Tuesday, May 21, 2013

We still need to talk about nudity on Game of Thrones

Like a lot of other Game of Thrones actors, Oona Chaplin, who plays Talisa, the Queen in the North, has appeared naked on the show and, subsequently, been asked her opinion on it. (For the record, she's happy with it, provided that it's "beautiful" and "honours the female form.") But one of her most recent comments has earned some interesting responses. Says Chaplin,

“One of the girls in the show who got her kit off the most in the first couple of seasons now doesn’t at all because she said, ‘I want to be known for my acting not for my breasts.’” 

Now, while there's a lot of nudity in the show, the large majority of nudity is provided by background or very minor characters. So, there aren't a whole lot of options, and most people assume that she's referring to Emelia Clarke, who plays Daenerys. You might remember that she was constantly nude in the first season, and that she made the news more recently for her performance in Breakfast at Tiffany's, where her nude scene was interrupted by a flurry of flash photography. For better or worse, she's become known for her naked body.

But this blog isn't about any of that. Well, not directly, anyway. Instead, it's about the unsympathetic fan response to Clarke's purported annoyance/discomfort:

"Didn't the actress read the part before she signed on? There is alot of this stuff in the books.. get a grip and learn what you're doing before you jump in with both feet"

"Exactly what I was thinking, the books are full of references which then would need to be translated into the show in order to maintain the level of authenticity many fans desire. I'm tired of this whole 'nudity is bad and detracts from seriousness' debate."

"Didn't halley [sp] berry win an Oscar for a role she appeared nude in?"

Ugh. Obviously, I'm reproducing these comments because I think they're off-the-mark. Here are a few reasons why:
  • Unfortunately, Clarke - and I'm assuming that the anonymous comments do belong to her - is right, she is known for her breasts. So much so that it's a huge distraction, as it was in her Breakfast at Tiffany's performance, where a significant number of people valued her performance precisely because she would be naked. And probably did a lot to ruin the show for everyone else, too. (Though, as I understand it, it wasn't a particularly good staging to begin with...)

  • Further, GoT is just generally infamous for its excessive female nudity.  This is why SNL was able to make a hilariously on-point parody like this one, which claims that the show owes its success in equal parts to George R.R. Martin, writer of the books, and a 13 year-old named Adam Friedberg, whose only job is to add more boobs:

    I should add that, when I watch the show and breasts make an appearance, I immediately think of Adam Friedberg. So, there's another knock against too much nudity - as entertained and immersed in the story as I might otherwise be, I immediately think of Andy Samberg's impression of a 13 year-old.

  • Some fans seem to think that fidelity to the books is an absolute defense. If Daenerys was often nude in the books, then Clarke should accept that. Never mind that men are also often naked in the books, and yet we've only seen a few asses and no penises. Or that there's no rule stating that any TV adaptation needs to be perfectly faithful. (See: The Walking Dead, which departs in significant ways from the source material. Or don't, because most of those differences are awful ones.)

  • But most problematic, I think, is the implication that an actor can't re-assess the situation, take account of new information, reflect on her experience, and... change her mind. Clearly, she was comfortable with the nudity in the beginning. Now, seeing the unpredictable kind of notoriety that it's earned her, she's decided that she doesn't much like it. That actually strikes me as pretty reasonable.

[Correction: I originally attributed the quote at the top to Natalia Tena, who plays a different character on the show. This is because The Mary Sue made the same mistake, and I didn't bother to double-check the source. My bad.]


Cofer said...

It's ok CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and every other news source never checks there sources either.

Anonymous said...

I just feel so bad for her :(