Thursday, November 18, 2004

Bare On The Air

Just saw this story on CNN about a Cleveland TV anchorwoman's nude appearance in an artist's photo exhibition.

Note that this isn't really sensational; it's not like the anchorwoman did her broadcast à la Naked News. She just introduced a news story that featured pictures of her nude poses from far away.

This is one of those stories that has me questioning the mainstream media's news judgment. No, I don't mean the anchorwoman's. I mean the AP wire reporter's:

The report comes in the midst of increased attention to the airwaves, following Janet Jackson's breast-baring performance during the Super Bowl halftime show. The Federal Communications Commission proposed a record fine of $550,000 against CBS, WOIO's parent network. The network is protesting.

On Tuesday, ABC apologized for the intro to "Monday Night Football" that featured a supposedly naked actress jumping into a player's arms in a spoof of the television show "Desperate Housewives."

There is a hell of a difference between nudity meant to titilliate (Jackson & the MNF ad) and nudity in the art form (the anchorwoman's participation).

I am an artist. Once a week or so I do a life drawing workshop, in which a group of us make pictures of a nude model. Usually the guy in charge hires young, female models, although he brings in males occasionally.

It may surprise the average person, but it won't surprise the average artist, that I don't feel sexual attraction to the model when I'm drawing, even though she's nude. (I'll concede that it might have been a different story twenty years ago when I was finishing up my teenage years.) The model is there, as a form to be studied and re-created on the page. Since my specialty is animation, I study the form in order to improve my ability to represent functional anatomy and weight.

Now, unless you're actively shooting pornography, photography of the nude is on the same principle. The nude is a form that represents an idea. The idea of Human, for example, or a stage for the play of light on a surface. Nothing to really stir the loins about. In fact, people who say there is something sexual about nudity in any form would have to be deliberately ignorant about Art.

Which pretty much describes the people in charge of Hollywood and the mainstream media.

I say "deliberately ignorant" because I'm sure these people do know the difference. But they seem to believe that it's in their own interest to foster the belief in public that art-nudity and sexual nudity are the Same Thing. If we can do one, they seem to say, then we can do the other.

I don't think Middle North America is that stupid. I think we're all smart enough to know the difference, and to say so. As the Monty Python sketch says, "I may not know much about Art, but I know what I like."