Nudity, Shame, and “The Darkest Light”

I recently watched a show on Netflix called Feria: The Darkest Light. It’s a horror/suspense show from Spain about two sisters whose parents are accused of leading 23 people to their deaths in an abandoned mine due to cult influences. It was interesting and weird, and it takes place mostly in 1995 so there aren’t any story issues around cell phones or contacting others (seriously, writing stories set before cell phones is so much easier).

And it has a fuckload of nudity.

Maybe it’s because I’m American, and not European, but nudity in media remains something that draws my interest. (It helps that almost every naked person in the show has a great body.) The nudity mostly makes sense in the story, so that’s a plus — I didn’t find it gratuitous, most of the time. Also, on a purely selfish note, it’s mostly female nudity, and I like seeing naked women who consent to being seen naked.

If I was European, would I be less interested in the nudity itself? Europeans are generally less hung-up about the human body than Americans are, and they’re certainly not as puritanical (except in some areas). Americans, meanwhile, have had prudishness and repression pounded into their heads pretty much since the first time they were told “don’t look at that” or “don’t touch that”, and yeah, you shouldn’t play with yourself in public, but maybe there’s a healthier way to handle it? (One of my ex-girlfriends had this problem with her son, and she told him, “that’s something we do in private, in our own bedroom or in our own bathroom, and not anywhere else.” It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than “stop doing that!”) The American focus on sexualization of breasts, penises, vaginas/vulvas, and buttocks has made it so that’s all we see; we don’t see the human body as just another normal part of being a person.

There’s also the shame factor. Even with people I’m close to, I sometimes feel shame about exposing my body because it’s not “perfect”, whatever that means. I have physical flaws. In media, people who do nudity generally don’t have the same flaws that I do, and the flaws I have are considered “bad” by the general public. However, Feria has nudity not only from “perfect” people but also from “normal” people. Those people had to consent to being naked on film as well, and I’m sure if that was an issue for them they wouldn’t have taken the roles. Europeans generally don’t have the same shame factor that Americans do when it comes to their bodies. I mean, hell, in America there are people who think that breast-feeding in public without some sort of cover is a bad thing, when really that’s what breasts are for: to feed babies. We don’t cover it up when animals do it; there are countless videos on Youtube of puppies nursing and we think it’s adorable. But for some reason seeing a human baby latched onto a nipple is cause for concern — like people can’t see a boob without immediately sexualizing it. And that ties into shame — bodies, for Americans, are shameful; therefore feeding a child in public is shameful.

There’s nothing wrong with the human body. Or, at least, there shouldn’t be. Enjoying the European perspective — that a body is a body and if nudity is appropriate then it should happen — shouldn’t be shameful either. And yet, every time I see someone naked on Feria, my eye is drawn to their breasts, vagina/vulva/pubic region, penis, or buttocks, because I was raised as an American and, as enlightened as my parents were, the culturally-institutionalized shame and puritanism around human bodies is still deeply ingrained in me.

Outside of all of that, though, Feria is a pretty decent show. Worth a look.

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