Postcards From The Edge 10

DON'T SAY: "Great pecs, Poldie. Nice bum, too!" DO SAY: "I'm definitely seeing your body in the wider cultural and historical narrative"

Some debate in the Old Doom Bar lately over the success of Poldark. In particular, there has been discussion of the stir caused by Aidan Turner’s torso as recently revealed. The series location being our native heath so to speak we are hopeful of increased tourist traffic as lust crazed matrons from up country flood into the Duchy in search of our brooding and muscular menfolk.

Realists point out that to judge from the average youth in our locale tourists will be disappointed – although the lifeguards who patrol the summer beaches are fit enough – albeit often Australian.

Then again it is not only local youth who disappoint. Most of us have already had unfavourable comparisons made by our female partners in relation to Mr Turner’s physique. There have even been threats to our beer and pasty supplies and suggestions that a daily jog along the cliffs would be a good way to restore our romantic appeal.

One or two of the women take the view that it’s time men came in for a bit of the objectification that women have suffered for so many years. There’s not much we can say to that – although the Greeks (and copyist Romans) did quite a lot of male body objectification in their day as is manifested in the British Museum’s current exhibition of Greek sculpture, Defining Beauty.

Indeed, it has been a continuing theme of art in all contexts to deal with the human body; possibly to ‘objectify’, but also to celebrate and contemplate. How this plays out in relation to the dialectic attached to nudity in popular drama was certainly the cause of another round of Cornish Rattler draught cider.

The conclusion reached was that most women are all in favour of a little objectifying – the more dramatic the better. Well-defined pecs, a taut stomach and a neat bum all add up to a pleasing pack of eye candy – preferably wrapped up in an (almost) impossible romantic fantasy. Caitlin Moran’s excellent series Raised by Wolves (Ch.4 10pm Mondays) makes the point perfectly as one of the female characters admires the subject of her desire’s ‘lovely little strawberry nipples’: her knight being the local housing estate’s exemplar of la jeunesse dorée’.

By the third pint we were not really equipped to deal with contemporary issues in relation to sex and violence and a Zeitgeist in which somehow Vogue, Diesel and You Porn form an unholy alliance to denigrate women and to be fair, to also reduce men to their basic parts, including nipples.  As the Greek sculpture exhibition exemplifies, there are differences of context that affect meaning and interpretation in visual and dramatic presentations of the human form. Taking it further, if one is being academic, our take on the semiotics of body imagery can only be seen properly in a wider historical and cultural narrative. There is doubtless a course on that at the University of Roehampton, or somewhere of equivalent modernist bent.

None of us had any idea as to whether the subject had been thoughtfully, coherently and comprehensively covered by the media – though we were sure we had seen nothing in either the Daily Mail or Guardian – weekends included.  Even the Beeb seemed to have ducked the issue.

So it has been left to a populist historical TV serial and an alternative-culture sitcom to mix fantasy and real life and allow us all to make up our own minds about meaning and relevance.

Tits are tits, bums are bums and we like them to look at in their best form. But we most of all want a relevant story to go with the tits and bums that appear and may become accessible in our lives. It’s the story that brings you to love the story-teller, and love that makes their body a thing of beauty in our eyes.

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