A few weeks ago, my partner's mom watched her first episode of “Mad Men.” She didn't care for the drama set in the 1960s and said it was too sexist. I said that was kind of the point.And years ago, when the racism of “Deadwood” turned away viewers, I wondered how anyone could stop watching a Western with a script that read like fouler-mouthed Shakespeare.Then it hit me: There's a line between a show that thematically expresses the parts of ourselves we'd prefer not to see and a show that celebrates those monsters.When Oscar Wilde wrote “A Picture of Dorian Gray,” his intent wasn't to glorify the title character's ability to get away with infidelity and hard partying. The audience understands. How often do you hear a modern reader gasp at the sexism and lasciviousness of Dorian?Conversely, Stieg Larssen's “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” widely read and often called a feminist work, revels in rape and female subjugation, almost to a pornographic point. There's a gray area, no pun intended, but you can see the difference.But when television gets into the mix, reactions are far more immediate, far less temperate.When a woman in 2012 sees the female characters in “Game of Thrones” treated like cattle and sexual props, I can understand the revulsion and horror. And the need for at least two topless scenes of fornication per episode does seem a bit gratuitous. But to dismiss the program as soft-core pornography is to discount the terrific writing, outstanding acting and all the lessons of virtue, perseverance, growth, loyalty and valor. You have to let the artist make art, not confine him or her to pleasing your idea of how the world should be.If anything, those scenes and characters you find disgusting should remind you of an America we largely have escaped: where white men receive preferential treatment by both law and society. They also should remind you we have a long way to go: Women continue to be sexually abused. Minorities continue to be treated as “others.” The truth is TV programming isn't descending into darkness and depravity, it's the evolution of the art form. We wouldn't want painters sticking to the idyllic and pristine. We wouldn't want authors writing strictly children's books. And we wouldn't want every singer belting out nursery rhymes, though most of today's pop music has the rough equivalent in depth and complexity.In the past, Westerns were too sanitary and lacked grit. Period dramas were too polite and overlooked the rampant alcoholism, cheating and social flaws of their respective eras.And don't get me started on anything involving swords and horses before the 1990s. The princes were just a bit too princely, the peasants a little too clean.So yes, perhaps watching “Rome” with your children is a bad idea. And watching “The Tudors” with your parents could make things a little squirmy. But TV dramas have never been better, and I accept them, booze, breasts, beatings and all.