Dafne Fernandez’s Pubic Close-Up
July 9, 2011 § 3 Comments
One of the most controversial kinds of depictions of nude children is the pubic area close-up. This is only rarely encountered in the mainstream arts.
Sally Mann is an American photographer whose book Immediate Family sparked controversy for its black-and-white photos of her own kids in the nude. Photos from this series, including some not included in the book, have been shown in art galleries. From November 29, 2007 to January 12, 2008 the Edwynn Houk Gallery in New York City showed a Sally Mann photo titled “Equivalent #2, Possum Tail” which she shot in 1985 and it’s still displayed at their website houkgallery.com. One print out of the 25 made is currently for sale from the Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle, Washington for the exhorbitant price of 4,500 U.S. dollars(!). The photo shows her unclothed little daughter lying flat on her back while the possum tail rests on her stomach and her prepubescent genital cleft is in the middle of the image. Her body was only photographed from the area from her stomach to her upper legs. On either side of her body there’s only darkness. One cannot help but notice her pubic area.
The Spanish actress Dafne Fernández, whose birthdate is March 31, 1985, has a scene in the Spanish film Resultado Final that similarly pushes the limits of acceptability. Released in 1998, it was reportedly filmed in 1997, so Fernández was only 11 or 12 at the time, and her body has typical features of a prepubescent of that age including her proportions, her hairlessness around her crotch, and her flat chest. Most of the film shows her character, María José, at older ages. Fernández is given only about a minute and a half of screen time to illustrate Maria’s childhood days, yet packed into that brief time she is given a topless scene where she’s clad only in panties as well as a bath scene that has a moment where she stands displaying her bare, wet body at close range – only from the upper half of her upper legs to some of the skin immediately north of her pubic mound but without her belly button in the frame. Her genital cleft is one of the few things that can be seen at that time. Once again, it’s as if the viewer is being asked to notice a child’s pubic area. Why would a director and camera operator do that?
Incidentally, Resultado Final also includes two heterosexual sex scenes showing Maria as an adult woman, so this isn’t entirely a non-sexual film.
In a previous blog entry I discussed a scene in the Brazilian film Eu Me Lembro that zooms in on an 11-year-old boy’s erect penis. Unlike the two examples above, Eu Me Lembro depicts a child’s genitals for an overtly sexual reason – as part of a masturbation scene.
For various reasons, the emphasis on the vulva or penis of a child is considered harmful by making the child into a sexual object. It’s certainly depersonalizing to an extent as the child’s face is not visible in this kind of shot. But when the exact same body part is exposed when the child’s full figure is visible somehow the image is considered less vulgar. How big a deal should a close-up really be considered?