Friday, 7 September 2018

Public Nudity on the Big Screen

Regular readers of this blog and my fiction will note that I tend to stick to a few particular themes, and probably the dominant one of these is public nudity (especially where my female characters are involved). Whether they are naked in public accidentally or on purpose, whether they are embarrassed by it or love it, it happens a lot in my stories and (suffice to say) if you aren’t a fan of this trope, you’re probably not going to like my work.

I’m certainly not the only person to make use of these sort of scenes in fiction though. There’s a lot of erotica out there which has characters indulging their exhibitionist sides, some of which I have written about before.

Away from erotica, though, the trope also turns up in more mainstream works, and is perhaps most memorable when it is used in films, as the strong visual image of a person (usually an attractive actress) naked in a public place where nudity would not be expected can be very striking. In this blog I’ll talk about a few scenes of public nudity in films that I’m familiar with, a lot of which have been an influence on my own work.

(There are links to these scenes in my posts below, please be aware some of them link to adult sites as it was not possible to find the correct clips on Youtube).

Splash (1984) 

For me, my first encounter with the “beautiful woman nude in public” trope in film was the movie Splash, a romantic fantasy comedy starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. In the film Hannah plays a mermaid who saves a young boy from drowning during her own childhood, and forms a permanent connection with him. When he has another accident at sea as an adult, she saves him again and, recovering his wallet, realises she can find him and make good on their connection. In this particular film, if a mermaid leaves the water, her tail transforms into legs, so this means Hannah is able to come out of the ocean and walk on dry land as a human woman; which she does, coming ashore to New York in spectacular and memorable fashion. Because she’s spent her whole life living in the ocean as a mermaid, Hannah’s character has no concept of clothes or modesty, and her transformation between mermaid and human doesn’t magic up clothes from anywhere, so she simply gets out of the water and begins her search for Hanks’ character at the Statue of Liberty, walking around completely naked in front of dozens of tourists and other onlookers. As she’s also a mute who is unable to explain herself, she winds up arrested (for “indecent exposure”) and it’s this that leads her to finally meet up with Hanks’ character when the cops discover she has his wallet in her possession and hope he might be able to help identify her and explain why she was walking around Liberty Island in the altogether.

The film doesn’t rely on just clever photography and the reactions of the extras to convey Hannah’s nakedness either; although her breasts are covered by her long blonde hair in true “Lady Godiva” style, we see her (or her body double?) from the back as she climbs over a railing approaching the statue, and she is definitely 100% naked in that shot!

It’s particularly memorable because of Hannah’s clever portrayal of complete innocence; her character has no idea there is anything inappropriate about walking around in public with nothing on,. I think “characters with no nudity taboo” are something I’ve had a liking for ever since seeing this film and while I've not explored that particular archetype in my fiction yet, I'd love to someday.

Watch the scene here.

Roxanne (1987)

Poor Daryl Hannah!  Not only was she walking around naked in public in Splash, a few years later she had her clothes off outside again in this modern-day retelling of the play Cyrano de Bergerac, co-starring her with Steve Martin and his giant nose.

But while in Splash Hannah’s character was innocent in her lack of modesty, here Hannah’s Roxanne is embarrassingly locked out of her house naked when her robe gets irretrievably caught in the closing door. She’s forced to venture out to neighbours' in search of clothing and assistance, doing her best to cover and conceal herself, arriving at the house of Martin’s character C.D. (the local fire chief). It’s their first meeting and sets up the romantic relationship they will eventually have in a typically cute and funny way.

This is probably a more realistic depiction of a character finding themselves naked in public than the fantasy of Splash – Roxanne is a normal woman and she just finds the experience embarrassing and frustrating, and does her best to make sure that she doesn’t lose all her dignity along with her clothes by sneaking around, covering herself with her hands and hiding from view when Martin’s character answers his door, all the while impatient to get herself back into her house. But it’s pretty much the classic “locked outside naked” scene for me.

Watch the scene here.

Not Another Teen Movie (2001)

It’s safe to say the majority of scenes of public nudity that I remember seeing have come from comedies; after all, naked people are funny. While we find nudity sexy, when it’s removed from a sexy situation it often just seems absurd and comedic; never more so than in this spoof of movies like American Pie and She’s All That.

In NATM, a recurring character is Areola, the Foreign Exchange Student, played by Cerina Vincent, who is a spoof of the character Nadia from American Pie. In American Pie, Nadia was a sex object fantasy character for the main male leads, with her nonspecific ‘European-ness’ suggesting she was much more liberated in terms of sex and nudity than her American counterparts. In NATM, the film exaggerates this foreign liberated sex fantasy character to an extreme degree; Areola is completely naked in every scene of the film, walking around the corridors of the generic movie high school in nothing but shoes and a backpack.

While this is titillating to the viewer, it’s also obviously played for laughs. Nobody finds anything much amiss in the fact that Aereola is completely nude; presumably because she is the sexy foreign student stereotype in a school full of deliberate stereotypes, so of course she’s going to be naked. She seems fully self-aware of what she represents, identifying herself (in an accent which is constantly changing) as “lust object for nerd boys who cannot get American pussy” – she gets subtitles even though she is speaking English and these subtitles conveniently leave gaps between the words so they don’t cover her nipples!

It’s all very silly but the actress (Cerina Vincent, who had never done a nude scene before and found portraying a constantly naked character to be a challenge, although she ultimately enjoyed the experience) is very beautiful and the joke works.

Of course, take away the humorous context from these scenes and you have basically every ‘nude in school’ story! I also enjoy the notion of a scenario in which a character’s nakedness (which would in real life likely prompt a lot of shocked reactions) is treated by other characters as perfectly ordinary and normal.

I tried to pay ‘tribute’ to Aereola with the character of Anna in my story Nikki’s Naked Weekend – Nikki’s vaguely Eastern European neighbour (I made her Russian in the final version but I’m told she isn’t realistic a depiction of a Russian girl at all – sorry Russian readers!) who has few qualms about stripping off when hanging out with Nikki during the titular weekend.

Watch the scene here.

The Names of Love (2010)

I’ve left this satirical French sex comedy until last purely because it contains I think probably a personal favourite scene of female public nudity for me.

It’s not a well-known film and much of the humour is apparently derived from the way it plays with the mores of French political alignments and activism in a way that might not really seem as funny to someone not well-versed in these (i.e. me). Sara Forestier plays Baya, a young far-left wing activist who believes she has the perfect weapon to convert right-wingers and conservatives to her point of view; she sleeps with them and once they have enjoyed a left-wing woman sexually, they usually find themselves agreeing with her politics too.

As this is a French sex comedy we see an awful lot of Baya but amusingly this isn’t always intentional on her part (although she does have the hippyish quasi-nudist habits a lot of films give to young European lefty characters as a shorthand for their liberated, anti-bourgeois beliefs). Baya is depicted as adorably clumsy and lacking in self-awareness, her top occasionally falling open or falling down to reveal her bare breasts at inopportune moments.

This is taken to extremes in one scene in which Baya is in the middle of towelling off after a shower when she receives an urgent phone call reminding her she needs to buy someone a birthday present. Distracted and in a hurry to get on her way, she grabs her bag spectacles and slips on her shoes and leaves her apartment, bound for the Paris Metro – apparently utterly unaware that she is stark naked. She remains sufficiently distracted by her phone conversation to make it to the Metro and on to the train, before the disapproving reaction of a Muslim couple sitting opposite her finally clue her in to the fact that she’s forgotten to get dressed; she is of course then enormously embarrassed.

(Fortunately her romantic interest - amusingly already waiting for her to return to the supermarket where she had left him buying groceries for them to have a meal together - spots her walking naked through the street to the Metro station and catches up with her as she disembarks the train, loaning her his suit jacket to cover up with and end the adventure).

I legitimately love this scene because it’s so improbable. The idea that a real woman would be so scatterbrained (Baya herself exclaims "I'm so muddle-headed!") that she would actually walk out of her apartment, into the street and even wait for and board a train, all without realising she had no clothes on, is absurd; even if you were so used to nudity that you could forget to cover up before stepping outside your front door, surely the sensation of things like a breeze on rather more of your skin than you usually would alert you before you got much further? But Baya (who is very lovely) strides confidently down the street in her birthday suit completely oblivious – she even initially mistakes the reaction of the Muslim couple to the sort of disapproval she (as a liberal) expects to receive from more conservative religious types, and it’s only after a few seconds that she glances down and realises, yep, I’m naked. At which point her facial expression is perfect.

I liked this scene so much I borrowed a still from it to show my cover artist what I wanted to have on the cover of Brave Nude World:

Watch the scene here.

There are probably many more scenes from films I have forgotten, so perhaps I'll revisit this topic in another post. Feel free to recommend any of your own favourites too.

No comments:

Post a Comment