One of our favorite TV series, Taboo, explores the limits of human experience, and is thus often rife with scenes that push one’s boundaries — and that make some viewers want to turn away. Yet for those who can stand them, these segments can also be some of the most rewarding parts of the series, as they depict people who deliberately dance along the edge of what their bodies or minds can physically or mentally withstand. Pain and disgust are two of those limits, and we’ve found a few scenes that will test both your viewing endurance and your stomach’s tolerance.
5) What: Skin Branding | Where: Episode Signs of Identity
Branding is a process not unknown to many people in the body modification scene, and you may even know a friend who has a brand. But viewing the process up close and personal is quite a different experience: Not only does this episode allow you to see and hear the sizzle of burning skin in extreme detail, but you can also note the reactions of participants to the smell of their own toasting flesh.
4) What: Extreme Swallowing | Where: Episode Initiation Rituals
Members of a Papua, New Guinea tribe are shown performing a ritual in which they shove pieces of cane fiber down their esophagi and into their stomachs. It causes them to gag, vomit, and spit blood — and it’s an act that has led to the deaths of many initiates. It’s hard to watch these men tough it out, and although their methods seem strange to Western eyes, one has to admit that their endurance is nothing short of admirable.
3) What: Eating Badger Casserole | Where: Episode Misfits
Cornwall resident Arthur Boyd is a connoisseur of roadkill. “One thing about picking up roadkill,” he dryly notes, “is that you never know what your next treat is going to be. You’re on a journey and see a lump beside the road: What is it? It’s always a surprise.” In this episode, he finds a mangled, decomposing badger on the side of a local highway, and eagerly collects it for his dinner. In Arthur’s words: “The fact that it’s green and beginning to look a bit rotten doesn’t mean it’s out of the question for eating it.” Watching him gut the corpse is fairly graphic, and the animal’s rancid state makes you wrinkle your nose as if watching smellovision.
2) What: Handling Corpses | Where: Episode Touching Death
Right at the start of this episode you know exactly what you’re in for as two men jam their hands into an open coffin filled with necrotic human remains, which they lift out in ragged, moldering chunks. Immediate gagging is not an inappropriate reaction. Graphic scenes of autopsies and accident scenes follow in this death march of an episode, a veritable festival of carnality and mortality.
1) What: Removing a Filthy Toilet | Where: Episode Nasty Jobs
Pistol Pete is stoked. He’s a house cleaner who specializes in properties for which “dirty” is an inadequate adjective. Along with his partner, Dirty Dave, they’ve been assigned to purge an outrageously grimy house of its appalling squalor. “I can’t wait to do this toilet,” says Pete of an utter obscenity of a commode. “I am disgusted by it on a personal, I think intrinsic biological I-know-this-is-bad-for-me level, but I really can’t wait to see how Dave is gonna take this.” In a scene out of nightmares, Dirty Dave leans over the befouled toilet seat to unscrew its bolts, and begins to uncontrollably gag over and over and over again, his face mere inches from a seat spattered with Lovecraftian filth likely ejected from the nether regions of certain madness-inducing hellspawn — while buddy Pete satanically giggles. This episode is jammed with sensory horrors, from street-dentist tooth extractions in India, to men swimming in raw sewage, to bovine colon inspections. Don’t eat before this one.