Nakedly Biased: The TV Nudity Gender Gap

There’s nothing like sitting down to watch a show with your family or friends and have a character suddenly begin to walk around naked.  Of course, some scenes call for that. These aren’t the Puritans walking all over HBO.

That being said, there are some scenes that call for nudity. Nothing ruins the long-awaited hook-up of two characters getting together more than a fade into the distance of “what-could-they-POSSIBLY-be-doing-land”. This little bit is seen on practically every network television show out there, but it’s not their fault. The idea that these shows are traveling through the air we breathe to get to your television set is the reason why they are regulated. And by that I obviously mean regulated by the government because if we were to regulate these TV shows we would all have seen Sawyer shirtless a lot more on Lost.

But then there are those scenes. You know the ones. The shots that are literally produced purely to show nudity. They serve no other purpose than shouting to audiences, “Hey! Look what we can do on TV.”

And, normally, it’s a woman. Does there need to be a naked woman in every episode of “premium” television? Do people actually think characters will sit around doing mundane things while having their boobs hang out? Like, oh yes please, do stop getting dressed to discuss something that will be slightly too dramatic but fit the story arc that you’re trying to accomplish.

But then there are these scenes that are forced into the episode to either show something sexy or naked. Just recently on Starz’ pirate drama Black Sails, Eleanor, one of the main characters, reveals that she is gay. That’s fine; the more, the better. However, with the fact that she seemed to be written as a lesbian as a marketing tool set aside, was there any point to her revealing sex scenes? The men were not revealing. They simply undressed the woman that they were planning on having sex with because apparently their personal clothes didn’t stand in the way, but every ounce of clothing on the woman was just too much for them.

Over on True Detective, Alexandra Daddario had a nude scene where she was about to have sex with Woody Harrelson’s character, Martin Hart. She gets so naked that it goes from “oh, she’s naked,” to uncomfortably feeling like you’ve interrupted something, then back to “oh, she really is naked.” It’s a mini-circular-narrative of realization and discomfort.

Then, on the premiere of Salem, Janet Montgomery, who plays Mary, completely undresses before she does the rather squeamish act of feeding a frog from her leg, as a witch apparently does, playing off this pop culture stigma that witches are sexy. It’s simple: she’s naked to spice up the show. That’s it.

It’s fine to have a woman naked on television. It’s great that some television shows can go that far. However, it’s so rare that we see a male nude scene on television that we actually have articles dedicated to them when they air. If we had an article released the day after an episode with a naked woman aired, Twitter would shut down. The Internet would go into cardiac arrest.

This isn’t meant to start some gender debate that is clearly already in existence; it’s meant to highlight it. We know that a naked woman on screen doesn’t exactly mean breaking news. A woman could walk around naked on TV and only a handful of people would be upset, but the minute there is a male nude scene, it’s as some penis-alarm went off somewhere in Hollywood.

Why do we only have female nude scenes? We know that people like nude scenes; however, when they are clearly a marketing technique, it becomes so painfully obvious that the network sponsoring this show falls under attack. Why put all of this effort into making a show that is so beyond what everyone else is doing, only to sell it short with a scene that anyone could have looked up on the shady side of the Internet? Why even put your network and your show’s title into the large pile of gender-biased names that only show female nudity. Sooner or later, it will be made more apparent than it already is that practically the entire media world objectifies women.

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