The New York Post treats a reveal it got yesterday as a guess-that-name gossip item, but the word that a Game of Thrones actress didn’t want to do any more nude scenes raises more interesting and important questions than the simple question of who it was:
One of the stars of “Game of Thrones” is refusing to appear in any more nude scenes, according to a cast member.
“One of the girls in the show who got her [dress] off the most in the first couple of seasons now doesn’t at all,” Oona Chaplin, who plays the noblewoman Talisa Maegyr on the show, told reporters in London over the weekend.
“She said, ‘I want to be known for my acting not for my breasts.’ ”
Chaplin refused to say which actress it is.
I absolutely support any actress who doesn’t want to do nudity, particularly given the disparate pressure on women to take their clothes off on-screen, and how often that nudity is used as fan service rather than for narrative emphasis or to grow characters. But I do think it’s depressing that we’re at a point where actresses feel that they’re faced with a choice: getting nude, even when said nudity might provide an important character moment or punctuate a scene in a moving way, or be taken seriously. Game of Thrones, in its first several seasons, particularly through its use of sexposition—sex scenes that appeared in the show to make more visually, er, stimulating, scenes where characters explained backstory or politics—helped make that feel more like a choice.
But it’s done a great deal in this third season to make nudity equal-opportunity across genders, and more importantly, to demonstrate that you can be naked and do serious acting. Seeing Brienne of Tarth lunge, nude, out of a bath to confront her antagonist and former prisoner, Jaime Lannister, wasn’t about presenting her body for our consumption as a sex object, but to demonstrate that she wasn’t afraid to be naked in front of a man who had sexually shamed her for loving a king who would never want her. Seeing Robb Stark and his wife Talisa naked together after a bout of marital sex was a display of their intimacy and comfort with each other, as well as the fact that they were still in the early stage of their relationship, when their nudity was still novel to each other. And seeing Jon Snow stripped of his furs was also to see him stripped of the vows he swore as a member of the celibate Night’s Watch: wildling Ygritte’s seduction of him rendered him emotionally and physically naked.
Getting naked is a serious business, something that happens consensually between adults, non-consensually a way of victimizing someone and making them feel powerless, non-sexually as a way of demonstrating comfort, or necessarily to provide care to someone who is vulnerable. Nudity can be funny without making the person who is nude risible, and sensual without making the person who is naked an object. That we still have trouble with those ideas suggests we have a lot to learn as viewers, and that our popular culture has to be more precise in the way it teaches us to absorb the nudity it puts on screen.