Films should respect naked bodies, not stigmatize them

Yiyi Ding | Mercury Staff



Hollywood blockbusters suggest nudity can only exist to invoke a sense of sexuality or for shock value, and given how affected we are by the media we consume, these sensationalizing portrayals could be affecting your personal relationship with nudity. Save yourself by opting for an indie film instead.

2024’s Vanity Fair Hollywood profile did, for the most part, what it’s supposed to: highlight the most beloved films of that year and the actors who worked on them. In a video promoting the article, actors who’d found their acclaim in the past year stood in a line conversing with the person next to them as the camera panned down. As the line of actors seemed to come to an end, Barry Keoghan from “Saltburn” stood alone and naked, disturbing the flow of the elegantly clothed actors from this issue as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the ending of his recent film “Saltburn.” It’s no secret that “Saltburn” isn’t afraid of nudity, as it’s a recurring motif in the film intended to shock the viewer. But therein lies the question: should we have such a severe reaction towards the nude?

Filmmakers across the world aren’t always open-minded when it comes to nudity. Films made in more conservative parts of the world, such as India’s Bollywood, often decenter the tension between two love interests by having them engage in what basically looks like passionate sniffing against the crook of a neck instead of a kiss, to appease the very strict Indian Central Board of Film Certification. Additionally, only in the past two decades has the Korean film industry eased up on showcasing nudity, according to Kim Hyae-Joon, Secretary General of the Korean Film Council. America has taken steps toward accepting nakedness in film since for the past several decades, a trend which will likely diffuse into other countries’ film industries which frequently take inspiration from Hollywood productions. However, Hollywood currently only acknowledges nudity as a cheap way to drive audiences to theaters rather than a normal way of being.

You can argue that nudity must be normalized in incremental steps, first as a countercultural expression before becoming unremarkable, which puts a lot of faith in a famously out-of-touch industry. That faith is also incredibly misguided — Hollywood does not do that at all, instead banking on audiences ogling at their favorite celebrities instead of appreciating plot and theme. But where blockbusters fail, an unsung hero comes to rise: the independent film. Indie films, often untethered by constraints like corporate funding, essentially have free reign on what they present, meaning that they don’t have to use nudity to generate the maximum amount of buzz.

Consequently, conversations on nudity reflect what they are in real life and treat nakedness for what it is: a state of being. For example, the indie miniseries “Normal People” contains a plethora of scenes where one or both leads are naked. And while, at times, this is meant to be perceived as sexual, it uses nudity to express a quiet intimacy and closeness, rather than as a spectacle. That same sentiment is expressed in Cianfrance’s “Blue Valentine.” Nude scenes in indie productions don’t go out of their way to shock the viewer, which proves there doesn’t always need to be a strong reaction to the naked body.

In an age where film and television are at our fingertips, it’s impossible to evade media or be uninfluenced by it. And it makes sense why that is: film has always been a form of art and, therefore, a reflection of the human condition. But Hollywood’s lack of understanding of nudity and its suggestion that it is only worthy of being sexualized or gawked at can translate into a lack of comfort in your own skin, or shame at being unclothed.

You should surround yourself with messaging promoting normalcy in being naked. Instead of watching Barry Keoghan hump a pile of dirt or dance naked in the Saltburn estate, try watching a film made by the people, for the people, who are unashamed to be themselves.



  • We’ll said. I think the last scene in Alison Brie’s project, Somebody I Used to Know portrays nudity with such care and responsibility to the subject of nudism. Both Brie as the producer and the actor portraying the subject of a mini-doc on nudism simply have a conversation. No titillation or corny jokes, and it’s wonderful.

  • If the films you see don’t conform to your point-of-view, go & make your own movie! I’ve got differences with a lot of movies, I see, but I take those in stride. I don’t expect everything I see to agree with me.

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