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Aidan Turner says his shirtless Poldark scene gave him more empathy for women

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Sarah Shaffi
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Aidan Turner in Poldark on the BBC.

“There are women who feel scared every day.”

You can pinpoint the exact moment Aidan Turner went from actor to heartthrob: on a Sunday night in 2015 he appeared shirtless, wielding a scythe, as Ross Poldark in the BBC show Poldark.

It was all the country could talk about, so much so that the scene was voted the TV moment of 2015 by readers of the Radio Times.

Turner found himself objectified, with people ignoring his acting talents to focus on his body, something that female actors are unfortunately all too used to.

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'Is it OK to objectify Poldark?'

And it seems that the experience with Poldark gave Turner an insight into what women who are objectified go through.

Speaking to the Radio Times, Turner said that while he never felt personally objectified, the experience made him feel more empathy towards women.

“I’m a man,” he said. “It’s just not the same. It’s a completely different world for me. I walk down the street, I don’t ever feel scared. There are women who feel scared every day. It’s a very different world for me.”

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The contribution of film and TV to the objectification of women should not be underestimated. From Game of Thrones to The Wolf of Wall Street to Westworld, it’s not difficult to find a film or TV show which features a lot of female nudity.

Sometimes these moments might genuinely be included to further the story or make a point; in season six of Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys appeared naked and unharmed from a burning building – the producers made the decision to show that Daenerys survived due to her Targaryen blood. Although some criticised the scene, Clarke defended it as being essential. Thandie Newton has also spoken about the nudity in Westworld, saying she felt more empowered when her character was nude than when she was wearing a saloon girl outfit.

But often, scenes featuring female nudity are gratuitous, such as the infamous brothel exposition scene in season one of Game of Thrones.

Given the lack of corresponding male nudity and the fact that these scenes are often from the point of view of the male gaze, these shows and films are instrumental in giving credence to the idea that women’s bodies exist to be looked at by men.

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Billie Piper slams TV writers for ruining strong female roles with ‘annoying’ sex scenes

Actor Billie Piper has previously spoken out about female nudity on TV, saying it was rare for her to be offered a television role without at least one nude appearance.

“What’s annoying is that they are fun roles, if you remove the sex,” she said. “It’s the sex that makes it annoying. Otherwise they are interesting stories, interesting women with chequered pasts.”

Turner’s shirtless moment might have given him a glimpse into what it feels like to be objectified, but, as Piper’s experience shows, it barely scratches the surface of how women are objectified on screen, and in real life.

Image: BBC

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Sarah Shaffi

Sarah Shaffi is a freelance journalist and editor. She reads more books a week than is healthy, and balances this out with copious amounts of TV. She writes regularly about popular culture, particularly how it reflects and represents society.

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