Monday, January 6, 2014

The Naturist Resort as "Paradise"

As a nudist, I'd like to see more depictions of nudism in the movies or TV, and preferably with more respect and substance than the stereotypical crazy nude Uncle Ralph sort of character. Truth be told, there is a subset of cinema known as "the nudist film", which is of limited interest, even if it's been used in the past as an innocent cover for otherwise softcore nudie flicks (not that that bothers me, personally). If it were up to me, I would insinuate the subject of nudism into non-traditionally nudist contexts, such as sci-fi settings where social nudity is an accepted, everyday part of life, or otherwise alternate realities where social nudity has become part of mainstream culture.

But, I suppose there is room, and a purpose, for the existence of films that deal with the nudist lifestyle as it exists in the world as we know it, as an alternative minority lifestyle. As such, the basic formula for a nudist film is to introduce a non-nudist character to the world (and advantages) of nudist living, usually in the context of a daring visit to a local nudist resort. This allegedly gives the film a wider audience, so that non-nudists have someone they can relate to in the story, while also providing the filmmaker an opportunity to introduce the nudist lifestyle to that non-nudist subset of the audience.

Incidentally, although the market for it would be much smaller, I think it would be fascinating - potentially even for curious non-nudists - to tell a story from an insider's perspective of what goes on in a nudist resort and/or the struggles it takes to maintain it and the reputation (whether positive or negative) such a resort has among its neighboring community. But since most nudist films can sort of double as extended brochures for the nudist way of life, it is not uncommon for them to portray nudist resorts - and the nudist lifestyle - as a sort of paradise on Earth.

This is understandable and, certainly, that's a huge part of the "brand" and image of nudism (or naturism - some may quibble, but the difference is largely semantic) on the whole. It's no coincidence that many popular nudist resorts have names that use words like Paradise, Eden, Avalon, Nirvana, etc. And those that don't directly conjure an image of Heaven on Earth often play up their connection to nature, the sun, water, and relaxation. There's a reason the term nudist resort is more common than nudist camp or colony or commune. A nudist resort is a place you go to rest and recharge and enjoy a vacation from your hectic urban life.

And I have no intention of spoiling that image. People talk about nudist resorts that way for good reason, and it's not just to make non-nudists jealous. I have been guilty myself of referring to an otherwise podunk campground as "paradise" just because the people go nude there - but when I say it, I truly mean it. But, that's not to say that a place like that really is like Heaven on Earth - that nothing ever goes wrong there and everybody is always incredibly happy. It's a man-made paradise, and even if it's more beautiful and relaxing and friendly than your local city square, when people go there, they're still human and sometimes they still have to deal with human issues - like depression, illness, aging, death, heartbreak, etc.

And that's why the 1938 nudist film The Unashamed was so refreshing. When I sat down to watch it the other night, I figured it would be a typical nudist film - where some character finds himself trying out the nudist lifestyle to get away from the stresses of his busy life, creating an opportunity for the shameless display of lots of nude flesh and a black and white morality tale about how life is much better when you're a nudist. And that's definitely how it starts out. But rather than a simple love story, it actually turns out to be more of a tragedy. I don't want to spoil the ending, but suffice to say, the movie demonstrates that sometimes bad things happen to people - even at nudist resorts - and that just being there isn't always enough to make a person happy.

Now, I'm glad to say that the movie doesn't disparage the nudist lifestyle at all - specifically, that no element of the nudist lifestyle is responsible for the tragedy that befalls. In that respect, it's really as if setting the movie at a nudist resort is almost incidental - except that it does feature as a significant plot point in the beginning. But that's interesting. The day that a movie can include a nudist setting just because, without making it into a big deal (or the butt of a lame joke), is the day that nudism ceases to become an issue and is simply accepted as a way of life (even if still an alternative one). Ironically, this movie is from all the way back in 1938, and seems to be an outlier more than an indicator of any kind of trend. And here we are in 2013, and though the nudist lifestyle may be making slow headway in the public consciousness, on-screen depictions of nudity are still vigorously policed.

And, on that note, the nudity in The Unashamed is also very disappointingly restrained. I have to admit, as an experienced nudist, it feels really contrived when a filmmaker deigns to depict the nudist lifestyle (and The Unashamed was filmed on a real nudist resort) but goes out of his way to avoid the incidental display of any genitalia. I know there are rules involved, and there are arguments about adapting depictions of nudism so as to make them more acceptable to mainstream audiences, but it seems to me that if you're behind the nudist lifestyle (and if you're taking advantage of it for a film, I would hope you're not just exploiting it), then you would realize how phony that is, to play up the wholesomeness and health benefits of nudism and then shy away from showing any real nudity. If anything, it just hurts the cause, and casts nudists' enthusiastic endorsements in an untrustworthy light.

But, to be fair, the forces of society that stand against a free and open display of our natural human bodies is immensely strong indeed - to a staggeringly inexplicable extent. I just don't get what the whole big deal is, but then, I have the bias of being initiated and exposed to a whole different way of life. It's a real pain having to get by, being a nudist in a textile world, but I've seen the light and I can't go back. Even if I'm doomed to take all my worries and insecurities with me wherever I go, I'm happy to know there are little pockets of heaven - too precious few - where truth and beauty (to a relative extent) are not shielded and censored for fear of what effect they may have on our fragile bodies and allegedly sin-stained minds.

No comments:

Post a Comment