Attraction Sells. Fact. Practically every aspect of the modern media relies on it, from TV to film, music videos and advertising campaigns. Is it a form of female liberalisation? If not, is it really necessary?
There was a time in the past century that flesh flashed on television was unheard of. The infamous ‘Page 3’ (for international viewers, tabloid newspapers in the United Kingdom print photographs of almost-naked women on the 3rd page on a daily basis) only originated in 1970. Music videos consisted of ‘live’ performances by the artists, and the only nudity on film was found on a ‘Blue Movie’.
The expansion of the media circus occurred in the 1960s. Cheap B-Movies cashed in on scantily clad women a la ‘One Million Years B.C’ (1966), in which actress Raquel Welch spent the film running away from dinosaurs in a bikini. Whilst we can all look back and be amused by the content of the film, it is obvious that its leading lady was directed to don the prehistoric animal skin two piece so men would drag the missus down to the cinema to watch.
Enter the 1970s, and ‘Charlie’s Angels’ was in full swing. James Bond continued to pass through Bond girls quicker than vodka Martinis and ‘Pan’s People’ (creatively-clad ladies who danced provocatively to pop acts in lieu of a music video) were a weekly fixture on Top of the Pops.
Speeding onto the 1980s, Madonna courted controversy in her conical bra and Cher wore a racy body-stocking/bathing suit for ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’.
I’m all for strong, individual women pursuing their passions, but why should they have to resort to peeling off the layers in order to grab attention? Or is this, in fact, women stressing their independence by wearing whatever they please?
Madonna continues to ‘reinvent’ herself by removing her clothing at the age of 50 +, and the younger generation follow in her footsteps. Teen stars such as Disney actor/singer Miley Cyrus, Gossip Girl’s and The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen and Aussie songstress Gabriella Cilmi have all appeared to move away from their sugary sweet image for a more sexualised appearance, in minuscule dresses, platforms, buckets of make-up and ten cans of hairspray, pulled and tweaked to commercial perfection in order to sell records etc.
Take Gabriella Cilmi as an example. In the video for her début single Sweet About Me she wore a black vest and jeans; in her second album comeback single On A Mission she wore an array of tiny dresses or hot pants. Most extreme, it seems, are the dancers in rap / R’n’B music videos in which near naked women writhe over the set and the artists. Is. It. Necessary? Does it empower women? It seems the respective record label couldn’t wait to sexualise Miss Cilmi… or does she thrive in her revamped image?
But surely the talent does the talking.
Times have progressed from the days of downtrodden mother and trophy wives, to an age where women have proved that they can be successful without having to rely on appearance alone. Surely women such as musical legends Debbie Harry, Annie Lennox, Alanis Morissette,or newbies Ellie Goulding, Florence Welch or even Paramore’s Haley Williams prove that this is possible. Janis Joplin didn’t need to flash the flesh, and neither did Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex.
I’m not calling for an campaign of Mary Whitehouse standards by any means – but flesh-flashing feels more like a reliance on a tool than a celebration. Do women really need to rely so heavily on their bodies and overall image on the quest for success?