Noelle McCarthy: Jennifer Lawrence and that snake

Jennifer Lawrence, with her clothes on, at the Producers Guild Awards in January. Picture / AP Images

In the latest issue of Vanity Fair, there's a photograph of Jennifer Lawrence naked except for a boa constrictor (see the photo here). Going on body language alone, it's hard to tell who's having a worse time of it, the woman or the snake, but it's the woman I feel more sorry for.

The boa, draped along J-Law's bare flank and shoulder has its tongue stuck out. This is how snakes find their way around; clearly it is looking for the door. As for poor Jennifer, a stuck-out tongue would be a vast improvement on the dead-eyed pout she's giving the camera.

It's always embarrassing when you see a good actor do a bad job, and this gig - playing a sexy-naked-woman-meets-serpent, a la Richard Avedon's famous portrait of Nastassja Kinski - is the most unconvincing I've ever seen Lawrence in a role.

Partly, at least, it's about timing. Jennifer Lawrence had her private emails hacked last year and had to deal with millions of people being able to look at naked photos of her on their phones. She rightly castigated all of us who looked at her naked body without her permission. (Yes I was one of those people. My reaction was the same as everyone else; "I'm a bad person for doing this" and "Oh, great boobs".)

By posing for a Patrick Demarchelier shoot in Vanity Fair with a giant reptile, Lawrence is clearly exercising her right to display her naked body on her own terms. Good on her. The thing is though, this shoot was done in July, before the private stuff was leaked, so you have to ask: cui bono?

When a young actress poses naked for a glossy magazine and a famous photographer, who benefits? Well, Jennifer Lawrence surely, goes the logic, because posing with big snakes is something that really cements your stardom. Worked for Britney, right? Uh huh.

No, it's not the actress who's coming out of this laughing, but rather the magazine, guaranteed a big splash off the back - literally - of J-Law. Naked stars were news last year, and now they're news once more. Here's Vanity Fair, continuing to make good coin out of the pervy voyeurism that increasingly characterises our relationship with movie stars.

They've been making peeping Toms of all of us for years: remember Tom Ford on the cover, with naked Scarlett and Kiera? That was another shot that illustrated all sorts of uncomfortable truths about fashion, sex and power, but at least there was a sense of playfulness about it. Neither of the two actresses involved looked as awkward as J-Law.

In fairness, maybe it's just that snakes freak her out. But look again at that Avedon portrait of Nastassja Kinski. Look at how grounded she looks, how serene by comparison. Though equally naked, she seems less exposed somehow. Kinski was pregnant when Avedon took the photo, maybe that's the difference? On show though it is, her body is being used for something other than straight-up objectification.

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