Nudity and prudery

Everyone is born nude. We find pictures of nude babies and nude young children “cute”. However should an adult appear in the buff, it seems that the response in this country might as well be “All hands to battle stations!”

In case you haven’t heard, recently Meghan McCain, liberal daughter of populist-conservative Senator John McCain, was filmed apparently naked from the chest up for a public service advertisement regarding skin cancer. The cause is certainly worthy, and the message readily apparent: if you don’t do anything to protect your skin, you’re no better off than if you were walking around outside naked.

So why the torches and pitchforks about this, led most notably by the ever-controversial Glenn Beck?

First let’s tackle the obvious question: was Meghan McCain actually naked on set? It’s hard to tell. As others have pointed out, what you see in the ad is no more than what she would be revealing if she were wearing a low-cut or strapless dress. Others appearing in the ad, such as former child star Danielle Fishel (Topanga from “Boy Meets World”), show far more despite clever attempts at covering up.

What is most egregious about Beck’s reaction to the public service ad is simply the fact that John and Cindy McCain are skin cancer survivors.

Now, granted, Meghan McCain is not thin. But in my point of view she is an attractive woman. I’m not a huge fan of her politics, but I don’t have to like her ideas to find her attractive. It isn’t the size of the woman that makes her attractive, and the best example of that is Queen Latifah.

Plus the advertisement is tasteful and clever. I disagree in whole that the advertisement is in any way racy. Contrary to how voters have responded in online polls, the advertisement is not sexually suggestive. If you find this advertisement to be sexually suggestive, then you obviously have issues between your ears (and your legs). Trust me, this is far, far from sexually suggestive. How so? Be glad Hustler or Playboy didn’t produce or sponsor the ad…

Beck’s response was far from tasteful and certainly not clever. If he didn’t like the idea of Meghan McCain being implicitly naked for a public service announcement regarding skin cancer, he should have just left it alone and not touched it. Sometimes the best response to something you dislike is just walking away from it. In this case, that would have been the most appropriate response.

One also has to wonder if Beck’s response would have been the same if it was Angelina Jolie appearing practically nude for this advertisement instead of Meghan McCain. Or hell, sub in Sarah Palin or Ann Coulter.

Bottom line, the United States of America is also the United States of Prudes.

How many of you remember Alicia Silverstone’s vegetarian commercial for PETA? (video below courtesy of PETA)

Regardless of what you feel about PETA, the advertisement was, in my opinion, tasteful, even with Silverstone appearing obviously completely nude in the advertisement. It is not sexually suggestive and fits in with PETA’s message about vegetarianism and their stance against furs. Yet the response to that advertisement was nowhere near the level received by the skin cancer PSA involving Meghan McCain. Some television stations did refuse to air the ad over concerns with its content.1Orloff, Brian. (2007, September 20). “Alicia Silverstone’s PETA ads pulled“. People. Other women have also appeared nude in PETA advertisements. Access Hollywood has the details.2Access Hollywood. “Stars Go Naked For PETA“.

It seems that to some any appearance of any naked woman (or man) in any video production, regardless of the message or reason for the production, is pornographic and worthy of censorship. And it is this kind of attitude that has resulted in parents being prosecuted under child pornography laws for taking pictures of their naked young children bathing.

I’m not going to discuss in detail the First Amendment with regard to either advertisement other than to say that both advertisements are covered under the free speech provisions of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has stated as such:

[N]udity alone does not render material obscene under Miller’s standards

Jenkins v. Georgia, 418 US 153 (1974) at 161

But seriously, the United States needs to lighten up. If an organization such as PETA wishes to use nudity as part of their campaign, then let them. The world isn’t going to end because Alicia Silverstone, Meghan McCain, or anyone else for that matter appears nude in an advertisement for a cause. No one should be getting all up in arms about it because it is not something of which to be overly concerned.

If you really have that big of a problem with nudity or someone appearing nude or partially nude on television, then perhaps your problems actually lie within, in which case, strip naked and stare at yourself in the mirror for a while. Appreciating your own natural body will help you see that nudity and being nude is not shameful in any way.