The Incest Taboo in Arrested Development, by Michael Matthews

The Incest Taboo is one of the universal, cross-cultural norms that humans have—sexual relations between direct family members is no bueno.  That includes parents with their children, siblings, and in many places, cousins as well.  This particular form of the incest taboo is a recurring theme in the TV show “Arrested Development”.  The young George Michael (GM) feels some attraction to his first cousin, Maeby (“maybe”), and struggles to come to terms with it throughout the show.  Matters are complicated, as Maeby shows interest in GM for varying reasons, only occasionally out of real interest.

The best and funniest example of how torn up George Michael gets about the incest taboo and his feelings for Maeby occurs in the third season.  The family the show centers on lives in a model home, which apparently is crudely built.  The grandfather in the family is under house arrest, but is hiding underneath the house (the house is built on sinkholes) handcuffed to some utility piping.  George Michael and Maeby are in the living room talking, Maeby on the couch and GM standing near her.  They are having a bit of a moment when the floor beneath them sinks a few feet, causing GM to fall onto the couch, basically into Maeby’s arms.  They kiss, but their uncle walks in the room, and with a shocked expression on his face, says “Dad’ll be crushed!”, and then bolts from the room.  George Michael calls after him and says “You don’t have to tell him!”  But their uncle actually went outside to get underneath the house and make sure his dad (the grandpa) wasn’t literally crushed by the sinking house.  Later in the show it’s revealed that they aren’t actually cousins—Maeby was adopted.

But George Michael is conflicted throughout the show’s run, because he feels attracted to his cousin, but knows that it’s wrong to feel that way—it violates a universal, cross-cultural norm.

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