Henry: The naked truth about celebrity photo scandals

Posted on March 12, 2012 in Perspectives
By Andrew Henry

Andrew Henry

These days, celebrity nude photo leaks are as common as alliteration at a Kardashian family baby-naming brainstorm. We simply can’t get enough of them. But why? What’s so enthralling about a naked celebrity, anyway? I guess the question answers itself. It’s a naked celebrity, not an unclothed desk jockey at IBM. We have had an obsession with Hollywood since the dawn of the movie business.

But there’s a more distinct reason separating these photos from things like Playboy and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (which, if it were honest, would really needs to incorporate body paint somewhere in the title). I like to call it the N.I.P.P.L.E. theory.  N.I.P.P.L.E. stands for “Nudity In Photos Pleases Literally Everyone.” That’s right, everyone. Celebrities, for the most part, get off scot-free from these scandals. At worst, they receive a slap on the wrist for a few days, and we forget about it next week after one of the Kardashians gets married/divorced/pregnant.

But not every celebrity can have a “great” photo scandal. If someone got a hold of Hurley (from Lost) skinny-dipping in a pool of jello, there’s no guarantee that it would circulate well (but I’d bet it would circulate like blood in a horny teenager.) The celebrity photos that are publicized the most are the ones of the most unattainable celebrities: Christina Hendricks, Blake Lively, etc. For the most part, it’s the buxom babes with Jessica Rabbit bodies that get the most circulation (or maybe not, because it’s pretty evident how cold that room is, Blake Lively).

But therein lies the key word: unattainable. Celebrities are, well, celebrities. Who hang out with other celebrities and do celebrity things. We, are not. When we see a celebrity, it’s an event. When a celebrity sees a celebrity, it’s Tuesday. So when a celebrity does something so scandalous as taking a naked picture of themselves, the internet breaks and we start reenacting scenes from end-of-the-world movies.

But this trend should end soon, right? You’d think that celebrities would learn from the mistakes of their peers, no? Wrong. Meet Vanessa Hudgens, a repeat offender. Fresh out of Disney’s High School Musical in 2007, Hudgens had a high-profile relationship with ohmigawd cutie Zac Efron, and an even higher-profile nude photo scandal. What did she do with all that hard-earned wisdom? An encore performance in 2009! To be fair, she did eventually learn from her mistake. That is, she’s hasn’t had any nude photo leaks since her fourth one, just this year.

For every 20 or so female celeb embroiled in a photo scandal, there’s around one male. Far less men have this happen to them, and some of them defeat the system entirely by doing it themselves in a classy way. Take Michael Fassbender, who starred in the  critically-acclaimed (and Henry’s Head approved) movie “Shame” last year. The movie was rated NC-17 because it contained a lot of sex and male nudity, seeing as the main character (Fassbender) plays a sex addict. He is frequently au naturel in the film, but he  gives a bravado and nuanced performance that earned much critical praise, and if you don’t mind the nudity, it’s simply a brilliant movie. By displaying his “Fassmember” early, Fassbender could pretty much brush off a nude photo scandal.

What drives these anatomy-baring celebrities, though? Well, when Mommy and Daddy really like each other, far before they even consider marriage (and they probably never will), they show their affection by sending one another naked virtual pictures of their real selves. Which is clearly more romantic than actually seeing each other.

We love sex. We live in a time where sex sells, and a photo scandal is viewed as an opportunity rather than a potential mistake. As far as I see it, that’s not going away anytime soon. Sex, along with Hollywood, represent two carnal fascinations, and when they come together they create an awkwardly positioned grainy iPhone picture of someone naked in front of a bathroom mirror. I wonder if a photo scandal could turn someone into a celebrity. Hmm…

Andrew Henry is an English major in his senior year.