The “Game of Thrones” Nudity Problem
After the season 5 premiere of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday, actress Anna Kendrick posted regarding the nakedness (or lack thereof) of star Michiel Huisman during a sex scene in the episode. Although the tweet was meant as a joke, It also illustrates a larger problem I have with the way the show employs nudity. Nudity on “Game of Thrones” has been controversial from the get-go, with many viewers finding it gratuitous and often a distraction to the plot. The use of excessive nudity during scenes of exposition on the show even inspired its own term, “sexposition”. I think it’s true that sometimes the show resorts to nudity only for the sake of titillation, but the show has often made good, contextual use of it at other times. It has long been HBO’s MO to make liberal use of nudity, as seen on shows like “The Sopranos” and “Entourage”, all of whom faced similar criticism. While I don’t really take issue with the titillating aspect of the nudity on “Game of Thrones”, I do think their is a larger problem regarding the nudity; that being the enormous gender disparity of it.
While there has been an abundance of female nudity on the show, there is manifest lack of almost any male nudity, especially full frontal nudity. Outside of Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) all the way back in season one, I don’t believe a single major male actor on the show has done a full frontal nude scene. This runs contrary to the many of the shows female actors who have disrobed, like Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), Oona Chaplin (Talisa Stark) or Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen), to name a few. The argument that those involved with the show make for the use of nudity is that it makes the sex more realistic, which is true. However, that argument holds no validity if it’s applied inversely to one gender. The lack of equal opportunity nudity has long been a problem in Hollywood as a whole, and the lopsided nature of it only services the male gaze. While “Game of Thrones” is certainly not the lone culprit here, they are helping to further serve a sexist agenda about who does and does not have to get naked on-screen and that’s a problem
The show is extremely popular, an it could really be a trend-setter in this regard. If “Game of Thrones” started embracing something closer to equal opportunity, the rest of Hollywood would take notice and might adopt equal opportunity nudity as well. The avoidance of showing male genitals during sex scenes (although really pre or post sex) has become a distracting element during such scenes (you can just feel the camera straining itself to avoid crotch shots). “Game of Thrones” is a great show, but like all TV shows, it does not exist in a vacuum. The show can improve upon its gender politics in a big way going forward by better balancing its portrayal of nudity. Also, I’m sure Anna Kendrick wouldn’t mind it either 😉