“Lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains.” Wise words from Shakira there, one of the great philosophical minds of our times. Words that, I feel, have fallen on deaf ears. It seems to me that there is a lot of confusion about breasts these days. I’m not sure how often they’re confused with mountains to be fair, although if you happen to be tuning into Game of Thrones recently, you’ll soon realise that these two entirely separate entities share a few common traits, their main one being that they both dominate the entire fucking landscape of the show.
That’s right, all the way from medieval Westeros to mafia infested New Jersey, the HBO universe would simply not be complete without a lovely big pair of boobs. I’ve recently been enjoying their latest offering, the brilliant and brooding True Detective starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and was confused and dismayed by the lack of breasts in the first episode (there are some but they’re on a dead lady so…not really what I was hoping for). I really was relieved then to see this was more than made up for in the second episode when one of the true detectives, Marty, decides to get himself some extramarital sex. I found it kind of weird that I didn’t see any of the Marty’s rude bits but then, I remembered, IT’S HBO!! This comes from the same network that brought you Hung, a show whose entire premise was based around a male prostitute with a huge penis but you’ll have to take their word for it folks because you never actually see it throughout its full three series run.
Of course HBO’s blatant gender double standards when it comes to nudity has been done before and illustrated in videos such as this brilliant clip from College Humour. And yet it’s not really the lack of penises that’s the issue (never thought I’d say that in any context ever). For me, the issue is the Developed Female Character vs. Boobs on display ratio. So far on True Detective, it’s Boobs: 2, Developed Female Characters: 0. Oh and don’t try telling me that Marty’s wife is a developed female character. If we implement the ol’ Bechdel test here, that asks whether a work of fiction features two or more women having a conversation that isn’t about a guy, she loses. So far she exists solely to further develop Marty’s character. It’s only two episodes in. Maybe it’ll change. But, sadly, it could very easily not.
In the midst of all this inequality, it interesting to hear that Emilia Clarke, one of the female stars of Game of Thrones, is rumoured to have refused her character Daenerys any more upcoming nude scenes. But this leads us to a problem. Yes, Game of Thrones is probably our highest Boobs on display scorer but it’s also a significantly high Developed Female Characters scorer, with Daenerys’ character in particular proving a crucial example of the two components merging together successfully.
For those of you who don’t know, Daenerys is awesome. We first meet her as an innocent young woman, heir to a throne in a distant land and about to be married off to a war lord who, in return, will give her brother the army he needs to take back his crown. She stands naked before her brother in the same way meat hangs in a butcher shop. We see that she is simply flesh to be sold and we as viewers are implemented in this too for we consume her flesh just as the characters around her do.
As the rightful heir, Daenerys’ brother holds the power. And yet when she becomes pregnant with a son, the power is taken from him and she finds that she herself is now the vessel for this power. By losing her son and her husband at the end of the first series, she finally takes the power for herself and declares that she will take back her own crown. Again, nudity is crucial as we witness Daenerys being reborn on her husband’s funeral pyre into the ruler she must become.
Most recently Daenerys’ nudity served to illustrate how strong that power has become. Now well into series three, Daenerys has conquered lands and has an entire army at her command. When Daario Naharis, a mercenary soldier meets with her she stands naked in her bath as they discuss his allegiance. On the surface it is erotic and Daario openly admires her beauty and yet there is something profoundly empowering about standing utterly vulnerable before a man in full armour and weaponry and still be able to command him, she has nothing and yet she is still more powerful than him.
To give HBO its due then, it knows how to do female nudity that is necessary and enhancing to both the character and the story. That’s why when we see it done wrong so often it is all the more frustrating. The moment in which Daenerys stands naked in front of the armed Daario is also important in relation to the idea of female sexuality as a weapon and yet, back in the ol brothel, this idea is so often disregarded in favour of displaying the breasts and ignoring the woman to whom the breasts belong. We don’t need less boobs HBO, we need more developed female character attached to those boobs please.