makes a future “serial killer and wacko mother appear appealing.”

Isett also commented on how the show was given a lower rating by A&E to avoid being called an "adult" show, while noting how "Bates Motel" was heavily advertised during family friendly shows, such as “Duck Dynasty.” 

A&E’s official message board also hosted multiple complaints over the graphic nature of the episode, particularly attached to a TV-14 rating, shown during primetime hours.

The PTC will be sending a letter to A&E next week asking them to change the rating to the appropriate level. CMI will follow up on any response from A&E.

Kristine Marsh
Kristine Marsh
Kristine Marsh is a staff writer/analyst for the Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute.