Will Blake Lively's Refusal to Appear Nude On Screen Help or Hurt Her Career? (ANALYSIS)

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Blake Lively marks two milestones this week. One is turning 25 on Saturday, August 25. The other, less remarked upon, is a career decision that could be momentous: she essentially pledged never to appear on camera in her birthday suit.

Granted, she did show almost everything, but not quite, in her steamy scenes in this summer's Savages. Still, she reportedly said this week that she's thrown off by watching nudity on screen and doesn't believe she'll ever feel comfortable acting in the buff herself.

"When I see nudity in movies, I am always distracted by it," the Daily Mail quoted her as saying. "I know that if I am watching a scene and someone has their boobs out, then that's all I'm looking at -- I can't help it. I just don't think that will ever be right for me."

Whether or not to do nudity seems to be a decision that every rising, attractive actress in Hollywood must eventually face. Many choose, as Lively seems to have chosen, to refuse to strip for the camera. Many others seem to have no problem shedding their clothes on-screen.

But which is the smarter career move? By the time they're Lively's age, many young actresses have shown repeatedly that they have no problem with nude scenes. There's Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway, Anna Paquin -- and that's just the A's. Such actresses have no trouble finding work -- or winning awards. And not despite their willingness to strip, but often because of it.


The most celebrated example here is probably Halle Berry. She was a star for a decade before she did her first nude scene in 2001, reportedly demanding an extra $500,000 to appear topless in a gratuitous scene in the big-budget thriller Swordfish. A few months later, she took a lot less money to show a lot more skin in the indie Monster's Ball, but her performance in that drama of racial reconciliation earned her a Best Actress Oscar.

Movie critics (who are often men) will hail an actress who strips (at least, in the right dramatic role) for her "bravery" or "fearlessness," which seems to be code for "willingness to satisfy men's prurient interest." (And it's not just young actresses; Helen Mirren and Charlotte Rampling were impressing critics with their willingness to bare all until they were well into their 50s.) The Academy just follows the critics' lead, according to Scott Feinberg, the awards blogger/analyst for the Hollywood Reporter.

"The Academy is primarily older males who enjoy younger women," Feinberg told Celebuzz. "Almost every Best Actress winner in recent years has been conventionally beautiful. In every instance where there's a close race, the edge seems to go to the woman who's more conventionally attractive."


But even among beautiful actresses, willingness to go unclothed gives an even greater edge. Not just on screen, but when campaigning as well. "When Kate Winslet appeared naked on a magazine cover that was released as voters filled out their ballots, that wasn't a coincidence. Even Helen Mirren appeared in a bikini while she was campaigning." (Both won; Mirren for her fully-dressed role in The Queen, Winslet for her frequently undressed role in The Reader.)

As Feinberg pointed out, there are so many eligible movies every year that they risk being ignored unless there's something about them that stands out. "The first step is capturing the media's attention. Flashy acting and nudity are going to do that," he said.

Still, does nudity really make a lofty drama more artistic, or is it just an easy way to sell tickets and generate press coverage? "There are probably ways of telling those same stories without getting graphic.," Feinberg said. "I've been in conversations with actors who have done this -- is that really acting or is it pandering?" Performers will tell you that there is an artistically valid reason for showing all (echoing what their directors must have told them), but aren't they just rationalizing?

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There are certainly plenty of actresses who've made the same choice as Lively whose careers have flourished. Julia Roberts won an Oscar and spent two decades as queen of the box office without having to strip all the way down. Even in Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker has never shown everything, and no one ever dismissed that series or the movie spinoffs as timid or less than candid; nor has Parker's movie career or reputation as an awards-worthy actress suffered.

You'd think it would be easier, then, to just say no. You'd never have to worry about what your wobbly bits look like in HD, or how to negotiate specifics about pay and exposure in nudity clauses in your contract. You'd never have to explain your decision to your parents, or your kids. And you'd never have to dread knowing that screengrabs of your nude scenes will be a click away on every porn site on the Web, forever.

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So how does an actress decide which path to take? Celebuzz sought career advice from Howard Bragman, Vice Chairman of Reputation.com and longtime Hollywood publicist who says he has guided many actresses through this decision. Surprisingly, he said, "It's just not a very big deal. I certainly respect the right of everyone to make their own decision. It's just not a career issue."

One reason it's not a big deal is the behavior and taste of the 18-to-34-year-olds whose attention Hollywood covets. "The 18-to-34 demographic doesn't have a lot of concern about nudity," Bragman said. "They text nude pictures of themselves to each other. It's different from a generation ago." He added, "Look at Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian. They built their careers on the back of nudity. They've certainly transcended that, but you have to remember where they started."

Nudity for actresses has become such a non-issue, Bragman said, that "one of the last great frontiers is that men have started getting naked." He cited Michael Fassbender in 2011's Shame and said that his nudity in that character study of a sex addict was artistically merited. "If he hadn't taken his clothes off, that wouldn't have been a credible film."

How, then, would he advise a young actress facing the decision of whether or not to do nudity?

"I'd look at the role, the director, where the film is going to end up, and her feelings as an actor," Bragman said.

So, happy birthday, Blake. Trust your feelings.






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  • josh

    i'm and aspiring artists who acts and i hope to one day get into the business myself.I know i want to be taken serious as and actor and artist.I've learned to develop integirty and learn to keep it .I think at a certain point as and actor because we are so used to hearing no alot.Need to learn to say no as well.Some people are just afraid of the struggle so they say yes to whatever with out questioning. Blake lively is a decent actress i'm sure she wants to be taken serious as well .I feel in todays world with so much sex going on in the media that we have become excepting ot it .Its no longer a taboo i think that now that we except it more its time to grow up and move on.We are at a point where seeing boobs or ass or dick is not going to garner giggles anymore.All sex in movies is tastless and pointless its only there to help sell the movie.It has no artistic merit simply because movies arent artistic there is a craft to movies .Film making is not and art thats for sure.It sure as hell isnt going to make u a better actress.look at halle berry's portrayal in monster that was softcore porn.It didnt make her a better actress yet she won and award for it .

  • David Wolfe
    David Wolfe

    There are two distinct issues here; first, whether anyone should feel required to do nudity in film today in order to be successful, and if it's a smart decision for Blake to decide not to do it. It should be now as it always should have been, decided on a case by case basis. I can see an argument regarding certain roles where it seems appropriate and the right call, but each actor has to ultimately make their own decision and live with it. As for Blake, thus far, whether in Gossip Girl or her few film roles, she hasn't impressed me with her talent as of yet; with or without the nudity. She is a pretty woman, but first and foremost, she needs to concentrate on improving her acting skills first, her craft, before her career will advance either way.

  • Courtney Puzzo
    Courtney Puzzo

    @Val that's how hollywood has always worked and always will.low rent actors/actresses like Blake Lively don't have a foot to stand on to refuse appearing naked if the film/tv part calls for it. If she were an Emmy/academy award winning actress I could understand her refusing to appear naked. like the sex scenes in 1968's Rachel Rachel for example are nude but under a white bed sheet and nobody cried fowl then and the country was alot more conservative in the 60's

  • Val

    I hope it helps. No Woman, or Man either, should be asked into nudity if they oppose, because it's "good for your career". Sounds like the "casting couch" is alive and well. Hollywood has taken the word, "Career", and turned it into a joke