Art of Woman

Realistic Female Body in Nude Scene Shocker

It is a privilege to introduce guest writer Jennifer Amos who has written this post. She has insights into how women’s bodies are portrayed in nude scenes in popular TV shows. I agree that the way women are portrayed in the media can have a huge impact on women’s body image and self esteem.


Realistic female body in nude scene shocker

Fans of British drama Downton Abbey may have either been upset or unmoved by the death of Lady Sybil in the third series that finished its Australian run last month. Readers of this site however may applaud her refusal to slim down for nude scenes when shooting the film Albatross recently.

Jessica Brown Findlay as the actress is known in real life has said that she has since regretted doing the nude scenes at all because she wasn’t aware she could refuse. She has admitted to a certain amount of naivety but she surely deserves admiration for refusing to conform to the supposedly ideal body image of ultra thinness.

Most films and television programmes do unfortunately still portray this ideal image that for most women is unattainable. Contemporary creative art and photography can play a role in promoting positive body images for women by avoiding the airbrushed super slim images so common across the popular media.

Young Australian women plagued by body image issues

It is crucial that young women and girls are exposed to as many positive representations of female bodies as possible given the worrying trend in eating disorders and body image issues. According to recent reports 
eating disorders affect as many as one in 10 Australian women. The research suggests that body image issues are presenting in younger children, especially girls, and around half of all 10 and 11 year old girls are unhappy with their body.

It’s a shame most young women and girls are more likely to see skinny models in magazines and painfully thin actresses on the big screen than read about how Jessica Brown Findlay admitted to eating burgers and drinking pints the night before shooting nude scenes. This is not always the headline news. The actress said she would never succumb to Hollywood pressure to be a size 0 and that she thinks it is terrible that women are criticised so much because of their bodies.

Brown Findlay admires strong women and recently enjoyed playing a strong female role in the television adaption of Kate Mosse’s best-selling novel Labyrinth. There certainly aren’t that many roles out there portraying strong women that go beyond the objectification and sexualisation of 
female body image but a few serve as interesting examples. Rather than eating burgers and not worrying about the consequences, Angelina Jolie trained for months and months and lived on a high protein diet to bulk up her muscles and strength before she filmed Tomb Raider. This was a role that was never going to have an idealised or realistic body image - instead Jolie went for powerful and worked very hard at attaining it through diet and exercise. Hilary Swank reportedly relied on protein supplements and shakes all day in addition to hard core training to be super fit and strong for her role in Million Dollar Baby. Strong, even powerful female role models on the big screen can only have a positive effect on young women but it would be great to have more realistic characters with equally realistic bodies that normal women can relate to. Young women should be able to recognise normal bodies up on screen or in photographs that aren’t the result of extreme fad dieting or hard core physical training.

Reality check for mainstream culture please

Cinema and television can sometimes be a great art form, but it does not work hard enough to help promote a healthy and positive female body image and sometimes it is guilty of doing just the opposite. Women and young girls are constantly bombarded with unrealistic and unattainable female bodies and images that rely on objectification and mythical ideals.

Art and photography can and should be used on a wider scale to reach more mainstream audiences with a positive message for women. Going beyond art galleries and niche exhibitions, art needs to be out there in the public arena portraying women as they really are.

Cultural and advertising imagery should not be relying on the safe Hollywood ideal of women that is ultimately so damaging to the self-esteem and body image of thousands of young women and girls. Only by changing the way women are portrayed in all cultural and artistic mediums can we hope to let young women and girls know that it is ok to normal.

Jennifer Amos