Created By: SquirrelGuyJuly 15, 2012 Last Edited By: SquirrelGuyJuly 31, 2012
Troped

Shoulders-up Nudity

Nudity is implied, but not shown, by showing characters from the shoulders up.

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Do We Have This One? Up For Grabs Many times when a character is supposedly naked, a female will only be shown from the shoulders-up. A male character in a similar situation might be shown from the waist-up, though this is not as common.

A very common trope in soap and shampoo commercials.

The level of titillation by this trope may vary. A soap commercial might be considered innocent, while, for example a scene involving multiple girls in a locker-room shower might border on fanservice. More so if the scene is mixed-gender.

This trope can be easily subverted by a later camera shot that reveals a modesty towel, or for that matter a tube top, a strapless bikini, etc.

Compare to, and sometimes combined with, Toplessness from the Back

The trope codifier is the opening sequence to Petticoat Junction, where the 3 women are visible from the shoulders-up while skinny dipping in the water tank. This was apparently subverted by an episode that actually showed the girls swimming in the tank wearing swimsuits, but those suits had straps.

Played with in this soap commercial, especially when the camera pans downward at 0:05 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYyNHKtbCrg

Invoked at the beginning of an episode of Greys Anatomy that immediately followed a Super Bowl.

Still photos with this trope are sometimes used as individual contestant pics in beauty pageants, or in hairstyle pics in fashion magazines; the latter is presumably so clothes won't distract. YMMV on the level of titillation.
Community Feedback Replies: 24
  • July 15, 2012
    Generality
    Sometimes complicated by a strapless dress or swimsuit (and indeed, costume designers may well choose such a garment to enable this effect).
  • July 16, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • Played with in The Man With The Golden Gun. After Mary Goodnight and James Bond have a make-out session on Scaramanga's ship, she's shown holding up a sheet covering her body with her shoulders exposed. She drops the sheet and reveals that she's wearing a Modesty Towel.
  • July 16, 2012
    HeartOfAnAstronaut
    Used an awful lot on Americas Next Top Model (which is unsurprising considering, as you said, its use in shampoo and make up adverts). Usually the contestants are shown bare-shouldered in the photos but the backstage stuff shows that they're wearing tube tops or strapless bras of some sort.
  • July 16, 2012
    raven2785
    • That70s Show - there's an episode were bot Red and Hyde are helping Bob move some stuff in his home, when they open a door the are flashed by Pam, the whole scene is a combination of this and Toplessness From The Back withso that we can see both Red and Hyde's mouth on the floor.
  • July 16, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't many clothed shots of characters in conversation done this way as well, so that the titillation can be muted or gotten past the radar with nudity implications handled this way?
  • July 16, 2012
    NimmerStill
    ^How would you know the difference?
  • July 16, 2012
    SquirrelGuy
    That's the idea -- the "not knowing" can result in quite a bit of fanservice right there. (See also Nothing is Scarier.) Of course, the effect is significantly diminished if the characters are in a setting where nudity is not exactly the norm, e.g., if they're at a wedding, anyone with this trope is probably wearing a strapless bridesmaid's dress.
  • July 16, 2012
    animeg3282
    Used in the Sailor Moon manga, I believe.
  • July 17, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^^ I think that's what I'm getting at; I'm just saying it badly. Context certainly matters, but there's more to it. I think strapless gowns are designed with this in mind, and the framing of TV/film shots plays into it.
  • July 17, 2012
    AgProv
    Music: the cover of Heart's Dreamboat Annie album, in which sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson are sitting back to back, apparently topless, but the image is cropped below the shoulders for modesty reasons.


    quoteright:296
    The Wilson Sisters. Topless or strapless?

  • July 17, 2012
    AgProv
    Other promotional pictures exist from the Dreamboat Annie cover shot session. But on careful examination the cropping at the bottom is not perfect: it is possible (on both sisters) to see the very edge of some sort of material creeping into shot, which might just be the upper couple of millimetres of a bra cup, a sheet, or a towel.
  • July 17, 2012
    Generality
    I think we're groping toward the point here. There are many garments a woman might wear that are reasonably modest yet leave the shoulders bare, however, most of the time if you see unclad shoulders, she's topless or at least wearing a very skimpy top. Thus, this kind of shot creates titillation through the uncertainty in the viewer of whether or not the woman shown is topless. Adding to this is the focus on the suprasternal notch, which is a minor erogenous zone.

    See also the Theiss Titillation Theory.
  • July 18, 2012
    Bluecatcinema
    There was a shot of River Song like this in the trailer for series six of Doctor Who.
  • July 18, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Wild Wild West we see James West and a girl swimming in a water tank, shoulders up.

    Same thing happens in the first Austin Powers film with Austin and Alotta Fagina, in a hot tub.

    Lwaxana, Troy, Worf and Alexander enjoy a mud bath this way in an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation.
  • July 18, 2012
    LeeM
    There'a a Benny Hill Show where two female singers, seen from behind their couch, apprear to be demonstrating this trope until the couch turns around and they are seen to be wearing strapless dresses.
  • July 18, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Another gag used on The Benny Hill Show more than once is a woman sitting behind a pair of melons in such a way as to appear to be exposing her large breasts. Then she stands up and we see she's a smaller breasted woman in a tube top.
  • July 19, 2012
    Alvin
    Another from The Benny Hill Show (coincidence) is an early one where Beny is playing a woman guest, shown from bare shoulders up, on a panel show. The host makes a comment to the effect yhat people at home might think 'she''s topless, and I son't remember the rest. Also in Live-Action Tv ,MASH, Hawkeye is talking to a nurse when she asks him if he's imagining her naked, and this is shot from Hawkeye's POV this way to imply yes he is (she was in uniform).
  • July 25, 2012
    chico
    In The Living Daylights Bond rips the top off of General Pushkin's mistress to distract a bodyguard entering the room. The bodyguard's POV is shown as a shoulders up shot of the mistress. This is followed by a Toplessness From The Back shot to imply her naked chest without actually showing it.
  • July 25, 2012
    cygnavamp
    An episode of Star Trek The Next Generation had Lwaxana Troi attend her own wedding naked. (Betazed tradition) Majel Barret was filmed from the shoulders up.
  • July 26, 2012
    JonnyB
    ^ although she (or a body double) was also shown from the rear naked from the waist up in the same scene, so I'm not entirely sure it counts.
  • July 26, 2012
    animeg3282
    This is actually common in anime see the Furo Scene

    Examples:

    In Hanasaku Iroha Ohana often soaks in the onsen in this pose.

    There's also a Sailor Moon color page like this.

  • July 30, 2012
    SquirrelGuy
    Real Life: Sometimes, a photo might be posted of a group of young women implied to be skinny dipping; they're in a pool, probably at night, with everything below the shoulders blocked by the edge of the pool deck. (More than likely, they were wearing bathing suits, but pulled down any straps for the picture to invoke this trope.)
  • July 30, 2012
    SquirrelGuy
    In-Universe example: In Porkys Revenge, after the girls promised the guys an orgy after they won the big game, they all went into a swimming pool at night. The girls proceeded to throw their swimsuits out of the water while standing with shoulders above the surface. In reality, they actually divested spare swimsuits, while pulling down the straps of the suits they still had on.
  • July 31, 2012
    JonnyB
    In the Firefly episode "Our Mrs. Reynolds", Saffron gets naked in Mal's cabin, and is seen from the front, shoulders up, and from the back waist up.

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