Posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 by Germain Lussier
We’re sorry to report that side boob you found so titillating was nothing more than a bunch of zeros and ones. Jessica Alba was not, in fact, naked in the shower in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete. According to a recent report, Alba was actually wearing tight white underwear on the set, which was then digitally altered to make the perennial sex symbol appear nude. And while it’s not surprising that computer graphics have the ability to remove clothing, it is surprising that filmmakers would be willing to do it. And not for all the reasons you think, sicko. Hit the jump to read more (warning: possible NSFW image).
Before we discuss the pros and cons of CGI nudity, here’s a scan of the scene from Machete to keep in mind.
No matter your age, sex, race or religion, nudity in film elicits a strong reaction. Maybe it’s sexual, maybe it’s offensive or maybe it makes a character seem infinitely more vulnerable. No matter what an audience member’s personal reaction to nudity, there’s usually a reason why a filmmaker asks an actor to bare it all and why so many refuse to do so. Some may find the act of being nude liberating for their performance, while others might refuse to do it because they want to keep something about themselves private. It’s a case by case basis.
Let’s not be mistaken though. By having Jessica Alba “naked” in Machete, Robert Rodriguez was explicitly trying to sell tickets to horny teenage boys who would tell their friends, “You can see Jessica Alba naked in Machete, in theaters now!” And there’s certainly a place for that kind of nudity. Insert every single Eighties teen comedy here. That’s probably the reason, too, that director Dominic Sena paid Halle Berry extra to bare her breasts in Swordfish. Then, of course, there’s the end all be all of sexualized female nudity, Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Still, even the Cates scene – as overtly sexual as it is – gives the film a grounding in reality and a great character moment for Brad, the Judge Reinhold character. Teenagers don’t fantasize about people with their clothes on, right?
Of course, nudity has been used to great effect in a non-sexual way too. Take the reveal in The Crying Game for example, or even the rape scene in A Clockwork Orange. In The Crying Game, nudity completely flips the audience’s perception of the film and in Clockwork, nudity heightens the reality and horror. And those are just two examples off the top of my head, there are surely many, many more.
Now, imagine any of the movies mentioned above – sexual or nonsexual – with CGI nudity. Even if it’s totally unrecognizable as CGI, the performance is not going to be the same (well, maybe Berry’s in Swordfish cause she’s not doing anything). Or maybe the CGI artist will take some liberties and remove a mole here or there making the person look better than he or she really does. Our perception of reality has totally changed.
Make no mistake, there will always be real nudity. Guys, and girls, will pay to see people naked in movies because it elicits such a wide spectrum of reactions. So in those cases, like with Machete, if you throw in a little CGI, no harm no foul. The real case against CGI is when it takes away nudity where it’s appropriate for the subject matter. If an actress like Kate Winslet can just ask James Cameron to make her nude through CGI in Titanic, are we as an audience really experiencing the newly found openness and sexual deviance those characters are experiencing? No, we’re not, and it will come across in the actor’s portrayals. There’s a huge different between acting naked and just being naked. It’s very much like the new technology where CGI can make actors any weight or body shape they need to be. That’s all fine and well, but what about performance and really getting into a role?
Be sure to leave us your thoughts in the comment sections below. And thanks to Fleshbot for first pointing out the Alba hypocrisy and staring this conversation.