Most of the time when celebrities talk, I don’t expect things I will care about to come out of their mouths. Things that annoy me, sure; things that excite me a little, maybe. Things that genuinely concern me for the person speaking? Those are rare indeed, but Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay revealed something regarding her 2011 topless scene that caught my attention and kept me thinking for a while prior to writing this.
In an interview she did with Radio Times magazine, Findlay said that she regrets doing a scene in British drama Albatross wherein she showed her breasts to prove her maturity to a storekeeper so she can buy cigarettes.
“To be honest, Albatross was naiveté and not knowing that I could say no. I had no idea what was going to happen and thought I was going to be shot from behind.”
First of all, it is super sad that she thought she did couldn’t say no. People often criticize this line of thinking — “Well, you said ‘yes,’ so obviously you wanted to be naked in front of people” — but few remember that being young, confused and in a room full of people expecting you to do something is incredibly uncomfortable. Trying to say “no” is not that simple when people are telling or implying to you that your career could be in danger, that it will increase your success, that everybody else has done it, that they’ll replace you if you don’t, that everyone will be disappointed…it’s awkward at best and hostile at worst.
Huffington Post points out that sadly, Jessica Brown Findlay is not alone in her regret. Kate Winslet regretted doing nudity as a younger actress and Mary Louise Parker says she literally fought with Weeds‘ director but gave in eventually. In fact, International Business Times lists plenty of people who regret their nude scenes. However, the difference between the men on the list (Taylor Lautner & David Spade) and the women is that the women all have emotionally-charged frustrations while the men find it humorous. Lautner, for example, says he wishes he hadn’t been shirtless because it made him colder than everybody else on set; Helen Mirren, on the other hand, wishes she never had to do nudity in film because it’s uncomfortable, unenjoyable and “mortifying.”
Women are more frequently objectified than men, thus making their nudity more regular on television. It’s rare that a show not involving a prison full of dudes shows a guy’s lower half sans pants unless it’s the back of his ass; women, on the other hand, are shown constantly in popular shows without any clothes on whatsoever.
So, could more actors please start willingly hanging dong onscreen so we can de-gender the nudity standard in television and film? And could the industry please stop pressuring women to do nude scenes? Just the latter would be fine for now, though I think both are in order.