Monday, January 23, 2006

Honey, take the blinders off the horses. We're taken the kids to Europe!

This probably isn't the type of subject that's going to find it's way into the next Thomas Friedman book (The World is Round....Supple, and Sans Tanlines), but different concepts of nudity and how much/often it's accceptable is worth a look.

My first time living abroad (and outside of an anglo-saxon tradition) started only days before Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. I didn't hear about it from the news, though. I was told by a professor from my university in the US who was on sabatical in the town of Angers, where I was studying. He mentioned it, laughingly, telling me that the French just don't understand what the big deal is.

"Why not?" I asked, thinking to myself that Janet Jackson's breast on TV was a huge deal (I didn't know at the time the boob was dressed in some sort of metalurgy).

My professor took me and the other students who were with us, out to the street and pointed to a billboard down the block. We four American students stood dumbfounded at the 10ft tall billboard advertisement for Elle magazine. All it had was a completely nude Heidi Klum facing the camera and hiding nothing.

I started to get the point.

By the next month, it was Laetitia Costa on the beach in the buff who was selling magazines for Elle, and I was much better aclimated. For instance, the family I lived with didn't have cable, but on the five channels they got, I had already been presented the masterpeice of cinematography Showgirls on prime time television, completely uncut and uncensored.

That's just the most obvious, example though. You could be watching TV at any time during the day and see someone naked. The commercial for the new information telephone number (their 411), shows a guy butt-naked, sunning on his roof. Soap comercials don't hide the fact that the girl is naked in the shower.

More so, I was recently looking up a video for the Dakar article we wrote, and I realized that TF1, the equivalent of CBS or NBC in the US, has a "sexy" section on the video page where one can perouse videos, photo galleries, and such. Can you imagine CBS doing that?

It even involves kids (Mr. Robertson, get the 700 Club ready). One of the newest animated films in France came out to much acclaim here in France (around the same time as Chicken Little). The film is called Kirikou et les bĂȘtes sauvages ("Kirikou and the savages beasts," more or less) and it's set in Africa. The thing is: as much as kids in America may or may not like this film, it will never come out there unless the animated breasts are covered. The animated tribal breasts must be covered before our children are corrupted!

See what I'm getting at?

Even in the metro here in Paris (Tuileries), there is Josephine Baker in all her glory.

It's not just in France either, it's everywhere in continental Western Europe, more or less. Though, to be fair, France is somewhat more saturated with nudity that other countries.
What affects does this have on these soulless Europeans? Well, I guess part of it might be a loss of sex drive chez les français. Otherwise, there is a lower uccurance of reported rape in France. There is a similar divorce rate. These things are hard to compare. One thing's for sure though, they don't go crazy over nudity. It's not taboo.

Fine, so why is this significant? Well, it's something that people all over the world are having to face: other people's values. When an American, Asian, Middle-easterner comes to France and sees naked people everywhere, it's an assault to his or her values. That person is then forced to either think that all the people of that country are sinful and hedonistic or that the rules of his own country are a little ridiculous.

The internet has started to that in many Arab countries already. In a place where some people still question still question whether you can be nude during intercourse, people are starting to go online and see that some people are nude, well, all the time.

This, like views on alcohol, will be a serious issue for many people. I can't say how many time's I've been in a bar or pub in Europe and seen 18 year-old Americans getting ripped just because they can finally do it legally. I would imagine that the same thing, in some form or another, happens when some people come from closed societies to those which are more open, like many in Europe (Holland, for example). This is the clash of cultures.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home