Artful Conception #25: Strategically Covered Nudity (Part 2)

In part one, I gave you the background on Strategically Covered Nudity (SCN). Now it's time to take a look at its taxonomy.  You see, it comes in a variety of forms, and I aim to provide you with examples of each.  Certainly, if there are any that have been overlooked, please chime in.

In this post we will focus strictly on cinematic examples.  Please understand that SCN occurs in comics, paperback covers, album covers, advertising, etc.  There's plenty of ground to cover; the movies seem the logical place to start.  Enjoy.


It's highly illogical that women in the midst of passion would care whether they are fully covered, but that is precisely what Patti D'Arbanville in Modern Problems (1980) does.  In fact, when her bedding starts to droop below the areola line, Patti, mid orgasm, has the piece of mind to slyly cover up.  This trope is older than feudalism, and has lots of examples.


Halloween II had no problem showing us Pamela Susan Shoop's boobs, but when it came to the pelvic area, it was time to keep things thoroughly out of focus.


Steam is a handy way of keeping naughty parts blurry. Speaking of the Halloween franchise, Halloween III: Season of the Witch had a fine example of that featuring Stacey Nelkin.


Maud Adams in The Man with the Golden Gun

Akin to the Steam Censor is the Frosted Glass of Suppression.  Generally used in shower scenes, the glass is always just textured enough to obscure important anatomy.  Yet, there's enough to see to provide mild enjoyment (unlike say, a shower curtain).


Basically, props function as the stereotypical black rectangle censorship bars.  In the scene above from Lifeforce (1985), a random strip of duct tape (?) makes sure we don't see too much of Matilda May.  This despite the fact that she bares the goods in a respectable number of scenes in the film.

In SCN Part One, I mentioned Casino Royal and Gotham - both contain the dreaded bars...

Daliah Lavi  in Casino Royal (1967)


Anna Aries in Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973)
This form of censorship is the most obvious and thereby the most liable to destroy your willing suspension of disbelief.  Having perfectly placed props to hide naughty parts reeks of staging, rendering the scene unforgivably fake.

There's a subtle difference between this form of censorship and other means which employ set pieces such as the previous Random Bars of Censorship.  This is generally something in the foreground that just happens to obliterate any clear shot of nudity.  The wine glass in Colossus: The Forbin Project (demonstrated in part one) is my favorite example.  However, the strategically placed circle (some sort of hokey tech piece) in Invasion of the Bee Girls illustrates the tactic pretty well also. (Note that the Frosted Glass of Suppression above is an in-house censorship, not from the film).


Margot Kidder in The Amityville Horror (1979)
I call it "magic" because women's garments often have the supernatural power to override the laws of physics.  Defying gravity, momentum, and force, these robes, shirts, and chemises have the uncanny ability to keep certain anatomical parts covered.  The actress could be doing somersaults in a windstorm and her unbuttoned shirt would still keep those nips covered.


 Rebecca De Mornay in And God Created Woman (1988)
Perhaps most annoying of them all is when, of all things, the dude gets in the way.  Does the male actor have the decency to let the audience get a glimpse of what he's beholding?  Nope.  His sweaty arm, hairy back or big effing head somehow manages to get in the way.


While more common in comic books (via perfectly placed speech bubbles) and magazine covers, it still occurs in film from time to time.  The most notable example, perhaps, is the endlessly frustrating opening to Barbarella.  Between quirky camera angles, quick cutaways and strategically placed text, it's virtually impossible to get a good look at a fully naked Fonda.


 Lana Clarkson in Barbarian Queen (1985)
You'd think hands would be the most common, given that it's the easiest and least obtrusive method of SCN.  However, the gal has to have reason to cover-up.  Usually, there's some type of public embarrassment going on - not a common theme in movies.  Sure it's common enough in Women In Prison flicks, but those types of films aren't of the bashful variety.


 Joey Heatherton in Bluebeard (1972)

Afraid your film might get slapped with an R rating... or worse?  Might I suggest you tone down your nudity with some sheer apparel.  Transparent enough to get their attention, but opaque enough to keep the pesky ratings board quiet.


Catherine Spaak in The Libertine (1968)

The beauty of side-view shots is that no naughty bits are in plain sight.  Precise camera positioning can even eliminate the hint of a butt crack.  Yep.  Side-view lets you feel all "edgy" inside by having a chick fully nude in your picture, while at the same time, completely safe and inoffensive.


Cristina Cottrelli in Pieces (1982)

The simplest and laziest method by far is to just make the scene too damn dark to make out any well defined naughty bits.  Sure, it can ruin a scene by making it incomprehensible, but sometimes it's the only way to go. The audience knows the "good stuff" is somewhere in the murk, but squinting won't help - The Darkness Crutch is in full effect, baby.


The X from Outer Space (1967) 

Sometimes as a director you just feel like giving the audiences the bird.  "Look.  Here's two chicks naked and showering.... but guess what? You're not even going to come close to seeing it."


 Janie Squire in Piranha (1978) 

Who hasn't tried to get a clear glimpse of Christie Brinkley's boobs in the pool scene in National Lampoon's Vacation? It's futile, but the eyes and the mind strain nonetheless.  The refractive properties of water are censor's best friend.


Mountaintop Motel Massacre (1986)
As if the character is fully aware of the camera, the actress turns her back to the lens as she disrobes.  Not only is this unrealistic, but a source of frustration for male viewers.  The stage is set for undressing, all evidence points to seeing boobs.... and BAM! she turns 180 degrees from the audience.


Linda Coombs in The Sex Thief (1973)

I'll end with the granddaddy of them all.  Soap bubbles have been confounding male audiences for decades.  Used to their absurd limit in Bob Hope's Boy, Did I Get A Wrong Number! (mentioned in Part 1).  Someone at MIT needs to research how these bubbles somehow "know" to accumulate around the naughty parts.  Perhaps there's a mysterious force at work.... perhaps this could lead to the Grand Unifying Theory of the Universe.  You never know.


  1. I can't believe you did two posts on this topic without mentioning Herb Alpert's "Whipped Cream and Other Delights" album cover. Here's an update on the model who posed for that 1965 classic:

    1. One of the most "suggestive" album covers to come out of the 1960s. Even I had a copy of this one on my shelf, and I did not have a record player.

  2. The "Magic Cloth" reminds me of the Cook & Moore routine where "Pete & Dud" are in the art gallery looking at Rubens paintings. "The fat ladies with nothing on except for that tiny little wisp of gauze that always lands on the appropriate place. The wind blows the gauze right over their 'you-know-whats."

  3. Gilligan- I love the posts, your website is fantastic. But enough with the covering parts. Smoogle has pulled their self righteous ads. You have posted naughty bits and pieces in the past, it is time to embrace it. Your site turned me on to Craftypants Carol, who might be the greatest site on the internet machine. Screw foogle and show some T N A like you know you want to.

  4. I have to make a pitch for the "Why Bother" phemonia. For example, Matilda May spends the rest of the movie walking around stark naked; so why bother with this little bit of censoring at the start. The same with Lana Clarkson, she is topless in every scene in the freaking movie; again why cover up at all?

  5. That particular darkness is not hiding anything. Those are nipples. I'd recognize them anywhere.

  6. Not quite in the same category, but I'll mention the 'pretending-to-be-naked-when-you're-not" ploy, which involves the actress (or actor) wearing a flesh-colored body suit, or using a body double. Think Julia Roberts in 'Pretty Woman'.