Friday, September 3, 2010

The True Blood Rolling Stone: Revisiting the Naked Photo Cover

I LIKE THE NAKED blood-Pollacked bodies on the cover of the most recent Rolling Stone.  In fact, it's made me rethink my stance on this season's True Blood.  Things in season three are starting to feel a little like they did toward the end of Buffy, when all manner of demon, wolf, devil, and nether-creature found their way to Sunnydale.  Similarly with all of the werewolves, werepanthers, demons, fairies, and vampires, Bon Temps is lousy with weirdos. 

This cover is crowded, too, but in a good way.  Bill, Sookie, and Eric wear each other as well as the blood.  It's violent and erotic, and it made me think of all of the Rolling Stone covers where people are naked and  a few other covers where the nakedness actually becomes a kind of clothing.

Maybe it's because Bill is cupping Sookie's breast, but this first reminded me of the infamous 1993 Janet Jackson cover when she was more fastidious about potential wardrobe malfunctions.
This was sort of a shocking cover, as much for the unbuttoned jeans and the hidden male body as for the nude top.  Who is that behind her?  And, how many shots did they do?  Is she ticklish?  Any chance it's Woody Allen back there?

I know with Sookie's raised leg and all I should have immediately gone to the Yoko/John cover, but in retrospect, that shot feels dated and by no means transgressive.  I know, I know, it was at the time.  And, it has much in common with the True Blood cover in that it celebrates romance and sexuality.  It's about a relationship.  It's also much sweeter than either of the other two images, and that also makes it more forgettable.

The nearly-nude Russel Brand is more like the Janet Jackson cover than any of the others.  It's a funny shot that would have been funnier if someone else had been covering some of his body parts of if he was sporting tighty whities.

 And then there are the famous nude pregnancy photos, such as those by Demi Moore and Claudia Schiffer.  These celebrate the body, the female body, which, I suppose the Russel Brand shot does as well. Granted, these are not on Rolling Stone, but we get the reference.

I think my favorite nude cover of the past few years is the hardly discussed shot of the Dixie Chicks.  This 2003 cover was just one in a series of controversial moves that positioned the country trio as more progressive and more political than many of their listeners liked or expected.  

It's not particularly surprising that any of the folks in these images undressed for the camera or that they agreed to participate in artful neo-nudity.  But, I think most people were both surprised (even shocked) when Martie Maguire, Emily Robinson, and Natalie Maines went commando on the cover of Entertainment Weekly

What makes this cover particularly interesting is its lack of overt sexuality.  This particular image is much more about politics than the politics of the body.  Sure, it's an alluring photo and you find yourself looking closely at their bodies but it's to read what's been written on them.  You want to see how they have been marked.  The True Blooders are also marked but in a different way--ironically, even though they are bloody, it's less violent.

There is a defiance in this shot that dares the viewer to look at the women solely through an erotic lens.  The women then author their own bodies.  They tell us how to read them.  Rather than celebrating violence and eroticism like the True Blood cover it redirects that violence.  If you criticized them, it's on you.

1 comment:

  1. One thing lacking from some of these nude covers is artistic allusions. The nude body is so prevalent in "classic" art works, it seems some covers would have drawn on that -- I mean, even Bow Wow Wow did that for an album cover.

    In the Russell Brand cover, though, I can see potential for two artistic allusions: "The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian" by Andrea Mantegna and "The Birth of Venus" by Botticelli.