Review of Nudism in Film and Naked TV Shows in 2016
So 2016 has just ended, and I think many of you would join me in saying, good riddance!!
But I thought it’d be fun to look back at nudism in the past year — specifically how nudism and nudity appeared in movies and TV. Did Disney really put nudism into one of its big movies? Did the naked TV show trend produce the worst naked reality show ever made? Read on to find out!
Nudism was part of a Disney movie!
In the hit Disney film Zootopia, all the animals wear clothing because they’re supposed to be like humans. That is, all except for the animals who go naked at the local “naturalist” club. This is established in one funny scene when the two main characters visit in search of a missing mammal.
The club, which is called “The Mystic Spring Oasis,” is like nudist club meets hippie commune. The nudists can be seen playing volleyball on land and in the pool, reveling in a mud bath (naked pigs) and practicing naked yoga. They show absolutely no shame when they bend over or spread their legs for a yoga pose (of course you don’t actually see any genitals or anuses), and that’s part of the humor.
Their host says, “Yeah some mammals say the naturalist life is weird. But you know what I say is weird? Clothes on animals!”
My main question after seeing this was, Did the writers / producers accidentally use the wrong word – naturalist? Confusing it with “naturist” like so many do? Or was it intentional? Maybe it was supposed to connect to the actual meaning of “naturalist” (one who studies plants and animals)? Or maybe they liked that it had the full word “natural” in it? We may never know.
Nudism was also on the Showtime drama Masters of Sex.
On the (now cancelled) Showtime series Masters of Sex, episode 6 of season 4 had a subplot involving a fictional nudist club. Masters’ ex-wife Libby accompanies her new lawyer boyfriend Bram to visit the club, of which the owners are his clients.
It should be noted this series takes place in the 60’s. The club is called Shangri-Lawn. (Perhaps they took inspiration from the real-life nudist club Shangri-La Ranch in AZ?) When they enter the club, we get some full-frontal male nudity for once! Yes! The club is buzzing with activity, and we see many nudists walking around and playing Frisbee and badminton.
Before the episode premiered, I learned about it from the SCNA newsletter. Turns out they were originally going to film it at the home of SCNA president Rolf and his wife. Their home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr and would be altered to look like a 60’s “nudist colony.” The producers wanted real nudists in the scenes, so members of SCNA were going to play the background extras.
But apparently they decided to hire extras from a casting company instead and film at a different location in the Santa Clarita Valley. Oh, well! To their credit, the hired extras were of different ages and body types, so at least they represented a somewhat real group of nudists.
In the episode, Bram is there to discuss a neighbor’s lawsuit that says the club isn’t allowed to sell food and alcohol based on zoning laws.
The lawsuit seems to be a “crusade” against them, from people who find their lifestyle obscene. It’s a plausible storyline as nudists are all too familiar with real-life anti-nudity crusaders, as well as the difficulties of getting around laws that prohibit nudity with alcohol sales. Back then as well as now.
During their discussion, the nudist club owners bring up freedom of speech as their defense. But Libby is the smart one who’s like, “What are you ‘saying’ without clothes?” Some nudists have tried to legalize nudity or turn over anti-nudity legislation based on 1st amendment rights in the past, and it has failed. (It’s also a much harder case to argue.) Since it’d be impossible for them to get a liquor license, Libby proposes a much easier workaround – they can “sell” everything by donation and use vouchers instead of money.
Does this German film have the best nude scene of the year?
Vulture seems to think so. I haven’t seen the film in question, Toni Erdmann, which just came out in the US on Christmas day. I have low expectations for when nudity is used for humor (or anything really) in film, but after reading that article’s description of it, I want to see this movie. It sounds fresh and entertaining, and it’s received great reviews.
Watch A Short Documentary Film on Nudist Hikers in the Alps
Travelling Light is a delightful short film by Conxi Fornieles about a group of people who enjoy hiking naked in the Austrian Alps every year in July. It started premiering at film festivals in 2015, and about a month ago, Conxi posted it online to her Vimeo page for all to view! It runs about 18 minutes.
The TV Nudity Trend Continued in 2016…
Unfortunately VH1’s Dating Naked continued its descent into the dregs of reality TV. It’s never been as good as it was in its first season. I would now describe it as like The Real World but with more (censored) nudity and dating.
I didn’t think a naked dating show could get worse. But then along came UK Channel 4’s series – Naked Attraction.
I recently suffered through most of an episode so you don’t have to. Before I even watched it, I was rather horrified by the premise… One contestant chooses from six different naked people, or six naked bodies rather. The naked bodies are gradually revealed – starting with their lower halves (from their genitals to their feet).
I feel like the show is totally obsessed with genitalia. The camera repeatedly zooms in for crotch shot close-ups, and if the contestant doesn’t comment on the penis or vulva in front of them, the host will push them to give their opinion. It’s super awkward and quite weird.
Of course they do comment on other parts of the body as well (such as legs, feet, chest hair). The show tries to justify these superficial judgments with scientific tidbits on why one gender might find a certain trait to be attractive, such as tattoos or long hair. When a female contestant commented on testicle size, the host introduced one of these science bits by saying, “Turns out you really can judge a man by his balls.” What followed was a brief explanation about how testosterone connects to testicle size and mating and why women would prefer a “bigger daddy.”
Naked Attraction was immediately and widely met with disapproval. Many people were describing it as icky, repulsive, exploitative, objectifying, creepy, appalling and a “final harbinger of the apocalypse.” Maybe it’s not the apocalypse, but it is the rest of that. It’s really bad, you guys. Really!
Some have said the one good thing about it is the body diversity. The contestants are average people of different shapes and sizes, and being real people, their genitals are all unique in appearance. Unlike weird America with our anti nudity hang-ups, in the UK, they don’t censor anything. However all of this, in my opinion, is definitely not enough to redeem the show. There are much, much better ways to introduce people to body diversity.
AND YET, the viewership said otherwise as it’s being renewed for a 2nd season! The apocalypse will be filled with awkward genital close-ups once again.
Conan went to a nude beach in Berlin
Conan did another naked bit on his show (a previous naked segment involved a Korean nude spa) and this time he visited a nude beach in Berlin, Germany. He didn’t get naked himself, but had actor Flula Borg on as his German host. I almost didn’t watch it as I expected it to be just juvenile humor and maybe some casual body-shaming. But… I’m actually glad I did! There is some juvenile humor of course, but also a few funny moments.
How about this one – “Have you not seen a man’s anus before? (I’ve seen it, yes) There’s another one!”
And on that note, I shall end this review and wish you all a happy 2017! I hope we all get more great movies and better TV nudity.