Normalization has become a buzzword that’s thrown around a lot today, and for a good reason. There is a lot more conversation around social norms and outdated concepts of morality.
Nudity on television is nothing new. I don’t find myself spitting out my tea and clutching my pearls at the sight of *GASP* A NIPPLE while watching something on Netflix. However, when someone mentions that a show contains nudity, most of the time, I assume it’s going to be female, not male.
Frontal male nudity has never been as common as female nudity on screen. A Google search of “Male Nudity On-Screen” will show article after article about an increase in male nudity, as well as article saying things along the line of “OMG So-And-So was NAKED in last night’s episode!” and actors like Chris Pratt and Kevin Bacon have gone on the record saying there should be equal representation when it comes to nude scenes.
It’s no secret that we live in a hyper-sexualized world. Sex sells, and today it’s all about the money. But does nudity have to always be related to sex? Can nudity be portrayed in normal, non-sexual ways? Can someone be shown taking an ordinary, non-sexual shower? Is the purpose of nudity always to inspire sexual feelings in the audience?
I’m not trying to say that male nudity should be shown only in non-sexual matters. If eye-candy like Chris Hemsworth wants to bare it all in front of the camera, then, by all means, he should be able to do that. I am saying that this new conversation and increasing acknowledgement of nudity on screen and the growing calls for equality should also include discussions about what nudity on the screen means and why. A rising amount of nudity, male and female, could help remove the taboo around it.
Male nudity has also been used in the past for comedy. Judd Apatow once said that people “fear the penis” and vowed to include one in every film he makes. This had me thinking; when I do see male nudity on screen, when is it usually used? I think of the infamous hotel fight scene in Borat or the running joke in Arrested Development about David Cross’ Tobias being a “never-nude.” Media has tended to have a slant in showing nude male bodies in the context of some sort of punchline.
By the time a child reaches elementary school, they will have seen as many 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television (According to the Council on Communications and Media). Killings, murder, and violence are commonplace in media. Most people aren’t leaving the house to murder and maim, but everyone possesses a body (sometimes they even get naked!), so why is one so heavily censored while the other is constantly shown?
I’ll give an example using my favourite show, Breaking Bad. In the pilot, a topless woman is seen for less than a second. It’s uncensored on Netflix, but AMC had the scene blurred. It seems like a lot of fuss for something that takes up less than 1% of the episode’s screen time. That same episode features the main character, Walter White, attempting to kill two men with poisonous gas. One of them survives, which leads to White locking him up by his neck by a bike lock in a basement before strangling him to death (all of that is on screen, and for much longer than a second). Breaking Bad would go on to feature multiple characters being run over, shot, having their necks slit open and bleed out (all on-screen), and included the killing of a child, whose body was then put into a barrel full of acid and melted down.
I’m not saying that we need to censor violence heavily; I love a good beat ‘em up scene as much as the next guy. I am merely asking the question of, “why is one OK, and the other isn’t?”
Nudity, sexual or not, being portrayed on screen can help remove the “taboo” of it. After all, everyone has bodies, and most of us have some degree of sexual feeling; why not work towards having a media that reflects that in a healthier way?