Thursday, March 22, 2018

A modest question

I’ve been watching THE GOOD FIGHT on CBS All Access. (It’s even better than the GOOD WIFE … at least since Will was killed.) And since it’s not on a broadcast network, they’re able to get away with language and nudity they never could before. And it’s somewhat startling to hear a character you’ve watched for seven years suddenly say, “Fuck you!” (Startling and refreshing.)

This week’s episode featured a storyline where a young woman contestant on a BIG BROTHER-type show was drugged and had sex without her consent. As expected with the creative team headed by Robert & Michelle King, the story was handled very responsibly and very elegantly. The nudity was not overtly gratuitous. It wasn’t like CALIFORNICATION where women take off their clothes to read their mail.

But a young woman had to be topless for more than a few fleeting seconds and even completely naked although in a long shot and not full-frontal.

I’m sure the casting office has to declare that there will be partial nudity required in the initial breakdown. It’s not something they just spring on the actress during the audition, or worse, after she’s agreed to the part. But there must be times it’s very hard for an actress to decide whether the nude scene is worth it. THE GOOD FIGHT is a classy show. But what if some sleazy cable show demands it? Assuming you even consider it in the first place, are there personal boundaries? Example: CBS All Access and HBO yes, FX and Cinemax no.

An actress friend of mine said she loved going on auditions where being topless was required for a scene. “They’re just tits,” she used to say and it meant most of her competition for the part dropped out. She got more gigs as a result.

Other actress friends contend that especially now, with things staying on the internet forever, it makes no difference whether you’re doing it for a classy show or soft-core porn, the world can and WILL at some point see you. Your topless shot, although it occupied only five seconds of screen time, could be the wallpaper on the president’s computer.

So my question, in this era of #MeToo, social media, but jobs-are-hard-to-come-by, what is your position on partial nudity? Do you have boundaries? Has your position changed due to any social sea changes or financial pressures? And this is one time you’re welcome to post anonymously. Reminder: I moderate all comments so anything juvenile or inappropriate to a legitimate grown-up discussion will be deleted. But this question comes from me watching THE GOOD FIGHT episode and wondering, would I do that? It was a good part and the actress had lots to do including a couple of wonderful speeches. Would it have been worth it to me? I honestly don’t know.


ELS said...

I suspect that a nude scene - full or partial - is something that the unwashed masses are kinda ready for, if done in a stylish or classy manner. Getting up out of bed at night, or a side by side on a bed without a severely miscut sheet, or a doctor's office... I think it's not the nudity quite so much as the treatment of the story and the actress. Of course, I'm a male, and my acting has been limited to community theatre, so I lack the woman's point of view. And I'm sure there are far too many Beavis and Butthead types who simply goggle at the scene.

But on the whole, I'd like to think that for the right tale, in the hands of a classy director, it shouldn't be a problem.

Pete said...

"could be the wallpaper on the president’s computer." πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ You are so funny Ken, yes you are.

I for one, am never tired of your Trump jokes 😜

Cedricstudio said...

Ultimately the decision is up to each actor/actress but I am of the opinion that 99% of the time nude scenes are unnecessary and even harmful. Sex should be private, intimate, and special, not public and cheap. Plus, I think it goes against the spirit of #MeToo.

Anonymous said...


As an actor, I never did full nudity although I have played scenes in just briefs. I don't think I'd have been comfortable doing full nudity, but that's mostly a self-image issue; I'm a chunky guy.

As a writer, I tend to avoid writing too graphically. In my opinion, nudity is probably completely gratuitous 80% of the time. I don't have a problem with it when it is absolutely necessary; the problem I have is that it usually isn't necessary.

It's actually a deeper question for me. I believe that humans have a dual nature: animal and transcendently spiritual. Art feeds the latter, pornography the former--and pornography includes sex, violence, anything that feeds the animal. I strive to be an artist, not a pornographer. The late John Gardner's On Moral Fiction is a great book-length essay on the subject.


Jeff said...

I prefer that actors stay clothed. Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson prancing around nude? No thanks. Thank God they had more class than that. I can't help but wonder how an actresses family feels when her body is on display. I would cringe at the thought of seeing my daughter/granddaughter nude for entertainment's sake.

Anonymous said...

Having nudity shown or not should not matter to the storytelling - the artistic side.
Having nudity or not will matter to the commercial side of the business.
Some shows would not be renewed with sex appeal, nudity or not. Friends probably doesn't make the first year if the friends are ugly (I started to name ugly people, but thought better of it). Especially when your show is new and unknown, nudity might bring them in. "NYPD Blue" has a N,V,L rating and "Cop with Partner" has no warnings. And NYPD Blue has hot men and women in it. Guess which one you might try. (And DAMN! just Dennis Franz's ass - even the women didn't want to see that, they wanted Jimmy Smits. But it got you to watch.)
Cosby doesn't make it if the whole family can't watch. You might have wanted to see Cliff and Clair at the nude beach, but noone else did.

But no nudity shown doesn't mean no nudity. It's fine not to show it. It's not fine to act like it doesn't exist. Every TV character must have a fetish about having sex with the bra left on, and pulling the underwear to the side. 2 people just had sex. They are naked. And unless it was a one night stand, they shouldn't be worried about the person they just had sex with seeing them naked.
Put the camera behind them. Just show the faces. Drape his arm across her chest. Don't drag a comforter around on the filthy floor. Don't pull the covers up to your neck when it's 90 degrees out - only on her, he's naked to the waist. Just have the director (or DP or whomever is responsible) come up with a realistic view of a realistic scene.

Again, no nudity is fine. (As is nudity.) Just do it with camera angles and script devices (someone knocks on the door, etc), rather than BS cover up methods that are jarring in their falsehood. Nothing should ever remind you that you are just watching actors act.

Glenn said...

Mike Judge, the creator of "Silicon Valley" has gone on record saying that nudity on screen "just makes me uncomfortable", which is why he hardly ever has anyone naked on the show. I've been watching the show since it premiered and I haven't missed seeing topless ladies or gratuitous sex scenes. As much as people might like seeing their favorite actress' lady parts, the fact is that 90% of screen nudity is worthless.

tavm said...

As a teen of the '80s, I used to look forward to staying late at night-when my parents were asleep-and watching the HBO-night-only R-rated movies-usually those depicting high school students played by 20-something actors-with my brother just to see many females without their shirt on. Now many of them are on YouTube and I find myself putting the mouse on the blue time ID code to zip to such scenes. But as more stories of #MeToo and of the president's pre-election behavior gets revealed, and shows like "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" brings more such stories on air, I think I'm shedding-so to speak-whatever anxiousness I had in my younger days...

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I think more and more producers are abusing the privilege of the freedom of the internet - I mean, do they really need to go the FAMILY GUY route and focus on how far they can push the envelope rather than the actual story and characters? There's already too much of that shit on broadcast television (network and/or cable) as it is.

Emily said...

Sad to see you find foul language "refreshing."

And if I was to see somebody's tits, I'll find a mirror and look at my own.

Covarr said...

It really depends on the show, doesn't it? ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK would be an actively worse show without at least some nudity, because it serves the very deliberate purpose dehumanizing the prisoners. But for most shows and films, I feel that nudity, much like swearing in many instances, is kind of used as a gimmick to distract from weak writing.

Would I do a nude scene? It's tough to say. I'm a stage actor, not a screen actor, and for a community theatre at that. I don't get paid to perform, and I don't rely on getting parts to make rent. On the other hand, since it's not on screen and people aren't (supposed to be) recording the show, there's nothing permanent about it. My gut feeling is that I probably wouldn't; I've got too many friends and family and even grandparents who attend the theatre I act with. Strangers is one thing, but I don't know how I'd feel about people close to me who I'm not romantically involved with seeing my... uhh... private eye.

Then again, I didn't think I'd be comfortable kissing on stage either. My fiancΓ©e was my first kiss, and until I did BAREFOOT IN THE PARK this month and last, she was my only kiss. I'd kind of hoped to keep it that way, but when I saw the movie as research for auditions, I knew that I wanted to be involved with this production, and I wanted to do it justice (and I wanted to do better than Robert Redford did; his performance was emotionally dead and kind of annoyed me). I know, kissing and nudity aren't really the same thing, but the takeaway from me was that where I draw the line is somewhat flexible.

I haven't come across a show I liked enough that I would go nude for it. I think it's safe to say I probably won't. But there's always a chance I'll come across a script that'll change my mind, so I won't give a hard no.

Underwear, though? Yeah, I can do underwear in front of an audience. Just as long as it fits.

Anonymous said...

I love The Good Fight too. I thought the same when I saw the scene. I did like the way The Good Wife used to avoid swearing. From a story perspective, I think you could easily argue that a reality TV show would not have artistically directed it so nudity wasn't showing as they would have definitely filmed it the way they did on the show. In fact, that was actually part of the overall story: one camera showing this as a good time and an overhead camera showing the reality of the situation.

At the same time, you're right, these things end up on the internet for the rest of eternity. If the actress agreed to it beforehand though, I am sure they know going in that this is going to be one of the downsides of their decision.

McAlvie said...

I'm not a prude, but I really don't see how nudity is ever necessary. Call it artistic license or whatever, but some of the best movies and tv shows of all time managed without it. Nobody ever claimed Gone With The Wind would have been better if Scarlett had been naked. And for some reason male nudity is not deemed as necessary to the artistic process; it's mostly women who have to bare all. Let's take a wild guess at why that is, shall we?

Honestly, Ken, I'm not watching the new show because I don't want the bother of signing up; and if full frontal and more profanity is supposed to be a draw, well how good can it be if that's even necessary? If the writing was all that good, it wouldn't be. So your review is no incentive for me to change my mind, but rather another reason why I won't bother.

Dr Loser said...

Quite a lot of this is down to cultural norms, isn't it? (I'm not implying that the actors shouldn't have a free decision, but then again that applies to lots of moral issues -- gambling, alcoholism, spousal violence, and so on.)

For some reason this post reminded me of the Billy Wilder film "Avanti!" Which is a charming film, and incidentally it featured both Jack Lemmon and Hayley Mills in the buff. I presume they knew ahead of time, because it would be a bit difficult to swim out to a rock in the middle of the Ionian and then yell out at the director, "I'm ready for my dressing gown now, Mr Wilder!" Only to hear "Get your kit off, you schlemiels! The camera is rolling!"

My point here is that you're looking at a Mittel-European sensibility (the entire film is about a clash between that and English and American sensibilities), and having both your stars (in their late thirties, I believe) show up in a pivotal scene, nude, pretty much drove the movie towards its charming conclusion.

I loved it. Critics didn't, but mostly, as far as I can see, through an irrelevant over-emphasis on prurience.

When nudity works, it works. When it doesn't ... that's when you have a big problem.

Matt said...

Hi Jeff, you need to watch the Jimmy Stewart film The Cheyanne Social Club. While Jimmy didn’t appear nude there were plenty of topless women.

I think that nude scenes are fine as long as the producers are up front in the casting process so the actors have a choice. However I do find it interesting that some actors, such as Emilia Clark, refuse or greatly cut their nude scenes once they become popular.

Anonymous said...

The nudity is not or artistic reasons. That is just a story being told to encourage the actresses to get naked. The actresses pretend to believe it to maintain their dignity.
To further encourage the leading ladies, they give out Oscars to top actresses who engage in sexy parts(but Anne Hathaway picked the wrong movie).

If it were truly artistic, we would see more of a 50-50 ratio of nude women and men.
People rail at Harvey Weinstein, but other directors and producers are encouraging nudity in films just to see the actresses naked. And true to form, Hollywood turned around and gave Selma Hayek an Oscar for the nudity that Harvey forced on her in exchange for releasing the film.

Mike said...

Why not post a blog on your favorite nude scenes Ken. You have posted many Top 10 lists. So why not this?

Unknown said...

My 2 cents: I'm rarely bothered by sex/nudity/swearing. There are definitely times when it feels gratuitous and unnecessary but on the whole I'm just not prudish about that stuff. Then again I'm also younger than most people here.

Would I do nudity myself? I'm fairly dumpy and unattractive but I'd do it if it served a purpose on tv/film but not on the stage.

Fred Vogel said...

“They’re just tits,” she used to say...
"Give me a call if you're looking for a great job." Donald Trump

David said...

Last year, I talked with Emmy Rossum about her proposal to have SAG-AFTRA require producers treat sex scenes the same way they treat stunt scenes: advance notice, specific storyboarding, a supervisor on set, etc. It became part of the union's overall changes to address harassment and assault in the business. A little background:

Chris said...

I'm going to side with anonymous up there. Nude or not, as a viewer I'm more frustrated by the attempts to play "coy" with gross anatomy. Or to hype it up because you might see [gasp shock HORROR!!!!] a woman's tits!!!!!

Mind you, I come to you as especially jaded guy having spent six years photographing the local burlesque scene, on stage and off, for six years. Which isn't to say that I'm somehow blinded to the beauty of the human form or that I'm not flustered in the presence of nudity (sometimes models just change on the spot) but the shock and awe of "LIVE NUDE GIRLS!" has been greatly diminished.

Phil said...

Julianne Moore is the first name that comes to my mind and then Kate Winslet. These 2 actresses simply drop their clothes if the story is half decent, hoping that their nudity will take care of the rest and get them their Oscar nominations.

benson said...

"If done is in a stylish or classy or artistic manner" just giving oneself a hall pass to look at naked people. And with all we're hearing and learning about #metoo, how do you justify it.

It's like stand up comics who work clean vs. dirty. Seems to me its takes more effort to work clean. Anyone can spout F bombs to get a reaction.

Refreshing? I have to tell you Ken, the one and only thing I don't like about your podcast is when you drop F bombs. Your body of work shows you're a class act. No need for it.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Nudity, like swearing, is usually unnecessary in storytelling.

As many writers say, "If you can say something without using the word FUCK, then you don't need it."

If you can play the scene without nudity then don't do it.

If I were an actress and didn't care that your tits were out, great!
If I were an actress with kids, who will eventually see their mother's tits...then I wouldn't do it.

Anonymous said...

First of all I agree, The Good Fight is a great show and I'm very happy the new season has started. But am I the only one that was really uncomfortable with the scene where it's revealed what really happened to that girl and how she was abused? I actually don't think they handled it elegantly. I felt they were going too much for the shock value. I know the whole point was to show how sleazy and convoluted the production on that fake reality show was but I feel they could have conveyed the same thing without being so graphic. They could have cut to the faces of the lawyers watching the video clip and let their reactions fill in the blanks. I really wish I could unsee that whole scene, it left me with such a lingering uneasiness.

FFS said...

I don’t think F bombs are bombs anymore - maybe small firecrackers. It’s part of how most people talk now.

MikeKPa. said...

Having looked at Playboys as a teen at my friend's house (his father wasn't very good at hiding them) and seen enough classy and gratuitous nude movie scenes, I've always been a believer that good love scenes, like good horror scenes, are better left to the imagination, making it unique to each viewer. Can you imagine Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint going at it au natural in NORTH BY NORTHWEST? Would ruin the movie for me.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Would you admire Natalie Wood more if she had gone full Monty?

I'm still with Groucho, who was asked if he would see OH! CALCUTTA, the notoriously all-nude Broadway revue of the 1960s. He said, "I took off my clothes, looked in a mirror and thought, 'This is not worth $25.00.'"

ScarletNumber said...

@Dr Loser

You are thinking of Hayley's older sister Juliet.

Ken said...

Context is everything.
I remember the multi part mini series about Shaka Zulu where for first time saw bare breasts on broadcast TV.
Context was traditional attire of women in that time and place.
Whereas some of the period "drama's" often made where any student of history would recognize the total misrepresentation of attire that was apperently presented for no other reason but to spice up story ( Ala The Scarlet Letter with Demi Moore) not so appropiate.
I find that certain adjustments to historical attire to mollify puritans to be at best misleading ( i.e. island women in production of "Hawaii")

Reminds me of joke ( think GOT) where woman calls home to brag about a bit part in a baccnicalic scene describes what is going on and the parents tell daughter not to do porn they would send money and the actress's comeback was that it wasn't porn it was HBO.

Matt said...

Here is the video for “It is not porn”.

D McEwan said...

"Anonymous Anonymous said...
Having nudity shown or not should not matter to the storytelling,

Nonsense. Of COURSE it can matter to the storytelling. Cersei's nude walk of shame through Kings Landing in Game of Thrones is a perfect example. It was essential to the storytelling.

John Wayne, self-righteously as usual, accepting his Oscar: "I'm John Wayne; I work with my clothes on." For which we are all grateful, Wayne.

I was glad Dennis Franz did his own nude butt shot, as if he hadn't, think of the poor casting director having to look at a couple dozen Dennis Franz would-be butt doubles. The one that made him the sickest would get hired.

I see commentor after commentor assuming this applies only to women, as though men don't do nude scenes also. It takes a man truly comfortable with himself to show his flaccid manhood on Game of Thrones.

I did full frontal nudity in a scene in a student film when I was 21. It was not a problem. (For one thing, I co-wrote the film.) I've been nude onstage as well.

Sally Hawkins was nominated for an Oscar in The Shape of Water for a role where right off at the top of the movie she showed all she had.

But several comments in this thread show that Victorian Puritanism is still alive and well.

blogward said...

Explicit nudity, sex, etc interrupts the narrative for a short moment of judgment, where us unwashed masses think, 'slut', stud' or whatever ABOUT THE ACTOR, not the character. It's also less dramatically effective, as leaving sex and nudity to the imagination keeps the bargain between storyteller and audience.

Attempting to make the audience feel what characters are physically feeling by showing real actors doing the same is inauthentic, dishonest and invariably gratuitous in any sort of drama, even docu-drama. Even if it puts bums on seats. Want porn? It's free nowadays.

Ken - seen this, about the WGA strikes? Interesting.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I remember Cheryl Ladd commenting years later about how uncomfortable she was with how often she was required to wear bikinis when she joined "Charlie's Angels" in 1977.

Eventually she requested that the bikini scenes be filmed at places where you might actually see bikinis--such as at the beach,or on a boat, or poolside.

"I am someone's mother," Ladd said.

Alan Christensen said...

My wife complains that when there's male nudity in movies we see it's someone like Peter Boyle.

jenmoon said...

Not that it's going to come up, but I don't think I would because I don't want to deal with the consequences that might come from it.

Liggie said...

It all boils down to the storyline and subject matter. Helen Hunt was naked for half of "The Sessions", but since she was playing a sexual surrogate helping a disabled man, that was appropriate. Likewise, if a character did something morally questionable, a full nude scene of him furiously scrubbing himself in the shower, that works for artistic symbolism. You also have shows like the new "Westworld", where the impact would be lessened without nudity; if the characters were paying for sex with robots, not showing the robots nude kind of defeats the purpose.

I'm not an actor and I have a slightly below average body type, but if the scene called for it I'd do nudity. Especially if the actress I was performing with was asked to disrobe; it's only fair.

Liggie said...

A few fun anecdotes I've seen about on-screen nudity/sexiness.

- The 1980s film "Irreconciable Differences" featured Ryan O'Neal and Shelley Long as married filmmakers. In one scene, they realize the script wanted nudity from their ingenue, a young Sharon Stone. O'Neal on set approaches Stone, and while he stammers, "This is supposed to be a nude scene, but if you really don't want ...", Stone simply pulls down her dress top and exposes her breasts. O'Neal turns to the crew and says, "Problem solved. Action!"

- The sketch comedy show "The Kids in the Hall", known for non sequiturs, featured a number about, of all things, terriers. In the middle of the song, two girls in bikinis are dancing. The actor stops the song and tells them, "Ladies, you're scantily clad and have nothing to do with the song. Therefore, it's sexist." They exit, he looks at the camera, says "Gee, that hurt", and continues the song.

- Public TV outlet MHZ specializes in European, foreign-language shows (usually feature-length mystery series a la "Sherlock".) Because Europeans aren't shy about TV nudity, MHZ has to "fuzz out" the crucial bits to comply with US terrestrial TV laws. This, though, even extends to art in the background. If characters are in, say, Florence's Uffizi gallery, MHZ has to "fuzz out" the genitals on Michelangelo's "David" when they walk past it. Letter if the law, I get it, but still.

- Speaking of Emilia Clarke, she unintentionally embarrassed herself a couple of times on "The Graham Norton Show" discussing her "Game of Thrones" nudity. Fellow guest Matt LeBlanc confessed he had yet to see "G.O.T."; Clarke told him, "I'm in there from the start. I'm not in a lot of scenes in the first half of Season One, but there's a lot more of me in the second half. -- Oh my God!" As she almost dies from embarrassment, Norton told LeBlanc, "Maybe you should start with those episodes!" Another episode, she mentioned a challenging sex scene where the other actor had to wear a "modesty sock"; "It was large and pink and I didn't want anything to do with it. -- Oh my God!" Blushing from her, astonished looks from the other guests, and howls of laughter from the audience.

Anonymous said...

@D. McEwan-
Nudity was essential to the storytelling. I don't think it was essential to the viewing. It's a narrow distinction, I know.
HOWEVER - If the lack of nudity, or the methods used to create lack of nudity take the viewer out of the moment, then nudity might be required, just because the actor/director/writer didn't have the will or the skill set to not show it.
Again, nudity doesn't bother me. Neither does lack of it. What bothers me is when people aren't nude that should be. I think "WTF" and remember that I am watching TV. If the scene is in a topless strip club, and the only dancer with a top on is the star, that's poor. Either set the scene in a bikini strip club, get an actress who is ok with the nudity, or film it in such a way that we never see it, but we know it's there.
Same regarding body doubles. The best directors will do it so you don't even know it happened. The other ones, it is obvious that all the sudden it looks like something different is edited in. Much like the director being skillful enough to hide nudity, they have to be skillful enough to hide the cut to the body double.

Craig Gustafson said...

There was only one time I found nudity in a movie to be extraneous -- Jill Clayburgh in "First Monday in October." It's an ideological comedy from Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee ("Inherit the Wind"), about the first female Supreme Court Justice - a conservative, clashing with her liberal colleague (Walter Matthau - "It's not a *great* corporation, it's a *big* corporation.") About 2/3 of the way through, they gave Clayburgh a shower scene just to get her naked. It really stuck out like a sore nipple.

VincentS said...

As a writer and actor I see it as a two/fold decision. The writers/producers/showrunners must, in my opinion, decide at the writing stage whether the nudity and the level of it serves the story or is gratuitous and if it is deemed appropriate go out of their way to make the actress hired feel comfortable even to the point of making it clear to her that they would even consider toning the nudity down or even eliminated it altogether if she felt strongly about doing that. I think any actress would appreciate being consulted to that degree even if the nudity is left in.

Pat Reeder said...

Personally, I'm not offended by nudity at all (Bring it on, says I), but I think that the entire premise of the question may be obsolete. Thanks to the Internet, there is no longer such a thing as an "appropriate context" for nudity. Any actress (or actor, but especially actress) who decides to do a nude scene based on it being necessary to the story must now go into it with the knowledge that it will be lifted out of context, turned into a still frame or gif, and posted on the Internet forever. I'm sure there are many actors who justified doing dark or fleeting nude scenes 30 or more years ago because they were appropriate and would be seen by a limited number of people for a brief time. They never dreamed they would someday be on display everywhere in stills lifted from razor-sharp Blu-Ray discs and digitally lightened to enhance every anatomical detail. That applies even to scenes that were never intended to be titillating, such as Jodie Foster's rape scene in "The Accused."

I know some actresses who refuse to do nudity because they say no matter how necessary it may seem to the story, it immediately takes the audience out of the story because the second the clothes come off, they stop thinking of you as the character and start thinking, "Hey, that's (the actress) naked!"

I do agree with Anonymous above, who noted that inappropriate modesty can be just as disconcerting as inappropriate nudity. I think of all the sex-oriented sitcoms such as "Two And A Half Men" where characters are uninhibited enough to dive into bed with each other on a moment's notice; but when you see them afterward, the woman has the sheet pulled up over her and the guy gets out of bed wearing his underpants. I always wonder how he managed to find those and get them back on without getting out from under the covers, and why.

BTW, I had to go through about 10 screens to prove I'm not a robot. If I were a robot, would I enjoy onscreen nudity?

Gordon said...

I think of all the sex-oriented sitcoms such as "Two And A Half Men" where characters are uninhibited enough to dive into bed with each other on a moment's notice; but when you see them afterward, the woman has the sheet pulled up over her and the guy gets out of bed wearing his underpants.

Reminds me of a movie I saw once that I couldn't remember the name of if my life depended on it. Anyway, a couple has sex, with the sheet pulled way up over them so you can't see anything but bare shoulders and upper back. Then the man gets out of bed. He's naked. He gets out by turning his back to the camera and backing out of bed with his ass to the audience, then he steps sideways until he's clear of the bed, then walks forward. I gather that the idea was to avoid showing the actor's penis, but seriously? That's the best way they could come up with to handle the situation? Who the hell backs out of bed then crabwalks sideways to get clear of it?

Anonymous said...

As a viewer, how I feel about nudity is mostly a matter of context. For the most part, I feel like Sex and the City 'did' nudity pretty well - as the basic focus of the show was the character's sex lives it made sense that they be unclothed at times, and the most openly sexual character Samantha would be naked the most.

I felt like naked strippers in the Sopranos made sense being there as part of the verisimilitude of that world.

I watched about 3 seasons of Shameless and at first the frequent nakedness of Emmy Rossum didn't particularly bother me, but it began to strike me that in a show that sets itself up as telling the 'ugly truths' about poor people, she seemed as expensively 'groomed' as a playboy centerfold - no razor bumps, no straggly pubic hair, no 'issues' many average women might have. As such it more and more seemed from my perspective like the nudity was not there to 'serve' the 'world' of the show, but to be an attraction in and of itself, and as such, at least somewhat exploitative.

To go back to Sex and the City, that show was a semi-fairy tale, so Samantha's 'perfect' naked body made sense (she was also wealthy and could afford to 'maintain' all that), but in Shameless, the same kind of perfection bothered me.

As someone who has had a little bit of background in film/tv production, the issue of nudity of actors on a set takes on a whole OTHER level. Performers have a wide range of comfort levels about being 'exposed' in front of a crew (and the abstract idea of an audience) and at least in my experience, even in a totally 'respectful situation nude scenes can be very emotionally 'fraught - so much so that I would see good reasons for tv/film productions to avoid it just to avoid all the production-side headaches.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I had no problem seeing the nude scene as necessary to the story, and I thought Diane's FUCK YOU was intended to show how the character is changing in response to the changes in the world around her. One of the most distressing things over the last year and some is the transformation of formerly reasonably polite liberals into people dripping bile wat regular intervals. I think it's entirely realistic that Diane would begin to display more anger and less class than formerly.

(Even if the underlying reason is it's streaming so we *can*.)

Fun fact: the great Diana Rigg was the first legitimate actress to appear nude on the London stage, with Keith Michel in a production of Abelard and Helouise. A review the next morning (which Rigg reprinted in heer book of bad reviews, "No Turn Unstoned") read: "Miss Rigg is built like a brick mausoleum with insufficientt flying buttresses."


TJ said...

In the early '90s, when I was 19-20 years old, I did, I don't know, six or seven gay porn videos. One of the reasons I was agreeable to doing them was that most porn vids back then had the shelf life of a loaf of bread. A video was released, had its moment in the spotlight, then got pushed to the back of the catalog to make way for new stuff. There were photos in magazines and sales brochures, but who hung onto those? Into the trash as soon as the new issue or new release flyer came out. So at the time I figured that in five or six years anything I appeared in would have disappeared. No risk of anything coming back to haunt me. It's different now, though. The internet keeps videos and pictures alive. The things you do don't vanish like they used to. They continue to circulate online. For that reason, I'm not sure that I'd do the stuff now. Whether or not I would feel that way if I was 19 now, I can't say. Some of that caution might just be life experience that I didn't have then talking. When you're young like that it's hard to anticipate consequences. Not that I have had many problems as a result of things I did, but I know people who have. Lost jobs, lost relationships. It's disconcerting to see videos I appeared in and photos that I never expected to see again dug up from the porn graveyard and given new life on the 'net. Sometimes I wish it was possible to sit down the young men and women who do these videos and tell them that there are some possible ramifications to what they're doing that they might want to consider. Not that it might make much difference. I doubt I would have listened to anybody back then, either.

Granted, if nothing else, there is at little boost it gives to your ego to see that you really did look pretty damn fine back then.

Jim said...

Not directly on topic here, but I just wanted to say that the Middle European attitude to tits on screen is pretty similar to the Middle European one. European TV really doesn't feature wall to wall nudity, and to be honest, the steamiest scene you'll stumble across in any week will likely as not come from an American made film. Most stuff made for the domestic markets is comedy. It's just that jokes about the Belgian Reginald Maudling don't tend to travel well. And actually an awful lot of the slow moving art-house dreck bombed at home. But no worry, shove in a couple of gratuitous extra sex scenes and the Americans will lap it up.

Thomas Mossman said...

Personally, I've long felt that most nudity/sex in films/TV is generally gratuitous. I mean, you may encounter people in all kinds of situations in your life, how honestly, how often does anyone sit in the room watching while people are having sex? I couldn't kid myself that when it shows up onscreen that it isn't meant to be a little titillating.

On a semi-related topic, a Friday Question: Seeing as you have CBS All Access and having mentioned in the past that you do like Star Trek, I'm curious as to whether you've watched STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and what you thought of it. As a Star Trek fan, I've found it frustrating due to a promising premise hamstrung by weak writing.

Anonymous said...

I read this post and all the comments a couple days ago, was frustrated and moved on. I keep thinking about it and coming back to it, though, so here are my thoughts.

It's frustrating to me that this is even a question. It shows how toxic the American relationship with nudity and sexuality is. 100% of humans get naked. So getting naked is the opposite of something special. Most people get naked everyday and for a majority of reasons wholly unrelated to sex (primarily bathing and changing clothes). Why does getting naked automatically have to be about sex? And why do we need to be embarrassed about it or have to protect anyone from the reality that everyone gets naked?

The optimist in me believes that if a writer puts a nude scene in the script, it is because the writer feels the nudity serves the story and fits the character. I can turn down the gig if I read the script and the nudity seems gratuitous. Assuming I had the conversation with the folks in charge at the time of casting about how they will keep the scene at my comfort level and keep all non-essential folks out of the room (which is important because it is really hard to be comfortable when you are being leered at like a lab rat and everything you feel shows on camera), then I am ok with the nudity as long as I have some creative input during the shooting.

I have encountered non-sensical direction with love scenes, fight scenes and partial nudity in everyday circumstances. It is usually because the director is more uncomfortable with the scene than the actors but sometimes it also feels exploitative. I have no problem asking for a break to creatively discuss some strange direction if it pops up during shooting. It is my job as an actor to show the humanity of the character in the scene and the direction affects my ability to do my job effectively. Two things that always strike me as unfair/strange/exploitative to actresses during sex scenes (and they often occur when the actor in the scene has body insecurities or is not deemed sexy enough for the scene): the women always seem to be on top during sex and often the woman is naked but not the man. If I am playing an insecure woman, it makes no sense for me to be on top during a sex scene because that is a position of power which would be out of character for me. If I am naked and not the man, it changes the way I act the scene because in real life, when that happens it is degrading - if a man expects me to be naked but doesn't feel he needs to be, then I feel like he only cares about his experience and not mine. If that is not what was intended with the scene, then he's got to take his clothes off or I won't. Conversely, I've been ok with more nudity than has been asked of me because I feel like it is totally within my character's nature. If I'm playing someone with a complete lack of self consciousness, then why would I wear a robe when I put body lotion on after getting out of the shower?

As far as the question about the image lasting forever and being taken out of context, what does that matter? I have no control what happens to that scene after I act in it. It is more likely to be changed to something I don't like in the editing room than be seen out of context by some family member on a porn site. I shouldn't be worried at all because it's my job to serve the character and the story in the film or show I'm in but if I'm perfectly honest, I'm more concerned when I play parts that go against my core beliefs that the things I say as the character will be used as proof that I, as a real person, am like that character. That's more important to me than whether or not people discover that I have normal human anatomy.