Gratuitous

There’s a new series on Netflix called Altered Carbon. Since I’ve seen several articles posted to Twitter or Facebook analyzing the program’s focus on nudity, I decided to watch at least the first episode.

I did not last ten minutes.

Why? GRATUITOUS not nudity, but VIOLENCE.

I don’t watch a lot of TV, so maybe I’m not the best source here. I haven’t even watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, another series much praised/maligned for nudity and violence. But then again, maybe I don’t watch much TV because there is SO MUCH VIOLENCE. Holy guacamole, why would I want these egregious depictions of carnage in my living room, with my family? As a naturist, I have no problem with nudity in my home, on the TV (rarely) or in real life (daily). My family is comfortable with being naked, which is wholesome and natural and to be celebrated. Where I draw the line is not at nudity but at senseless violence.

It further irks me that the kinds of scenes such as the extended one you see at the beginning of Altered Carbon, where walls are blown away and people are thrown around, are so expensive to film. Why do we spend so much money on that? Who are the people who are compelled to create and to view that? Is it really a majority of the population? Must we always cater to the buying power of men ages 18-30?

I won’t be watching any more of the program. At this point I don’t care about how they use or focus on nudity, because IMO the context is all wrong from the get-go: apparently bodies are just “sleeves,” with their disposability representing some sort of future technology. SMH. I prefer to focus on how wonderful and unique our bodies are, and how we express ourselves through them and with them, especially when nude. What kind of message is sent by showing nude bodies, or any bodies, as merely disposable “sleeves” in a context of overt violence? I don’t see this as any sort of groundbreaking advance in depictions of nudity in popular entertainment.

At best, Altered Carbon‘s production crew could hope to promote respect for our bodies. The writer and executive producer Laeta Kalogridis has said she wants viewers to question our relationship to our bodies. I think that’s great, but again, why the extreme violence? Kalogridis states that she “will be thrilled to remove the violence from noir [genre of the program] when we remove the violence from our lives.” I want to agree with her when she says, in the same interview,

“It’s necessary to point out a thing in order to make progress on changing the thing. And if there’s something that I think we maybe have all noticed in the last couple of years–maybe–when you just pretend that something’s not happening, that will not affect change. Acting as if it’s not happening because you are uncomfortable in looking at it has very little value if what you want is to make things better. If what you want is to stay comfortable and feel good, I suppose it’s fine.”

But I’m just not convinced that this is the way to do it – at least if we define “thing” in her first sentence above as “acceptance of nudity.” If the thing we want “to make progress on” is acceptance of nudity, then I continue to think that wholesome depictions of nudity (not violent, sexualized, or disposable) are much better for body acceptance and respect for ourselves as part of nature. These are of course the goals of naturism.

Coda: I will say that the very first shot of the opening episode of Altered Carbon, of a nude body floating in a liquid, reminds me of the opening of science fiction pioneer Philip José Farmer’s classic Hugo Award-winning novel, To Your Scattered Bodies Go. It became the first novel of a series he called Riverworld, which I highly recommend.

In Riverworld, all of earth’s souls have been reincarnated back into their own bodies, naked and hairless, and they try to figure out why and how. Some of the main characters are historical figures, such as the British explorer Richard Burton and the American writer Mark Twain. The half-dozen or so Riverworld novels certainly include some violence, but it is nothing like in-your-face explosions and injuries in your living room, nor was there any exorbitant expense involved in conceiving such scenes.

2 thoughts on “Gratuitous

  1. I haven't seen Altered Carbon, but somebody gave me the first season of Game of Thrones. I stuck it out, but didn't go back for season 2. It would be nice if there were media that showed bodies as nice, pretty things, in a context of — dare I say it — virtue. I wouldn't object to honest depictions of sexual pleasure, either. I mention this because the Game of Thrones characters get it on, but they don't even like each other. Looking at Netflix, it seems like sordid, naturalistic baloney is the current dominant preference.

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  2. Hi Tom, thanks for your comment. \”Sordid, naturalistic baloney\” – I think that sums it up! There are probably some exceptions out there, but I can't think of any on Netflix unless it would be a foreign film, like Winds of August. I'm with you, hoping for more representation of nudity in a context of virtue.

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