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See my Body, Know my Mind

Three people said to be ashamed of their bodies are sent to stay on a Greek island with a larger group who are proud of how they look. This supposedly helps the worried 3 accept their bodies and be happier. By the end, the three bare all or almost all and go naked bathing with the confident. It’s interesting and unusual to see an array of naked bodies that don’t fit current ideals.

There are a few odd things happening. Would men and women who have a problem being seem naked really want to be shown without clothes on tv? The ashamed and the proud share an obsession with their own bodies. Each week includes someone whose body looks to have only a slight imperfection such as small stretch marks or minor areas of impetigo. Each week one is reported to have gone on to make a business designing lingerie or clothes for larger figures. Maybe they expected more publicity for this than a brief mention of it with no trade names? None of the shy mind repeatedly hugging all and sundry naked. The confident ones appear at first covered in highly decorative body paint and g strings, and later the shy ones are similarly decorated and applauded. We don’t see who body paints them or discussions of the designs.

Although the program advocates uninhibited nudity, some shots show women coyly covering their breasts, and there are few full-frontal images. Women refer to trimming their pubic hair as though to leave it growing would be distasteful. Each shy one pairs with a non-shy person of the same sex to compare bodies behind towels. No mention is made of sexual orientations or sexual activity.

It’s a mixture of the coy and the flamboyant. There’s immense peer pressure to join in parading about in the nude and a lot of whooping and cheering when this happens. The shy ones seem genuinely newly delighted with themselves. One of the unashamed ones has his shoulder and arm missing but we don’t find out why. We do find out a bit more about the nervous ones’ personal lives.

The attractive, black male doctor keeps his clothes on as he talks about research and procedures from a distant location. The glorious camouflage afforded by body paint or clothing becomes emphasized as we view the sort of overweight flesh that hasn’t been popularly admired since Rubens or the Willendorf Venus. No one discusses how or why our ideals have evolved or why some people have body dysmorphia, and others are almost overconfident.

Next week’s episode will be virtually a repeat, just like all the other many programs with set formats. I have heard no one discussing the program and wonder if the audience figures could be revealing. Has ‘Naked Beach’ got its heart in the right place, or is it voyeuristic pandering to an uneasy audience??

Mary Fletcher

‘Naked Beach’. Aesthetics of the body. The shy and the proud. April 2019 channel 4 TV, UK.

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