There’s too much nudity in this country. (Public nudity, I mean. On private nudity, I have no opinion.) You can’t turn on a football game (not that I would) without seeing a former pop star flashing her knockers at the world, and the movies are rife with female stars — many of them underage! — acting all hoochy and skankified. Maybe the Puritans got it right when, after a council of elders weighed the alternatives and examined the temptations being let loose on society, they made women illegal.
No, maybe that takes it too far. I come from a modest sort of upbringing, though, where you don’t go around showing the neighbors your business, although when I was about 6, I did go outside and play while wearing only my new Underoos (Superman variety), because I didn’t realize they were underwear, I thought they were a costume. But I was young, and I needed the money, or something.
My point is, my attitudes on the subject are apparently more old-fashioned than some. After Janet Jackson unleashed her aged bazoom, there was an uproar from conservative folks who were outraged that such a thing would happen during a Super Bowl halftime show, which has generally been a beacon of, if not “taste,” exactly, at least clothedness. But now the pendulum has swung the other way. Commentators are saying we overreacted, and that the FCC oughtn’t levy fines against the stations that broadcast the indecency, and that we shouldn’t be so uptight.
Look at the Europeans, they say. The Europeans are very casual about nudity, and their societies run just fine. But the Europeans are also very casual about bathing, and I don’t see America rushing to emulate that.
Of course, I’m uncomfortable with a lot of things in public. Even mild public displays of affection strike me as odd. When I see a couple walking down the street and the man has his arm around the woman, I think, “Why? Are you afraid she’s going to escape?” It always looks like a kidnapping to me.
At any rate, it is clear the nation is becoming more libertine than I’m comfortable with. And it’s not that I’m embarrassed by certain body parts, or find them “dirty” or whatever. It’s more that I think women ought to have more respect for themselves than to go dressing all trashy. It’s not the flesh that bothers me, but the mindset that wants to expose it all the time. Have we objectified women so thoroughly that the only way they can find self-esteem is to objectify themselves?
There has recently been a rash of dirty-old-man-ism in the media as guys have eagerly counted down the days until their favorite underage actresses turn 18. I’m not sure why it is more acceptable for a 35-year-old man to lust after an 18-year-old actress than a 17-year-old one — to actually go out with, yes, because there are laws to consider, but to lust after, what’s the difference? Not like her being 18 suddenly means she wants to date a greasy Internet loser who is twice her age.
MaryKate&Ashley Olsen and Lindsay Lohan are the most recent objects of this creepy affection, all three of them having turned 18 within the past several months to the cheers of many men much older than they. Yet all three girls also appeared, while still 17, in movies in which they dressed provocatively and behaved sexily — the Olsen twins in “New York Minute,” and Lohan in “Mean Girls.” Luckily, no one saw “New York Minute,” not even the people who made it, not even the projectionists in the theaters that showed it. The film was so bad that on some prints, instead of the movie, all you could see was 90 minutes of Satan sitting in a hot tub. But “Mean Girls” was good, and people did see it, and Lohan was in the public eye quite a bit with premieres and interviews and such, and is it fair to condemn men for ogling her when she appears dressed like this?
These pictures were all taken when Lohan was still 17, mind you. The double standard isn’t fair: It’s creepy for men to fantasize about underage girls, but the underage girls dress as if they want men to fantasize about them.
And it’s not just celebrities, of course. If you spend as much time as I do hanging out at shopping malls and high school parking lots, you’ll see teenagers dressed in all manner of hoocheous clothing, including the most unfortunate trend of the past five years, the low-rise jeans. These things look good on maybe 1 percent of the population, but they’re pretty much all the stores sell at the moment, as you know if you spend as much time in the women’s clothing section as I do. You can’t buy non-low-rise; you have to buy the low-rise and show everyone your hip bones (or, in most cases, the plenteous flesh that covers them, squeezed so it oozes over the top of the jeans like melted marshmallow out of a s’more).
So it’s an epidemic of skankiness — a skankidemic, if you will — and I wonder how long it will last. To comport oneself with dignity is not viewed as something to aspire to in the modern age. We are informal and irony-laden: Anyone behaving with class MUST be putting on airs and must therefore be mocked. So you gots to act cool and casual and let it all hang out, yo. But maybe the pendulum will swing the other way. Maybe in 10 years it will become fashionable to cover one’s body completely, head to toe, shoulder to wrist. Maybe the new image of hotness will be the nun look. Maybe nudity will become boring, and covering everything up will be scandalous. I mean, probably not, but maybe. That would rock.
If I'm this cranky when I'm my age, think what a crusty old man I'll be when I'm an old man! You kids and your rock 'n' roll.
Thanks to Scott Weinberg, my friend at EFilmCritic.com, for finding the pictures of Lindsay Lohan, even though he did so for less noble purposes than I had in mind.