Soiling Yourself, part two

Last week, our book on engaging story and movies, on image-bearing and our Creator, published! It’s available here and on in print and Kindle editions. We’ll be posting an excerpt from each chapter to give a little taste of what you can expect (to start with the chapter one excerpt, click here).

Act VII: A Word on Soiling Yourself, part two: in flagrante on Friday the 13th

or “sex, sorcery, and the strigoi shuffle”

Scene 1: No Fig Leaves

“We seem okay with violence, but nudity we race to criticize and censor.” – Eva Mendes, Vogue Magazine

A very real argument could be made… that in illustration and writing nudity is perhaps acceptable. The Bible itself describes people getting naked, and even many conservative people visit art museums where paintings and statuary depict the unfettered human form. These aren’t real people—only depictions—even if they attempt to portray someone who is flesh and blood. Most men and women, however, could think of some deviant or abusive form of this that offends their personal senses. One example might be Japanese anime porn, though similar images are created right here in my own country; there’s plenty out there that ultimately violates just about every culture’s prevalent morality at some point.

Context, then, comes into play for the illustrated and written dealings with nudity. An anatomy book may contain images of the human form in full, and even an art book for an artist to understand the movement and musculature of the body in differing positions. Many Christians will even accept an illustrated book about sex if the depictions are meant to instruct married couples, to illustrate versus titillate. The depicting of nudity may simply illustrate reality instead of inciting lust, and ultimately people of differing maturities may have variant lines for this. In the recent pop culture hit The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen relates in the book how she is stripped bare by the attendants, given a full body makeover and left standing there naked as the man Cinna enters to inspect her. It’s not a sexual interaction, yet in the film version Jennifer Lawrence conveniently sports something akin to a hospital gown.

Question: was this alteration necessary?

One can easily argue that a first-person book can have the heroine mention she had her clothes removed, but that the actress portraying Katniss would be doing more than depicting nudity; she would have truly been naked for all to see. However, couldn’t they have kept the story intact by having the nudity implied? One of the writers of Psycho, Joseph Stefano, addressed this issue:

“We were mainly concerned about nudity – how much could be shown in 1959 and how much would convey, without being gratuitous, the terror of being attacked naked and wet.”

The issue at hand in both stories is about vulnerability, not sexuality. In The Hunger Games, it’s the discomfort of not having one’s own space or privacy, the reality that Katniss is treated like an object. In Psycho, the confined, slippery location and lack of clothing amplify the dread. A skilled director like Alfred Hitchcock ably depicted this scene where we knew the character to be in the shower—thus naked—and yet the camera is conservative, so you don’t see Leigh’s full body (and while stories differ on how the actress was or wasn’t covered in regard to the film crew, this could have been achieved without her being naked). The same technique might have been done for Jennifer Lawrence, letting the viewer know her character was forced to be clothing free without actually revealing her full body.

Vulnerability, however, brings up another issue. If nudity isn’t being used in a sexual way, is it forbidden in live acting? The movie Schindler’s List springs to mind, where Nazi doctors force prisoners to strip and full frontal nudity is present. Their emaciated bodies convey that same sense of helplessness, and the idea that this might inspire lust should send a shiver up our spines. Likewise, in some films corpses are shown on examining tables naked and in various states of decomposition, as the medical examiner determines the cause of death. One only needs to read the newspaper to know that occasionally such things may be sexualized as well. Necrophilia is real. If we censored for every possible kind of dark, sinful deviation of mankind, naked baby bottoms wouldn’t be acceptable in our diaper commercials. So… does that mean it’s time to rally the Ban the Bare Baby Bottom Brigade?

The point is that we need to admit we’re all coming to the table with a cocktail shaker of various ingredients: enculturation, personal weaknesses and strengths, a dash of scripture taken out of context, and maybe a rich biblical foundation that ultimately allows us to navigate the issue…

Pick up “Cinemagogue: Reclaiming Entertainment and Navigating Narrative for the Myths and Mirrors they were Meant to Be” on our book page or at in print or Kindle editions

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