A Quick Note
I've just become aware of the fact that several posters to a Transformers message board have been linking to my post from a few weeks ago on the Gordon Lee trial and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I appreciate the attention, and I also liked reading the conversation that ensued. However, I feel like I need to offer up a rebuttal to some of the people who took issue with my claim that the book in question features "tasteful, non-sexual nudity." They seem to feel like I'm lying, or misrepresenting the work (even though the phrase in quotes links to a reproduction of the actual comic strip).
Okay, so, my rebuttal:
The nudity under discussion is tasteful and non-sexual.
Frankly, I don't see how the second part can be debated-- there's no sexual content in these panels that everyone's talking about. There's a woman walking around with her robe open-- showing breasts and pubic hair. Then, there's a naked man painting. Walking around and painting are not sexual activities (unless you know a better way to walk or paint than I do). Yes, the figures are naked-- but I already said that they were. That's the "nudity" part of "tasteful, non-sexual nudity."
From there we get to the more subjective discussion of what is or is not "tasteful." Obviously, this is largely in the eye of the beholder. Some people can't stand nudity and always find it distasteful. Others take their kids to clothing-optional resorts. I'm probably not going to find much common ground with people who think that naked bodies are always inherently dirty, filthy things, so I won't even try. However, I will point out that, as a culture, we're pretty much in agreement that nudity can be tasteful, and these guys posting otherwise on this message board are the ones deviating from society's norms on this issue. And if we agree that nudity can be tasteful (as most of us do), then I insist that this nudity falls under that category.
So, what distinguishes "tasteful" nudity from "tasteless" nudity? Well, part of it has to do with context-- this is, by all accounts, an historically-accurate rendering of this moment from Picasso's life. Also, these people aren't having sex, or even standing in the same panel as each other. The woman's not, like, bending over suggestively or pinching her own nipple or otherwise drawing attention to her "girl bits". Picasso's phallus is not erect or drawn in an exaggerated, larger-than-life manner. There's nothing exploitive about this nudity. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who would call it pornographic.
(Indeed, if this is porn, then so too are movies like The Piano, The Color of Night, Wild Things and Velvet Goldmine-- actually, a more compelling case could probably be made against those movies, which actually did have some sexual content, as opposed to this comic book, which apparently did not).
One poster tried to suggest that the nudity is sexual because "the woman is talking about masturbating." Um... no, it's not, and no, she's not. She uses the word "masturbating" to describe Picasso's painting. She is not, in fact, talking about self-pleasure in any sexual sense.
I hope that clears things up for all who were confused, and I hope that the new movie met your expectations.