Naturist Support in Children’s Media

If you’re a naturist parent or educator, you’re probably as sick as I am of skinny-dip slasher flicks or penis-for-laughs “bromance” films and their reinforcement of the “either-sin-or-comedy” definition of nudity. Awful message for the kiddos, right? Well, here are two (at least) examples of mainstream media with strong positive naturist content, not only for children but for adults as well.

Kirikou and the Sorceress is a 1998 animated film by French director Michel Ocelot. (I found out about the film years ago from a naturist-friendly film list at clothesfree.com – thanks, Clothesfree!) The film treats the legend of a West African boy, Kirikou, who is “small in size, but he is wise.” We see this extraordinary boy crawl right out of his mother’s womb, talking already, and immediately proceed on a quest to avenge his male relatives. Almost all of the men in the village have disappeared, and Kirikou must battle the sorceress Karaba and her army of fetishes to reunite the families of his village.

What does this have to do with naturism? Almost all the characters go about their lives “clothesfree” or “topfree,” and not only that but in their culture they probably wouldn’t have the need for such terms. How much more naturist can you get?

The children of the village dance for joy in Kirikou and the Sorceress

Some folks level the following critiques at the film: (1) The “National Geographic” critique: that if the film were exactly the same except with “white” unclothed characters, it wouldn’t have been made; and (2) the feminist critique: the depiction of the villain may hone a bit too closely to stereotypes of the “evil woman.” But I think these Eurocentric critiques do little to move beyond face value. The film was made in France by a European and African team, including Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour, intending to stick to the original West African stories and incorporate the music and art of that region. The film proved so successful that a sequel, Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages (Kirikou and the Wild Beasts), came out in 2005 (though not available in English, purportedly because of American outrage over the nudity in the first film). Also, the live musical Kirikou et Karaba was produced by some of the same creative team members and first performed in Paris in 2007. There is apparently a third film in production, Kirikou et les hommes et les femmes (Kirikou and the Men and the Women), due out late this year.

A scene from Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages

The takeaway? The beautiful art and music of the Kirikou films will beguile you, and their depiction of nonchalant, normal nudity is a powerful message for young and old alike. One of the catchiest songs from the soundtrack, “L’enfant nu,” celebrates Kirikou’s nudity as an essential part of his heroic, clever character. Kirikou has become a favorite in my household. See for yourself!

The Battle of the Books by David Michael Slater and illustrator Jeff Ebbeler is a 2009 children’s story based on the moral, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Paige the romance novel and Mark the history book are new to the library. They are very quickly and superficially judged by the other books.

Segregated by their covers, Mark and Paige are pulled into opposing cliques, but they escape by letting their dust jackets slip off in the struggle. This incites the battle of the books, in which the volumes literally rip the covers off each other. Only then do the book characters finally open up and “read” each other and thus get to know each other beyond appearances. The parallel between the anthropomorphized books’ covers and human clothing is very easy to catch, and it makes this not only a powerful message for all, but also an inherently naturist message. This is a good example of “covert”-yet-overt support for naturism, hidden in plain sight but open for all to see and understand!

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