Saturday, May 31, 2008

London's Moulin

Here is a controversial subject that I want to air. How should we think about nudity? I see that Christian groups are protesting about a new logo for Starbucks which has a bare breasted mermaid (were mermaids ever other?).

You might think that it is a storm in a coffee cup, but I want to link it with a movie that I watched the other night "Mrs Henderson Presents" and an episode of 'House' in which the diagnosis was missed because a woman would not take off all her clothes.

"Mrs Henderson Presents" (rated 12) starred Judy Dench and Bob Hoskins and was about the Windmill Theater in London's West End, which was the first to allow nudity on stage in London. It was done purely and simply (would that better be impurely?) to bring in the punters and they got round the censorship of the Lord Chamberlain's office by presenting the nudes as 'art' in tableau. Like the nudes in paintings and sculpture, they did not move. The plea by Mrs Henderson, that when he son died in World War I she found a French postcard amongst his effects and realised that he had never seen a naked woman, so that thereafter she was determined that the young soldiers going to die in the second war should not suffer the same fate, seems like special pleading to me; an argument dreamed up after the fact when she was threatened with closure.

In the episode of 'House' the patient had refused to remove her socks so that he missed a broken toe. It happened to me once; I missed a melanoma on the sole of a foot. So as a doctor I see the necessity for taking all the clothes off and 40 years of examining naked men and women has left me rather devoid of the special frisson that some people experience at the thought of nudity.

But what is it there for? And have we lost something in our society because we have become more accustomed to stripping off? After all, naked flesh is hardly a novelty on the movie screen and it appears regularly on our televisions. We have to admit that it is a social mores. We long ago adjusted to bare breasted black women in grass skirts dancing in the shadow of Kilimanjaro. South Sea Islanders run around hardly clad. In Elizabethan times fashion decreed that the bosom was visible while under that other great Queen, Victoria, even a glimpse of an ankle provoked extremities of male emotion. Under the Taliban, only the eyes are visible.

If complete nudity is an offence to some, we get as near to it as maybe on our advertising hoardings and billboards. Three small triangles leave little to the imagination.

For those still in the dark, take the advice of a doctor: the sexual organs of plants are much more pleasant to look at.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sex sells. I object to it, as all good American Midwesterners do. It leaves nothing to the imagination.

BTW, my dermatologist (female) never asks me to take off my underwear when she is checking for melanoma. I find that stupid, and I drop my shorts and point out a mole or two, just so she will look. It is only for my health, not for thrills.