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Nudity in film


Nudity in film

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Nudity in film relates generally to a non-pornographic film or television program in which one or more of the actors or other participants appears nude onscreen, often called a nude scene.


Overview in American cinema

Actress Kate Winslet appears nude in the 1997 film Titanic Actress Kate Winslet appears nude in the 1997 film Titanic

Few American films show full frontal nudity.

In many cases objects are used to obscure the view of an actor's primary erogenous zones. This can prevent films from receiving an NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, which usually leads to commercial failure for films targeting the mainstream theatre market in the US. Some nudity may be found in PG and PG-13 films as well, particularly when it isn't presented in a sexual context.

In many instances, the presentation of nudity is perceived inconsistently between the sexes; male buttocks are shown more often than female buttocks, because the latter are deemed more erotic. Male rear nudity in a film does not preclude a PG-13 or PG rating, although female rear nudity almost always receives at least a PG-13 or R.

Despite the market demand for female nudity from some segments of the population, female nudity is a source of major controversy to American society in general when it appears in an environment that is supposed to be family-friendly, such as when Janet Jackson's breast was exposed during a Super Bowl halftime show.

The genitals are rarely shown, and the penis is never shown erect, because of the NC-17 code threat. Like female genitalia, male genitalia is considered pornographic by a large portion of the American public, or at least those who actively censor. The burgeoning sales of pornographic material suggests that the primary source of America's sexual mores as they relate to the human body in its natural state is social concern for the welfare of children.

The tastefulness of nude scenes is hotly debated in the US. Adding nudity to films can increase audience interest and pre-release publicity. However, some movie critics take a negative view of gratuitous nudity that has little to do with the plot of the film.

Some actresses refuse nude scenes out of personal values or the belief that it will harm their reputation. Elisha Cuthbert [1], Lindsay Lohan [2] and Eliza Dushku [3] are among those who have stated that they will never do a nude scene.

Overall, the United States considers nudity more offensive than most European countries, which conversely consider violence, which is often very present in American films, offensive. Sociologists and evolutional psychologists have suggested that violence serves as a substitute for sexuality in cultures that are sexually repressive, which gives greater meaning to the mantra: make love, not war. However, the two are sometimes linked. Low-budget horror films of the 1970s and 1980s sometimes featured strong sexual content, suggesting the link between sex and death seen in the idea of having sex in a disaster situation prior to dying. Nudists assert that nudity itself is not sexual, and don't agree with the connection between the censorship of sexual behavior and the censorship of nudity.

History in the United States

The portrayal of nudity in motion pictures has long been controversial. Several early films of the silent era and early sound era featured nudity; in response to objections voiced by several groups, scenes of nudity were forbidden in films from the major US studios from 1934 until the late 1960s under the Hayes Code. During this time, the only acceptable cinematic displays of nudity in the US were in naturist quasi-documentary films and foreign films. Other portrayals were in early pornographic films which, due to limited means of distribution, were not widely seen.

The 1959 film The Immoral Mr. Teas by Russ Meyer, in which the main character was overcome with fantasies of nude women, was the first non-naturist feature film to openly exhibit nudity. The 1964 film The Pawnbroker became the first movie under the Hayes Code to show a woman with bare breasts. In 1966, Blow-Up became the first English-language film to show a woman's pubic hair, although the particular shot was only a few seconds long.

In 1968, film studios abandoned the Hayes Code for the voluntary Motion Picture Association of America rating system. Nudity could then be legitimately included in a commercially successful film. Presently, genital nudity is still rare in US cinema. Further, it is commonly considered by censors more acceptable for a male's genitals to be depicted in a flacid state. The film Angels and Insects (1996) was the first to be given an NC-17 rating specifically because an actor had an erection.

A large amount of genital nudity, especially in a sexual context, often lead to an X rating, which de facto banned many films, as many movie theaters refused to show films with this rating. Nevertheless, many X-rated films became culturally significant, including Midnight Cowboy (1969) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). Today, most nude scenes only lead to an R rating from the MPAA, instead of NC-17, the contemporary equivalent of an X rating. Many films that were once rated X have been "re-rated" R.

Famous nude scenes

Films with nude scenes that have garnered significant attention include:

Inspiration (1915), the first leading actress (Audrey Munson) to appear nude.
A Daughter of the Gods (1916) was the first film in which a major star (Annette Kellerman) appeared fully nude.
Ben-Hur (1925), rear nudity of galley slave, and bare breasted maidens in parade scene.
Ecstasy (1933), Hedy Lamarr bathes and runs through forest nude.
Unashamed (1938), typical nudist exploitation film of the 1930s, showing bare breasts and buttocks.
And God Created Woman (1956), opens with a shot of a nude Brigitte Bardot sun-tanning herself.
The Pawnbroker (1964), first US film to show a woman nude from the waist up and be granted a Production Code seal.
Blowup (1966), first mainstream feature to show female pubic hair.
I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967), explicit portrayal of sex and nudity in a non-pornographic film.
Planet of the Apes (1968), Charlton Heston is stripped of his loincloth, in rear view; one of the few instances of adult nudity in the last months of the Production Code era.
If... (1968), frontal nudity in shower scene by three of the film's male actors.
Medium Cool (1969), first mainstream American feature to show full male and female nudity.
Women in Love (1969), known for a nude male wrestling match between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed.
Pretty Baby (1978), which featured nude scenes of actress Brooke Shields, who was eleven and twelve during the shooting, raising allegations of child pornography.
Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979): Brian appears naked on a balcony in front of a crowd.
10 (1979): Bo Derek's nudity in 10 is limited to a darkly-lit bedroom scene, but the movie made her an overnight sex symbol and led to a profusion of nudity in her latter movies.
American Gigolo (1980), first full frontal of a major Hollywood actor (Richard Gere).
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), a scene in which Phoebe Cates emerges from a swimming pool and removes her top has been endlessly imitated and parodied.
Henry & June (1990), the first film to receive an MPAA NC-17 rating.
Basic Instinct (1992), known for a scene in which Sharon Stone uncrosses her legs, revealing her genitals.
The Crying Game (1992), the sex scene between Stephen Rea and Jaye Davidson is pivotal to the movie's plot, since, showing Dil's (Davidson's) genitals, it reveals her to be a transvestite rather than a biological female.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999), gathered pre-release publicity for nude scenes of then married couple Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, as well as extensive nudity during an orgy scene. Some film critics accused Warner Brothers of censorship when they reedited the film for an R-rating after the death of director Stanley Kubrick.
Mulholland Drive (2001), the sex scene between Naomi Watts and Laura Harring has become popular on peer-to-peer downloading networks.

Further reading

  • Storey, Mark Cinema Au Naturel: A History of Nudist Film. Published by Naturist Education Foundation (July 1, 2003).

See also

External links

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