We Saw Your Birthday Suit: Nudity on Film

Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in “The Sessions” (2012)

In the past week alone, Seth MacFarlane’s song, “We Saw Your Boobs” has garnered as much praise as it has criticism. It’s even spawned a parody by comedian/YouTuber Kevin Gisi, who essentially made a parody of a parody, with the male counterpart to the aforementioned song entitled, “We Saw Your Junk.”

All these witty songs about nudity in film brings to light some interesting questions and observations that audiences may not have had before. It might actually bring about a valid discussion about the impact nudity in film has on the viewer. Questions about one’s self-image; Realizations that, for the most part, all of our equipment pretty much looks the same on all of us, and it doesn’t matter if we’re famous or not. It’s all the same.

Why are we so afraid of a little skin? We’re born naked, after all. I think it comes down to societal norms and what’s acceptable within those constructs. It goes back to my post on sex scenes. The difference? One of them is extremely real and one of them is not. To be naked on film (even on stage nowadays) means that you are vulnerable as an actor. You literally put yourself out there for the world to see. It can be frightening. You open yourself up to a whole new set of criticisms that don’t have to do with your work as an actor. The criticism may have to do with YOU and all your “junk.” Ouch. But, for those who take the plunge and bare all on screen, do we really notice?

Apparently, someone does. According to Seth MacFarlane’s song, we saw Kate Winslet’s boobs nearly seven times. And, if you factor in the counter-song, “We Saw Your Junk,” Kevin Gisi told Today.com, “For that particular joke premise, if it didn’t offend, it wouldn’t have gotten laughs in the first place. I abhor the objectification of anyone — but I don’t think Seth actively objectified, rather he identified the objectification in the film industry. But I can certainly understand why being so casual about it would make many people feel uncomfortable. My video was just to point out that whether Seth’s song was taken as crass and immature, or as insightful social commentary — there’s no shortage of men who’ve done the very same thing as the women he mentioned.” Exactly. I think the fact that men weren’t factored into the equation at all ruffled more than a few feathers. MacFarlane’s song only centers on women who’ve been naked on film, and not men. For the most part, we tend to notice (and criticize) an actress who is naked, rather than a man. Maybe it has something do with the fact that they can walk around in public without a shirt on and not get arrested; but men seem to have it a lot easier, especially when it comes to exposing themselves on film.

Nudity is part of the human experience. We see ourselves and each other naked during the most intimate moments of our lives. As audience members, we are privy to the intimate moments of character’s lives. If an actor’s job is to be as truthful as they can, that would include nudity, right? You wouldn’t believe it were truthful  if someone took a shower with their clothes on, (unless it’s blatantly part of the script.)  What is truthful, is seeing someone at the end of a long day taking a shower…naked (and maybe crying for dramatic effect.) What is truthful, however, is not always what’s acceptable. We’d rather skirt around the issue of having nudity and just imply it, than actually see it, because we’d be seeing someone’s private parts. If we all have the same parts, they’re no longer private. We know what male and female body parts look like. We learn it in science or health class when we’re in school. So WHY are we so shocked when we see it on screen? Well, we just saw someone tell the truth. And, to be quite honest, it scares the shit out of us when people tell the truth, because sometimes, we’d rather not hear (or see) it. Nonetheless, it’s still truth. It’s still valid. And if it’s part of the story, it’s needed.

There is something to be said about the vulnerability that goes into being naked onscreen. Audiences may not realize just what goes into doing those nude scenes. Like love scenes, often while being a part of them, nudity on film is being witnessed by countless crew members, fellow cast mates and the audience once filming ends. There is nothing private about it. There is nothing sacred about it. It’s part of the bigger picture.

What makes us so susceptible to angry blog posts, or protests on the evening news? It’s because we’re naked. We’re naked. There’s no barrier between the actor and the viewer. They are as honest as they can be.  Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter himself, appeared onstage in Equus on Broadway–buck naked. Radcliffe, as a person and an actor, was threatened by young fans trying to raid the stage, so a physical barrier was created:

The Broadway theatre hosting Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe’s play Equus has been revamped to stop female fans of the young Brit from mobbing him onstage.

Radcliffe strips completely nude in Equus, and theatre bosses feared he would be distracted by, and at risk from, fans in stage-level seats.

So Broadhurst Theater designer John Napier has raised those seats by more than two metres, creating a barrier between the audience and Radcliffe.

Napier explains, “If you put Harry Potter on the stage with people directly in front of him, you’re likely to get a lot of screaming young girls, particularly when he takes his kit off. It was a very sensible decision for us to raise the audience up. There’s more of a barrier.”  (Sept. 6, 2008, WENN News)

The last thing people want is for someone’s safety to be in jeopardy because of a thing like nudity, yet it happened. When will we learn to accept it as a part of life and not mob stages because of it? When will we stop making songs chronicling the times an actor/actress was or wasn’t naked in their work? When will it be okay to just be in your birthday suit? Maybe we’ll have to move to a nudist colony to find out that answer. Or we could just see it for what it is: Truth.

Reward Rewind: Oscars 2013

Anne Hathaway showed too much nipple;  Jennifer Lawrence didn’t show any; And Oscar host Seth MacFarlane sang a song about it all. Oh, and Daniel Day-Lewis won. Surprise! <—We DID see Jennifer Lawrence trip on her way up to accepting the Best Actress award for her work in Silver Linings Playbook and the internet went crazy creating memes, gifs and bad jokes related to the Hunger Games.  Granted, if I was dressed like I was a bride-to-be on my wedding day, I’d probably trip too. Nonetheless, Jennifer Lawrence handled it with grace and humor like she always does even at the tender age of 22. She even gave a shout-out to fellow nominee Emmanuelle Riva who was celebrating her 86th birthday on Oscar night (making her as old as the Academy Awards themselves.)

Daniel Day-Lewis became the first actor EVER to win 3 Oscars in the Lead Actor category for his work in Lincoln. Even though no one was surprised, what I found the most heart-warming was the gracious, humorous and utterly breath-taking acceptance speech that DDL gave. Not surprising, given the fact that he’s won every major award for that role this season, he’s probably had a lot of practice and time to think about what he’d say on Oscar night.

Anne Hathaway took home an Oscar for Les Miserables which surprised no one as well. The fellow nominees in that category were actually looking directly at  Hathaway the entire time the category was being announced. Everybody knew. No one was shocked. Sally Field was really happy for Anne. Awesome. Did anyone notice that it was Captain von Trapp who presented the award to Fantine? Yep.

Christoph Waltz took home Oscar number two in 3 years,becoming one of the most bad-ass Oscar winners ever in my book, for his stellar work in Django Unchained.

What was most surprising of the night was the win for Best Director. The upset over that category was already brewing due to the fact that Argo director Ben Affleck was snubbed and everybody knew it. Ang Lee took home the statue for his CGI-heavy direction of Life of Pi, shocking everyone, even Lee himself.  Life of Pi, unbeknownst to me, has been the subject of quite a controversy.Since my own knowledge on the subject is foggy, you may read more about it here.

Argo won Best Picture (again, not really surprising, but really really awesome) and Ben Affleck finally got to get back up on the Oscar stage. What I find most surprising, and I’m going to play devil’s advocate at the moment, is that the First Lady, Michelle Obama, helped announce the winner for Best Picture. Ironic? I think not. Some have even been saying that Argo is a propaganda film and to be quite honest, I can see why. I can also see that had Argo NOT won, the First Lady would have been in quite an awkward position and it might have been a tad uncomfortable.

All in all, the awards were good. Not great. But good. There was a solid opening by Seth MacFarlane who ending up hosting quite a long show. For those of us on the east coast, it got over the next day, but it was still fun to watch. Something tells me he’s going to be getting a lot of calls from Broadway producers in these next few weeks due to his kick-ass singing voice.

Speaking of singing, Shirley Bassey brought down the house and showed us all what a real DIVA can sing like with the tribute to James Bond. Side note: Where were all the Bonds? I mean, they had the perfect opportunity to bring them out onto one stage.  Jennifer Hudson showed us just why she got an Oscar for her first film and Catherine Zeta-Jones tried to relive her glory days by re-creating and lip synching to “All That Jazz” from Chicago. Adele is reaching for EGOT status with her win for penning and adding her sweet vocals to the theme from Skyfall. All she needs now are the Tony and Emmy awards. Barbara Streisand matched the backdrop as she sang “The Way We Were” during the  In Memorium segment. Like Michael Buckley said in his recap, “The mirror has two face-lifts, and I like them both.” Truth. She can still sing and she looks good while doing it.

The most awkward moment of the night was when those who won awards in the minor categories seemed to come out of the wood-work. Literally. Did they shove them all in the coat room? What was with the booths to the sides? Were they not worthy enough to sit in the main area? Come on.

Kristin Chenoweth should also host the Oscars next year simply due to the fact that I wanted to hear her sing more. They truly save the best for last, and her send-off duet with Seth MacFarlane was the best.