Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spartacus: Blood and Sand - Male nudity comes out of the closet

Spartacus: Blood and Sand is the latest in an exceptional line of television series starting with Sex and City and including Weeds, L-Word, Queer as Folk, True Blood and Nurse Jackie, that graphically depict sexuality, drug use and other tabu topics so honestly that we blush - and recognize in them situations from our own life experiences.

Based on the legend of Spartacus, a gladiator who led an uprising of slaves against the Roman Empire in 73 B.C., the hit series starring Andy Whitfield, Lucy Lawless and John Hannah is full-on sex and gore with brilliant writing, superb acting and magnificent art direction.

Among the more exciting developments from a gay world point of view is the nudity of male stars and extras. Of course we've seen masculine botbots and peepees in other programs, but this marks the first time male nudity is consistly presented in the context of non-sexual situations, and where groups of heterosexual men are shown au natural without a hint of awkward sexual inuendo.

This is not to say that the scenes of hunky gladiators cleaning up after bloody bouts in the arena are not sexually arousing - I've hit rewind more than few times during the course of season 1, rather the scenes are not gratuitous exploitation. We see the gladiators as they more than likely would have been in the baths after training or a fight.

The flesh is part of the story. Indeed, nudity - both male and female (we are also treated to a fair share of tits) - is an integral element of the plot and crucial to narrative accuracy. And yes, many more gay men and straight women are probably tuning in than otherwise would if the show only presented female nudity, as is so often the case.

The unadulterated portrayal of male nudity is, without a doubt, one of the most positive things about Spartacus: Blood and Sand. The show manages to acknowledge homoeroticism without offending heteronormative propriety. Gay men can view it and get turned on. Straight men can admire the male physique without it being a challenge to their sexuality.

Times have changed. Spartacus: Blood and Sand is a starz production.

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