Oglers

14 Oct

So, there’s this fairly popular TV show called Nip/Tuck. As near as I can gather without having to watch an episode or do any research (in other words, my expert opinion is based on advertisements I saw 3-4 years ago with much less feminist theory informing my media consumption), it’s about a bunch of male plastic surgeons and the shallow, sex-driven women who are the surgeons’ patients.

This understanding of the show does not in any way clash with the following advertisement, seen on Youtube as I was looking up links of David Tennant-y goodness.

niptuck

For those who may not be able to see the image, it is a picture of a mostly naked woman in a highly sexualized pose. She is wearing tight white underpants, and corset piercings running down from the nape of her neck to the top of her underwear. The string lacing is tied in a bow at her iliac, and the remainder of the thread wraps around her hand in a loosely immobilizing position while a man in semi-recumbent pose pulls it, as if controlling her by using reins. Both he and another man are staring at the woman in what strikes me to be a somewhat predatory fashion. It’s also worth noting that all three are white and conventionally attractive.

This is fairly classic male gaze operation (obligatory link to Dinosaur Comics). The men, both dressed in business attire (slacks and jacket) are ogling the woman, mostly nude and in a position suggestive of performance for the male gaze – right hand behind head, which widens the chest and shoulders, lifting the breasts and making them more prominent (while we the viewer don’t see the woman’s breasts, the shot makes it clear that the men in the picture do, so the movement breasts undergo in this position is significant), upper left arm held close to the body while the forearm stretches towards the semi-recumbent man, hips tilted at an angle uncomfortable to maintain for long periods of time, yet often used in what I’ve seen of mainstream porn photoshoots. The mens’ clothing indicates a certain social stature – rich, powerful, able to objectify and control women.

In certain ways, the ad reminds me of Le dejeuner sur l’herbes, a 19th century Manet (a precursor to impressionism) painting (description by Emile Zola at the Wikipedia article cited above).

The woman is nude among well-dressed men. It is worth noting that the woman is not sexualized, just naked. While there is, in this society, an automatic sexualization of nudity, Manet does not further objectify the woman. The men are also not staring at the woman in the skeevy, predatory way of the Nip/Tuck advertisement – instead, the woman is staring at the viewer (rare in compositions: usually, subjects of the composition are shown from a slight angle, so that the viewer is allowed to be a passive observer, rather than treated as an active participant (which is why it’s so jarring when actors look directly into the camera)).

There are also sharp contrasts to the famous Yoko Ono/John Lennon photo by Annie Liebovitz, where Lennon appears naked, cuddled around a fully clothed Ono.

Both John and Yoko look so vulnerable, so tender here that it’s quite touching. I don’t feel that the photo would be as powerful if Yoko weren’t dressed – the photo feels so intimate, like we’ve been allowed a gentle glimpse into the lives of two who loved each other so deeply it’s almost surreal, and as thought this love allows for a form of sexuality. It’s so drastically different from the sexuality of the Nip/Tuck ad – Nip/Tuck allows only for sexual enjoyment of the female form, while Liebovitz’ piece shows that nudity needn’t be about the male gaze, that it can give the viewer a powerfully intimate image of a couple where the woman is not treated as an object.

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2 Responses to “Oglers”

  1. Karin November 17, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Hey there,

    I was looking through photos and articles online related to women’s body image, and came upon your site (related to Yoko Ono and Lennon’s photo by Annie Leibovitz).

    I was wondering if I would be able to use the references you made here in this post about the Male Gaze and women’s bodies depicted in media for a Women’s Studies project I have due thursday (nov 19th)

    Would that be possible? I may just use the juxtaposition of the pictures, and nothing else, but I wanted to get your permission first. Thank you for your time.

    ~Karin~

  2. niemaodpowiedzi November 17, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    Absolutely. Feel free to use this in any way you see fit.

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