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Gender, Nudity, and the Power of Characterization


I find myself interested in a small trend of nudity and gender topics among recent posts which collectively, and perhaps unintentionally, illuminate similar lines of discourse. Reading these posts, I realized that character has great command over an audience’s assimilation of sex, gender, and nudity. And in the media of visual fiction, it is often a lack of good characterization leading to the doldrums of generic fanservice and blatant objectification.

Lines of Temptation reflects on the female form in noting that disclosure of the body is limited in the medium and less appealing than sensual suggestion. The constructs of modern anime prove difficult in showing nudity, perhaps in lieu of the target demographics being incapable of observing nudity with sincerity. The veil of ‘dress’ provides the necessary mystery to entice an audience often satisfied by shallow mechanics.

You can’t actually show sexual intercourse on anime. So, the only time we really get to see titties is in the changing rooms or in the bathtub. It’s generally pretty hard to work that into the narrative of the show, and often times, people don’t even try. Hence, the hot spring episode.

There is a lack of imagination in visual fiction unable to liberate femininity from objective chains, but I believe the fundamental nature of this problem is in definition of character and a reliance on narrative to provide context for baseless erotica. And I feel this is harmonious with discussion in Defending Ecchi, where Motoko’s nudity (Ghost in the Shell) is thought of as purposeful. Given, I was unable to finish reading the post on the premise that ecchi and fanservice may denote equivalence but the realm of framing nudity is vast; nudity does not imply ecchi or erotica. Despite this, in the midst of one idea, another surfaces:

Is it tasteless ecchi in Ghost in the Shell when Motoko is shown nude? Was it put there just to excite the audience? I would argue no. In the world Motoko lives in, she is a genderless cyborg struggling to find her identity as a person where personal identities seem sparse and meaningless. Devoid of femininity yet having a seemingly perfect feminine body, traditional themes of femininity and post-modern gender neutrality clash. Her body isn’t to titillate, it’s just a triviality of the thematic setting.

Concision aside, “a triviality of the thematic setting” is an understatement in my opinion. Does the audience perceive Motoko as a woman, and is her nudity conducive to reinforcing the perception? Can we acknowledge Motoko is [not] human? What is the existential facade of sex and gender as an opponent of technology? Her body, triviality or not, stimulates thought and dissonance as we realize the state of the character. But more importantly, the character offers a severe context for nudity and nonchalance towards her body’s aesthetic, discouraging the typical sexual appetite [1].

This is extended in Machinations of Gender Dualisms:

The loss of the mindset of being ‘female’, is actually what allows Motoko to undertake a genuine exploration of herself.

As a character free from the usual social stigma of gender, Motoko approaches identity from a novel origin, independent of nurtured orientation. I feel pure existentialism carries a greater immediacy in GitS and would further the argument beyond feminine identity, but the story is intricately textured with other fascinating aspects raising the complexity of themes. One could argue that Motoko, as a character, brings richness in perspective throughout the story above other fictional elements. But focus on beauty and utility of the physical being, as understood [or discovered] by the character, creates a fascinating conversation on sex, gender, and when skillfully incorporated, nudity.

In the next post, I hope to move past Motoko to discuss well-developed characters coexisting with unobtrusive sexual themes.


[1] – Leave room for fetish, which will forever be a variable in audience preference.

Categories: Meditation.

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