Laurie Toby Edison

Photographer

Not-So-Nude Flight Attendants

Debbie says:

Call me naive, but to me “nude” means, among other things, showing skin that’s not usually shown. So when I saw a pointer to this article about an Air New Zealand inflight safety film featuring nude flight attendants, I had an image in my head: I bet you have the same one.

But no! Here’s the actual video:

As you can see, these flight attendants are not only wearing “body paint mimicking their uniforms,” it’s thick and very complete body paint, extremely carefully executed (and well-dried, too). You have to look very closely indeed to be able to notice that it isn’t the actual uniforms. What you don’t see is anything at all that has the flavor or quality of nudity.

This raises two questions, one flippant and one serious. The flippant question is “What was the shoot like?” I have an image of a small army of body-paint specialists, male and female, painstakingly working on each flight attendant (or actors taking the part of flight attendants) in private and foregoing any possible double entendres. In fact, the whole thing is so careful that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the principals were wearing flesh-colored body stockings under the paint. I suspect the backstage and blooper reel videos are a lot more fun than the released video.

And then the serious question: when is someone nude? Or naked? If I agree to have my naked photograph on the cover of a book, that seems fairly unambiguous.

cover of Women En Large

And even if the photograph doesn’t “show anything,” i.e. any nipples or genitals, generally it’s still a nude.

Cynthia with guitar

(Laurie and I have a whole speech about how it’s only a male nude if the penis is showing, but that’s another blog entry. It’s certainly a female nude if all you can see is a naked back.) But if I’m covered in concealing body paint (especially body paint that simulates professional clothing), what’s nude about me? Is there something titillating about squinting to see if a bump of nipple or a pubic hair can be seen through the paint? And from a commercial standpoint, what did Air New Zealand hope to accomplish? They claim they wanted people to pay more attention to the safety video, but unless they make a big deal out of the “nudity,” most people won’t notice. And if they do make a big deal out of it, most people will be squinting for that glimpse of something forbidden and are less likely to remember the safety instructions.

I’m all for straight-up nudity, but this disguised and denatured nakedness has no appeal to me whatsoever.

5 Responses to “Not-So-Nude Flight Attendants”

  1. geekgirlsrule Says:

    Honestly, I’m gratified that they had men doing it as well as women. I doubt you’d ever see that in the US.

  2. Lexie Di Says:

    It is nice to see males doing it too (even though they didn’t show the male’s bottom but the female’s).

    I don’t know what people find so taboo or forbidden about the naked body. It’s so beautiful.

  3. lilacsigil Says:

    In New Zealand, the ad seems to be generally unpopular, and is considered unprofessional – selling the flight on the sexiness of the attendants seems to be considered inappropriate.

    I also wanted to say how gorgeous that nude with guitar is! One thing I loved about playing the cello was embracing the instrument, and I can see that love here.

  4. Laurie Toby Edison Says:

    lilacsigil,

    Thanks. Her name is Cindy McQuillan and she was a marvelous musician and singer.

    geekgirlsrule and Lexie Di,

    The dearth of male nudes except for limited kinds of erotica and Naturist images is pretty amazing. It was of the reasons that I did my book “Familiar Men: A Book of Male Nudes”.

  5. steve Says:

    I had the same reaction to the video. I imagined an Air New Zealand plane crashing, and passengers not being able to find the emergency exits because they were too busy looking for nipples during the safety video.

    I also wondered how long it took the crew to clean up afterwards. That certainly is the thickest body paint I’ve ever seen.

    It was nice to see men included in this anyway.

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