Season 3 of HBO’s Girls premiered Sunday night, Lena Dunham is on the cover of next month’s Vogue, and after a reporter from The Wrap asked her why she gets naked so often everyone is talking about how often Lena Dunham gets naked. So I am too! Over at the Guardian, I say that Girls is an imperfect show, but Dunham’s nudity is powerful: Not just because she looks more like the average American woman than most women on television, but because her nakedness isn’t primarily ornamental, purposed for titillation and aspiration.
Yet watching the show, it feels like there’s a lot of nudity, and like it’s aggressive, so I understand where Molloy got the idea that Dunham regularly parades around naked for no reason. But perceptions aren’t reality. Perhaps the reason why we perceive Girls as featuring lots of naked Lena Dunham isn’t that there’s actually so much naked Lena as much as that we’re accustomed to seeing naked female bodies on television as primarily decorative. And naked Lena is not primarily decorative.
Malloy said as much: no one complains about nudity on Game of Thrones, because we all understand it’s supposed to be salacious and titillating. And it’s supposed to be salacious and titillating not because it involves sex, but because the women who are naked have the kind of bodies that we register as stand-ins for sex. Thin, young, conventionally attractive women with rounded breasts and cellulite-free thighs wearing very little clothing are ubiquitous in our advertising and media culture on television and in print. Even dead rape victims on Law & Order tend to fit the bill. We’re conditioned to understand that naked women who look like the models in the Blurred Lines video or the actresses on Game of Thrones are, by their very presence on screen or on the page, not only sexy but representing sex and desire. It’s an easy poke at the lizard brain craving for sex, but it’s also aspirational – I want to have sex with her, I want to look like that, I want to feel as desirable and as sexy as she must feel looking like that.
The full piece is here.
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