ONTD

4:59 pm - 12/13/2012

Naked appeal: is it OK to find actors attractive?

Viva-Forever-at-the-Picca-003 
New West End shows The Bodyguard and Viva Forever! feature plenty of female whooping at male nudity. Would it be acceptable the other way around? By Mark Lawson.


Is it all right for theatregoers to be sexually aroused by actors? The question arises because of a distinctive sound that now regularly breaks out in audiences. During two new London West End musicals – The Bodyguard and Viva Forever! – a huge whoop came from women in the audience during sequences when an attractive man took off his shirt. Even operatic clientele seem to be affected: I witnessed a similar reaction, though admittedly from what appeared to be a party of schoolgirls, during a male nude scene in Calixto Bieito's recent production of Carmen at English National Opera.

What's striking about this response is to imagine what would happen if men behaved in this way. In last week's column, I discussed Phyllida Lloyd's tremendous all-female production of Julius Caesar, in which, as it happens, there is a scene in which one of the cast walks around the stage naked.

As a liberal man brought up by a strong mother, I knew exactly what to do at this point: avert my eyes from her body and concentrate on her verse-speaking, or the lighting rig. Any man in the audience who had responded in the manner of the women at The Bodyguard, Viva Forever! and Carmen would – quite rightly – have been asked to leave the theatre and, if they were on a date, would probably have ended up going home alone.

Clearly, it can be argued that the demands of audience decorum differ between a Shakespeare performance and a musical or a production by the established provocateur of international opera. (Bieito is unlikely to be worried by shrieking during the nude scene.) But I am fairly sure that men who vocally expressed their appreciation of female flesh during any mainstream piece of theatre would meet hostility from women around them.

As it happens, Jenni Murray had suffered similar concerns at the hen-night yells that pursued Lloyd Owen during the performance of The Bodyguard that she saw, and initiated an on-air discussion of the subject on Woman's Hour last week, in which I was asked to take part. The question the programme posed was whether a double-standard is in operation, with women consumers of culture now treating male performers exactly as they have criticised men for enacting with female actors: objectifying their bodies and looks, responding to their sexual appeal rather than their talent.

Without being Talibanesque about it, my view is that there is an inconsistency here, and that the actors in question are at risk of being demeaned. It also intrigues me that the reaction of some women when challenged on this question so uncannily echoes the defence of sexist men in the 60s and 70s: come off it, love, it's just a bit of harmless fun. I've even heard the suggestion – again, an appropriation of an old male-chauvinist line – that the whooping shows how much they like and appreciate men.

The issue also arises for reviewers. As Jenni Murray pointed out, the theatre critic of the Daily Telegraph, Charles Spencer, was widely criticised for sexism when he described Nicole Kidman's nude scene in David Hare's adaptation of Schnitzler's The Blue Room in 2002 as "pure theatrical Viagra." Given that the principal effect of that drug is to create and sustain erections, the critic was perhaps giving more visceral information than his readers needed – and I think the controversy probably made him and other male critics more thoughtful about their descriptions of female actors. The conclusion which the Woman's Hour debate reached is that women's sexuality is generally more benign than men's, and therefore they may genuinely mean nothing by hollering when men get their kit off or drooling over movie stars in reviews.

I have some sympathy for that view, but I think the question of the whooping at male nudes in theatre also touches on a more fundamental aspect of the performing arts, which is that the sexual response of the audience is often part of the equation. A production of Romeo and Juliet in which a majority of viewers found neither of the leads attractive would surely be doomed to failure, and the profitability of Hollywood has historically depended on making movies featuring stars who will ignite the sexual feelings and fantasies of the mainstream audience – a major reason that so few film actors have come out as gay.

 Even so, I think that critics of both sexes should be wary of parading their crushes in print and, while The Bodyguard isn't a very good musical, it would be marginally better without the whooping. 

Source.


Female gaze post? Do your best ONTD!
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nymphadoratonks 13th-Dec-2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
oh those poor men, what ever shall they do??
fred2265 13th-Dec-2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
lol.
heart_of_butter 13th-Dec-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
I know! The level of sexual harassment they must go through each day. I mean, it's so hard for a man to walk down the street without being propositioned, or being commented on about his weight, appearance, or sexual attractiveness. We should really do something that lets women know that men have a right to be in public without harassment!
mjspice 14th-Dec-2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
HEHE XDD
lucciolaa 13th-Dec-2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
The question the programme posed was whether a double-standard is in operation, with women consumers of culture now treating male performers exactly as they have criticised men for enacting with female actors: objectifying their bodies and looks, responding to their sexual appeal rather than their talent.

rme because a few women whooping when an actor takes off his shirt is totally comparable to all of the gratuitous female nudity we have on film and television, and the blatant misogyny that is rampant in both the entertainment industry and the media.
jaimelannister 13th-Dec-2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
It is SO obvious that a man wrote this article.
ectypes 13th-Dec-2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
this.
hahahey 13th-Dec-2012 05:53 pm (UTC)
exactly
nicenicegirl 13th-Dec-2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
preach!
heart_of_butter 13th-Dec-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
THIS!
purpleplague 14th-Dec-2012 12:07 am (UTC)
exactly
xpirate_queenx 13th-Dec-2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
juniorquincy 13th-Dec-2012 05:39 pm (UTC)
possevi 13th-Dec-2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
Dwayne did it better.

title or description

zharia 13th-Dec-2012 06:12 pm (UTC)
i am so attracted to him IDGAF.
quinnthevixen 13th-Dec-2012 08:48 pm (UTC)
omg laughing literally out loud at this
purpleplague 14th-Dec-2012 12:08 am (UTC)
lmao love it
tx5mym5 14th-Dec-2012 03:18 am (UTC)
He is perfect.
ectypes 13th-Dec-2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
learning about the male gaze in a critical media course was one of the worst semesters of my entire college career. i don't think i've ever been that depressed by a class.
saltireflower 13th-Dec-2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
boooo hoooo
lucciolaa 13th-Dec-2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
Anyway, as long as the entertainment industry chooses to focus on the attractiveness and sex appeal of performers, doesn't it only make sense that audiences will respond to that attractiveness and sex appeal? You can't put a bunch of good looking people in front of us and expect us not to care.
hershelwalker 13th-Dec-2012 05:36 pm (UTC)
always here for a sexy men post but what in the world is this article
kwikimart 13th-Dec-2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
LMAO

I knew from "as a liberal man" that there was no point reading the rest of this

Have fun y'all
heart_of_butter 13th-Dec-2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
"As a progressive, liberal man" is the new "nice guy", y/n?
zparklemotion 13th-Dec-2012 06:44 pm (UTC)
sounds like it
bellwetherr 13th-Dec-2012 08:26 pm (UTC)
pretty much
imnotasquirrel 13th-Dec-2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
i'm so sick of people acting as though double standards are inherently evilwrongbad. we don't exist in a vacuum so why should we act as though these actions occur in one? the ~female gaze is treated differently than the male gaze because men and women operate on different rungs in terms of how we're treated in society at large.

maybe when men and women have achieved true equality, then we can talk. until then, fucking deal with it.
_thirty2flavors 13th-Dec-2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
lol one of my least favourite responses in a discussion of sexism is always "IF IT WAS A MAN WOULD YOU STILL CALL IT SEXIST???"

UM no probably not because chances are if it was a man it would change the implication of whatever entirely, so
firstblush 13th-Dec-2012 06:46 pm (UTC)
Ugh thank you. This is so true, and the same point that always comes to mind in racism posts too. You can't make these actions equivalent, when the groups you are discussing aren't on equal footing.
mynamehere07 13th-Dec-2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
As a liberal man brought up by a strong mother, I knew exactly what to do at this point: avert my eyes from her body and concentrate on her verse-speaking, or the lighting rig. Any man in the audience who had responded in the manner of the women at The Bodyguard, Viva Forever! and Carmen would – quite rightly – have been asked to leave the theatre and, if they were on a date, would probably have ended up going home alone.



WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH Poor you, Mr. MRA struggling to be heard.
highd 13th-Dec-2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
I just caught up with BB last night. JFC the ending of this season has me flipping out. For the strangest reason I am rooting Hank on so bad.

Sorry you were the giver of this mini rant. Breaking Bad excitement had to pour out of me :)
mynamehere07 13th-Dec-2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
There is always room for BrBa talk!

I started out hating Hank, because he was a loudmouth blowhard. Then he slowly won me over, and I can't wait to see how he handles Walt being Heisenberg. I imagine he will be conflicted because he's been chasing Heisenberg for so long, and will want to see justice. However, it will make him look suspect because he's been taking drug money for his rehab.

razzamatazz 13th-Dec-2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
Okay, Mark Lawson.
leprince504 13th-Dec-2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
flop article and no peen pictures? what is this post?
jaimelannister 13th-Dec-2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
byop = bring your own pictures
manaconda 13th-Dec-2012 05:44 pm (UTC)
this article

can men do anything right
hollis1975 13th-Dec-2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
not often
railway 14th-Dec-2012 06:32 am (UTC)
Where's the '... be a man' title for this post? I'm thinking "Want to completely fail at understanding what sexism actually is? Be a man."
lucciolaa 13th-Dec-2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
ia very good point
freeze_i_say 13th-Dec-2012 06:04 pm (UTC)
exactly
heart_of_butter 13th-Dec-2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
Basically.
gabrieldreams 13th-Dec-2012 05:48 pm (UTC)
On the one hand when I worked in a theatre it was always groups of women who cheered at the male nudity and never the other way around, and sometimes it really freaked the actors out and other times we had to talk to the groups and explain to them that this isn't the full monty, it's a play that other people would like to watch in peace.

I guess you don't expect to hear 'it's not very big' in your big scene or chants of 'take it off' to a male character in a towel, who isn't actually supposed to get naked. Those are the more polite examples.

On the other hand it's more of an etiquette problem and not really comparable to anything women have to go through so ...

On a case by case basis there is inappropriate behaviour by women towards male actors, however I wouldn't like to hazard a guess as to whether it's because they're objectifying them or because they've had a few and didn't listen to the theatre guidelines when they were announced.

This is not a big deal when you compare it to similar issues faced by women.

lucciolaa 13th-Dec-2012 05:54 pm (UTC)
I guess you don't expect to hear 'it's not very big' in your big scene or chants of 'take it off' to a male character in a towel, who isn't actually supposed to get naked.

That's gross. I mean, it's one thing to get excited over a film like Magic Mike, but it's quite another to make stage actors uncomfortable and borderline harass them. I think women have it way worse in this industry, but I don't think that's an excuse to ignore when male actors are harassed like that because they're people, too.
myheyday 13th-Dec-2012 05:59 pm (UTC)
Perfect comment.
hannahgrace456 13th-Dec-2012 06:09 pm (UTC)
A++++
zharia 13th-Dec-2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
IA on the etiquette point.

But part of me is like, "wow I feel ~so sorry for them," because okay yeah you get to deal with that on stage? Well I get to deal with dudes saying shit like that to me in REAL life where I feel truly physically threatened and have had guys like that follow me home and try and get into my apartment building so I'm nhft.
when_itsizzles 13th-Dec-2012 05:57 pm (UTC)
yeah this boils down to bad theatre etiquette really.
imnotasquirrel 13th-Dec-2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
yeah, ia that it's terrible theater etiquette. i'm just nhf the writer trying to equate it with the problems that women face.

but if someone is acting like an ass in the theater, they should get kicked out regardless.

Edited at 2012-12-13 06:14 pm (UTC)
aemmanuel 14th-Dec-2012 02:33 am (UTC)
For me, this is the point:
It's not a men vs. women or who's been more objectified or given less agency in their roles by writers while being expected to walk around naked onstage.
It's about respecting the actors and their work enough to let them play their roles without the audience acting like it's 2-for-1 night at Chippendale's or Hooter's.
There's nothing wrong with being titillated by the nudity onstage. There's something wrong with verbally assaulting the actors onstage as if that the only reason she or he is up there.
This isn't an issue of men taking what women have had to deal with vis-a-vis onstage nudity and objectification.
It's about respecting the actor onstage as an actor, regardless of whether he or she is dressed or undressed.
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