Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones


“When you get the personality, you don’t need the nudity.”

-       Mae West

Mae West (1893-1980), one of the sexiest women who ever lived, was renowned for not taking off her clothes.  Her belief was that eroticism and sexuality were better suggested, better hinted at, than fully revealed, and she achieved this through a look, a tone of voice, a comment or a pose.  Mae West made the audience members active participants, making them fill in the blanks in their own minds.  One writer, Harry Blake, has commented that:
The idea is not to impose a love scene on the audience but to make the audience fantasize.  One must insist particularly on that aspect of Mae West’s gags, for they include the audience in the semiotic process of their mechanisms.  The laughs they cause imply for the audience a certain complicity when it comes to the sexual practices that are always the referent of Mae West’s repartee; and it is not only the representation of Mae West’s sexuality that is at stake, but also the audience’s own sexuality.
Which leads me to a particularly interesting example of suggestion v full reveal.

Remember those girlie promo calendars that used to grace the walls of mechanics’ workshops and gyms?  They featured pinups of women in varying states of undress gazing straight at the viewer.  Oftentine they had the name of a tyre manufacturer or the local hardware store below the photographs.

(Disgression #1:  I have sometimes wondered what a person transported to our time from say 1950 would make of our world and society, and what a person of our time transported to 1950 would make of that period.  The culture shock in each case would be much greater than that depicted in Back to the Future.)

(Disgression #2:  The term “pinup”, meaning  a publicity still, poster or calendar of a sexually attractive female or movie actress, naked or in a swimsuit, dates from the 1940’s when it referred to photographs and calendars that were pinned to walls).

In 2009 a Japanese-based company, Eizo, which manufactures imaging equipment, produced its own version of a pinup calendar to promote its products.  The photographs in the calendar had originally been intended for another calendar that was to be given to doctors to convince them to buy the company’s x ray monitors.

The calendar picked up various major marketing and advertising awards and was so successful that Eizo released it again for 2011.

Following is a pic of the full collection of photographs and some of the individual pinups.  Click on the images to enlarge.


Some questions:
Is beauty only skin deep?
Are the provocative poses erotic or a turn off?
Are the photographs sexist or just a bit of fun?

“I think on-stage nudity is disgusting, shameful and damaging to all things American. But if I were 22 with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.

Shelley Winters 

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