Authenticity in Kiera Knightley’s Nudity

Posted by on Nov 15, 2014 in Critic's Area | 0 comments


The costs of style and style failure are evident in media. Yet both complement each other.  The excess of nudity is an example.

Is there authenticity in this irony?

I felt the irony of style when I saw Kiera Knightley’s latest nude photograph.  I asked myself if this is another case of nudity in which fashion fails and a celebrity needs to promote self through sensationalization of a nude body.

Soon after Kiera Knightley stripped, Kim Kardarshian did a nude photo shoot for the cover of Paper Magazine.  She broke many hearts as she intended to “break the Internet” with her fake self-inflated image. In comparison, Knightley’s topless shoot appears to be more authentic.

For celebrities, authenticity is synonymous to ordinariness that is ironical to their extraordinariness. It is this irony that questions and creates desire for a celebrity: who is the celebrity in reality? In celebrity culture, where fashionable clothes act as an expression of extraordinariness, the lack of any clothing should articulate ordinariness that is usually expected in private settings.  However, publicity of nakedness is not what ordinary people do.  It hence creates sensation for ordinary people.

The relationship between authenticity of celebrities and visibility of nakedness does not need to be contradictory, but it appears to be increasingly problematic in the cultural economy of digital fame.  The authentic need to express agency of the biological body is part of humanity. But we seem to be paying a high price for authenticity: we sensationalize, publicize, and buy perfect female bodies that are often digitally manipulated and hard to attain.  In sensationalizing the perfect nude as a new fashion, we tend to forget that authenticity lies in the diversity of ordinary selves.

This sensation leads me to wonder: is there authenticity in excess of nudity or lack of it through the visibility of its excess? In an age where photographs are digitally manipulated and circulated, is there any possibility of authenticity?

That is exactly what Kiera Knightley protests through her nude photo shoot. Her photograph needs to be understood in association with her statement “Women’s bodies are a battleground”. The photograph contests how the female body is often reconstructed, used, and promoted for profit. Her photo shoot is part of a larger protest that contests the misuse of Adobe Photoshop.  Digital software such as Photoshop is being increasingly used to recreate the perfect celebrity body that most women cannot live up to.  In the digital age, Photoshop, like most media technologies, edit and reconstruct the authenticity of self.

Keira Knightley’s topless photo is an example of celebrity activism that raises awareness on authenticity.  Shannon Skinner, host of Extraordinary Women TV says, “The key to a successful celebrity-led campaign is authenticity. When the celebrity is truly authentic about what they are advocating for, that energy that will sustain it, and enable the public to connect with the celebrity and, ultimately, care about the issues. Unfortunately, if it is a “wrong fit,” the public may not connect with the celebrity — and it could backfire.” In addition, self promotion and misuse of emotions can diminish the effects of social justice that many celebrities aim to advocate.

What concerns me is the degree to which Kiera Knightley’s protest will have impact.  Kiera Knightley is situated in an economy of fame that supports unethical practices. Gossip, rumour and scandals often act as narrative devices that help integrating the society on moral grounds. The irony is that celebrities are often consumed in unethical ways.  In this context, any unethical distribution and reception of Knightley’s nudity may weaken her cause. Indeed, her nudity can simply lead to greater media sales that generate more gossip than advocacy.

At the same time, Knightley’s body is not digitally manipulated to create the perfect body. Often, what is problematic is narcissistic exhibitionism, digital distortion, and the use of its visibility to objectify female sexuality. While the commodification and promotion of her nudity raises questions about her authenticity, it ironically aims to promote equality among all female bodies in ordinary conditions.

Humans are complex and so is their authenticity: it can be revealed through irony. This authenticity is often found in activism. Irony, like humour, has played a historical role in revealing truths and Kiera Knightley is no exception in it.

I believe that Kiera Knightley’s photo shoot will have impacts on rethinking the use of digital technologies in creating perfect bodies that most women cannot live up to.  Their values are more worthy in ordinary conditions. This is the naked truth.  Her activism is hence authentic. It aims to create equality for women irrespective of gossip and scandals about the excess of her nudity.

As Knightely states, “flaws are ok.”  The same notion applies to Knightley’s celebrity activism: her activism is ok despite its flaws.


Leave a Reply