Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why actresses do nude scenes...

Well, I got a little ticky today - not terribly ticky, since you have to consider the source - but medium annoyed. I shot off a quick email to Walter Scott's "Personality Parade" for his response to this question:

"Q: Why do so many good actresses - including Helen Mirren, Jane Seymour and Ashley Judd - do nude scenes? -- G.A., Richardson, Tex.

A: For the paycheck or because they enjoy showing off their bodies. Seymour, 56, says she had fun doing her hilarious topless scene in Wedding Crashers. On the other hand, we predict that Judd, 39, will regret her explicit scenes as a bisexual, coke-addicted abuse victim in Bug, a distasteful new film."

A paycheck and enjoyment are okay answers, as far as they go. But as I wrote to Parade, this answer leaves out one really important reason:

"...the one that takes women seriously as professional actors.

I found your answer to the 5/27/06 question just a tad patronizing - there is one other reason - the main one, I believe - that actresses do nude scenes -- because they believe it is in service to the story.

They may be correct, or they may be mistaken. It may be integral to the story, or simply gratuitous.

But it is quite often the reason that serious, good actresses agree to do nude scenes, and I have to say I think it was glib and sexist not to mention it.

As actresses helping to tell a story, nudity may be one part of that story, and it is integral to their professions to assist in telling the story.

I think Helen Mirren and others deserve better than the response you gave about paychecks or showing off.

Thanks for considering my opinion."

Just thought it needed sayin'.


Tonya J said...

Gads, what a sexist response he had.

I mean, on the one hand, we don't want women to be in a position where they are objectified, but when it comes to art and a woman who knows her own mind, all bets are off. And there are widely varying reasons why an actress would do nudity. I'll give two examples I've come across recently.

I would point Mr. Scott to a film called S.O.B., and while some might think Blake Edwards' work has been low-brow at times, his wife Julie Andrews certainly didn't think so. Take a gander at this transcript from a recent radio interview:

Q: Did you ever regret the topless scene in "S.O.B."?

A: No and I'll tell you why. It was written 10 years before I actually got to make it. I had a lot of years to think about it, and it actually was a very, very valid part of the movie. It wasn't gratuitous. It was so built into the character that she had to do this to change her image and so on. And so knowing that I was directed by my husband [Blake Edwards] and in good hands, in safe hands, it wasn't quite as daunting as it may have seemed.

You can listen to the audio and read the transcript here:

Then there's Helen Mirren, who's the opposite side of the coin. She used to say that doing nude scenes was not a big deal, in fact, she has said that for years. But recently, she's gotten a little bit more real with herself:

From And she confesses that she was never comfortable with the nudity, despite claiming in 2004 that appearing nude was "so easy - like drinking a glass of orange on set". She says, "I might seem uninhibited but believe me, I'm not. I've always had a problem doing nudity. In fact, I hated it. It has never been a comfortable thing. I've never enjoyed it. It's always mortifying. "I've never thought it necessary, ever. But I always felt it was something I should get over. I did those scenes because I didn't want to be uptight. Now I have got stuck in a way with a reputation for doing nude scenes."

So here's are two hugely respected artists who did nudity with different perspectives about it, neither of which was to show off or to get a big paycheck.

And just to give this a different kind of perspective, I've always found female nudity in films easier to take than say, women who pose in Penthouse and Playboy. There was a worthwhile discussion about that at Whedonesque not too long ago. It went a lot better than me getting riled up about the objectification of Nathan Fillion there, but still, movies and mens' entertainment magazines. Two different animals.

But don't get me wrong, there are actresses who are exhibitionists and actresses who would do anything to get a paycheck. I don't know if they fall into the category of "good actresses" the original question poses, but there is and always has been, great inequity in the way women and men are presented nude on screen. The penis is still considered a big deal to show, yet women's pubes and breasts are fair game.

That's a whole other discussion involving sexism in the cinema and the stupidity of the MPAA movie ratings system, but I think you know what I mean and this is a longer response than I meant it to be. Mr. Scott really ought to give more thought to his answers, instead of painting all actresses the same shade with his trite paintbrush.

Probably best to keep Mr. Scott away from a film called Intimacy, because that would really challenge his world view.

Sondra W. said...

There is never a valid reason for an actresses to pose nude or appear in sex scenes to advance a story. No matter what the rationalization or justification, it always is compromising. Everyone thinks - "This is Julie Andrews. I so respect her, why did she do that?" Not, "Oh, how noble and essential to the story that was. I needed to see that." No, someone wanted you to see that. It's always disheartening. It always takes away from dignity and wholesomeness. It is nothing we should ever "get over". Each one of us is of more value than that.