Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All in the Family: Nudity

Nudity of close kin seems to be something that people are uncomfortable about, as Sigmund Freud intimated in his concept of the Primal Scene.  Okay, Herr Freud was not simply referring to one's parents being merely naked, but nekkid and up to something, as Lewis Grizzard once put it.

I'm sure that most of us would be horrified if we discovered nude pictures of our grandmothers; or pictures of her wearing substantial décollété*, or a swimsuit that is too revealing according to contemporary standards (obviously, not in present-day circumstances!).  And, many of us would conveniently find a way to, uh, lose those incriminative photos.  In a New York minute!

But what about pictures of one's great-grandmother?  Or great-great-grandmother?  Or, let's be equal about this:  Suppose you found a picture of your grandfather nude, with his junk in all its glory; would you be upset?  How much?

Would you be less upset if it was a more remote ancestor?  How many great- or great-great- prefixes is needed before you are comfortable?

Specifically, does it work like this:

Nude picture of:                      Discomfort level:
Parent                                     Astronomical!
Grandparent                            High
Great-grandparent                   Moderate
Great-great-grandparent          Lower
5X Great-grandparent              None
Adam and Eve                          None

I'm just suggesting an idea:  people are more uncomfortable about this hypothetical nudity if it involves someone they directly know, rather than some distant ancestor who is also a stranger.

Look at it this way:  Adam and Eve are almost always depicted nude.  Yeah, it's the innocence metaphor; but if we go with the Adam and Eve story about being our species' original parents, we're pretty comfortable with how they are depicted.  Michaelangelo even depicted Adam's little soldier on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!

*I have something specific in mind.


Anonymous said...

An intriguing idea.

bakku-shan said...

Here's a parallel notion: how far removed in ancestry does one have to be before skeletons in the closet stop being something to hide? Most of us would hide the fact that our grandmothers had been somebody's mistress; but would we find it as shameful if an ancestor living in the 1500s had been?

eViL pOp TaRt said...

That's an interesting idea!

Anonymous said...

I would not be ashamed at all for being the descendant of some wild west outlaw like Jesse James or Billy theKid.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I would not be, either.