So, I watched a marathon of Girls season three this weekend. Previously I saw a bit of season two, but this was my first real encounter with this much-discussed show. It was also my first encounter with the most talked about topic of the show: Lena Dunham’s liberal exposure of her naked, very normal, “non-Hollywood” physique.
I put the terms Lena Dunham’s nudity in quotation marks on Google and got 76,000 results. And if you take out the quotations, boy are you left with a lot of people jabbering about her naked body. I did find it interesting how she throws her character into toplessness at times when it isn’t needed for the events of the scene. Yet I read somewhere that she does it because in life, people are just naked sometimes and she wants her show to be a slice of life. Ok, I guess I buy that.
This got me thinking. Maybe the general discomfort that many feel towards Lena Dunham’s “normal” body reflects a discomfort that we as a nation have towards our own “real” bodies. I watched the Chilean film Gloria some months ago and it portrayed scenes of an older couple falling in love. Their love story included scenes of them having sex and nudity. I’ll be honest; I was a bit shocked to see a sex scene that included flabby skin and a little extra huffing and puffing. That isn’t anything I’ve ever seen in a Hollywood film. Don’t other countries say that Americans are uptight about nudity?
In the United States a sex scene includes two ripped, glistening bodies contorted as the couple mutually climaxes to a screaming, exemplary orgasm. In this country, when we see a naked body we see it airbrushed, in perfect lighting from the perfect angle and after the actor or actress has paid a personal trainer thousands of dollars to whip them into the shape they need to be in to go naked. No, famous people don’t let the world see them in their “regular shape” (which quite frankly, for most of us would seem pretty awesome). Our celebrities have to get themselves to a place of molded perfection.
The body is supposed to have curves, right? I mean, even if a person is a healthy weight, isn’t there still some curve in the natural body? Lena Dunham’s physique would have been considered ideal some generations ago. Take a trip to your local museum and you are likely to find a painting of a beautiful voluptuous woman. Throughout much of history, people would have judged her curves as a sign of fertility and wealth.
What percentage of us has difficulty looking at ourselves naked in the mirror? Show of hands? Do you see my hand in the air? Because that isn’t my favorite pastime. So maybe Lena Dunham’s body represents something much deeper in the general population. Because, quite frankly, Lena Dunham looks much more like the rest of us than any glistening celebrity body shot from the perfect angle. Maybe people have trouble looking at her, because people feel uncomfortable with themselves.
Lena Dunham’s naked body taught me that, as a country, we need to start to embrace the way we look naked. I mean, the way we really look when we are naked. If we can’t look at a reflection of a real body on television, how will we ever be able to make peace with ourselves? As a food and weight loss coach, I haven’t forgotten the importance of being healthy. And the healthy body for most people includes at least some curve. Yet we can’t be healthy, no matter what size we are, if we can’t make peace with what we are at our core.
So I guess watching a marathon of Girls wasn’t such a mindless experience. And I’m sure as long as there is lots of nudity in the show, people will keep talking. Society’s view of the ideal body changes as generations change. We can blame Hollywood, but at the end of the day, we are the ones buying the tickets. As individuals, we get to decide for ourselves what is normal and what is beautiful.
So what do you choose as your model of beauty?