A British newspaper trope, basically involving the gratuitous placing of pictures of semi-naked people in a newspaper. Of course, when we say "people" we really mean "young attractive women." (The Sun briefly ran Page Seven Fellas in The '80s, but it didn't last.)
The most famous (or infamous) example is The Sun and its "Page Three Girls", one of whom poses topless on the third page of each day's issue (unless something big and tragic has happened, in which case she is pushed back to Page Five—or to Page Seven, if it's a REALLY big newsworthy catastrophe). There's some quote from them on an issue of the day — in which, by extraordinary coincidence, they invariably agree with the Sun's right-wing editorial stance. Some of the "models" used to be as young as 16 until the law was changed. (This became infamous when one of the tabloids ran a story about something involving a young girl in a sexual relationship... right next to the 16-years-old page 3 model.)
In Germany, these are called "Page One Girls", although the nude pictures are (most of the time) placed below the fold. The Austrian equivalent of the Sun, "Kronen Zeitung" has a smaller photo on page 7 or 9 (yet). Denmark's Ekstra Bladet also has "Page Nine Girls".
The Sun is not alone in this, although other papers do it with celebrities posing for magazines and revealing slightly less. Even middle-class tabloid The Daily Mail has twice done double-page spreads on naked female student calendars, and several other tenuous reasons such as a drop in the share price of a clothes retailer. It also did a spread on boots with the model wearing just boots. Nothing was exposed, and the Daily Mail is 'lower middle class' at best, but still... Perhaps the most notorious paper these days is the Sunday Sport (published three days a week under slightly different titles) which generally has at least one pair of boobs on every page, and publishes a "nipple count" in each issue. Mind you, whether the Sport - which is notorious for everything it publishes being a total fabrication; its headline about a World War II bomber being found on the Moon is still famous decades after it was printed - actually counts as a newspaper is open for debate.
"Excuses" for this sort of thing are legion:
- It's cold — here's one to warm you up.
- It's warm — so she's topless to beat the heat!
- The national side have a big match on — here's one to show them our support. note
- We've won — tops off time!
- We've lost — let's cheer everyone up.
- There's an election on — let's get three models to represent the three big parties and have the appropriate one remove her top depending on who "won" the previous day. (The Sun did precisely this in 2005.) note
The Sun will often include a comment (ostensibly) from the model in question about some topical story, under the heading "News in Briefs". Recently these have moved away from Alan Davies's "Jenny from Exeter thinks that war is bad" to the frankly absurd — it long ago became a Running Gag that the pieces obviously weren't the models' own opinions, and they're often Sophisticated as Hell (clashing with the paper's usual house style) for comic effect.
With the news that the President of France was dating a supermodel, the papers grabbed all the revealing pics they could, including a nude shot with visible nipple for a Daily Mail interview with her.
Naturally, this sort of thing riles up some feminists (and others), and there are often calls for the things to be banned. One of the most famous anti-Page Three activists is MP Clare Short (Ind, Birmingham Ladywood — formerly Labour). After another attack from Ms. Short, The Sun attempted to retaliate by trying to get hold of a picture of her topless from an ex. They got a picture of her in a nightie and a severe rap from the Press Complaints Commission (the UK's watchdog for the press). They also got a hold of a 19-year-old girl to be a new Page 3 model... named Clare Short.
It also has to be said that "aftercare" to former models is not good. Jane Warner graced the third page for thirteen years, between ages 16 and 29. This is a long shelf-life for a glamour model. Jane was exceptionally attractive, but it is pretty much universal that there are no thirty-year old Page Three Stunnas. note Old stunnas are left to sink or swim...
Even broadsheets can do this sometimes, although they usually try to tie the pictures in to some topical story — usually an arts piece.
Continental tabloid papers are sometimes even less reserved, sticking said women on their front pages. The Hungarian Blikk has every single issue containing a well-endowed and completely topless shot right on the front page.
In Portugal, Correio da Manhã altogether dispensed with Page 3 Stunnas and... sometimes distributes free DVDs of hardcore porn.
The most famous (or infamous) Page Three Stunna is Jordan, aka Katie Price, former-other half of Peter Andre. She was "retired" from Page Three after she got breast implants (which The Sun doesn't allow). A famous early one was Samantha Fox, who later came out as a lesbian (she sang a bit too). Another well-known former Page Three Stunna is Marina Baker (who these days often goes under her married name of Marina Pepper), a former Playboy Playmate turned journalist, author (of several books on white magic — she's a practicing Wiccan), environmental activist and local politician (in the suburbs of Brighton, England). Oh yeah, and back in her Playmate days, she had an affair with Daniel Craig. Coronation Street graduate and professional Ms. Fanservice Helen Flanagan posed for Page Three in September 2013.
A variation occurs in most Brazilian tabloids (costing $0.25!), which always include a half-nude girl on the cover.
The few American tabloids that do this have only bikini girls, tops firmly in place. This is for two reasons: the Moral Guardians are stronger in the United States than in Europe, and American tabloids are chiefly aimed at middle-aged housewives, who often count themselves among said Moral Guardians. (Canadian tabloids also must limit themselves to bikini-clad women.note ) For these reasons, the publications that do feature skin are almost always men's magazines like Maxim and Playboy. Some of the more famous American glamour models (or "pinup girls"), past and present, include Carmen Electra, Pamela Anderson, and Kate Upton, as well as many Victoria's Secret models. During World War II, glamour models played a heavy role in wartime propaganda, with sexy pictures being distributed to GIs to... relieve tension.
But the Page Three Stunna could well be a thing of the past - the Irish edition of The Sun got rid of them in 2013 (though, they've been replaced by stories about whichever Ms. Fanservice is in the news at the moment. The basic difference is that they're not showing bare breasts) and the UK edition followed suit in 2015. It used to be online. Many of the lads' mags that featured such girls folded in the mid 2010s thanks to a combination of feminist campaigning and freely available Internet porn.
If you've gotten through all this, you'll realise this has nothing to do with the star around which the Earth orbits. For that, see The Sun.
- A subtle reference appears in Ultimate X-Men. Jean boasts that she and Storm made pages one, two and three of Britain's biggest-selling paper, while holding up a copy of The Sun. Main Headline — "X-Babes Smash Real IRA Plot".
- In Good Omens, Newton Pulsifer had to count the nipples of each model, in his role as a witchfinder.
- One of the Discworld books mention the use of these, and suggest a picture of a Goddess to be moved to page three, because she's wearing half a toga..
- Filth. Bruce often takes a copy of the Sun to the bathroom for some alone time.
- Sugar Walls a.k.a. Sharon LaHughes from Gimme, Gimme, Gimme is famous for being a celebrity that poses in her underwear and topless in newspapers (although not named, you can guess after reading this page what some of those newspapers were). Tom and Linda (secretly, her older sister) are disgusted by it and slut shame her behind her back.
- The Muppet Show, while ostensibly an American program, was actually filmed in the UK and includes a subtle reference to this in the George Burns episode. As part of an "ambush interview", gossip columnist Fleet Scribbler mentions to Miss Piggy that his paper was thinking of doing a photo spread of her, "something for Page 3". Needless to say, that joke was probably lost on the American audience.
- One appears in Waterloo Road as a former pupil of the school.
- Whatever It Takes is an average ITV one-off drama about a trainee police officer who gets caught having sex with a footballer and becomes one of these, suffering the full effects of celebrity. She is "replaced" by another one, oddly enough played by an actress who had been in Waterloo Road.
- This song from A Bit of Fry and Laurie describes the life of a page 3 model, through to her marriage to a pop star.
- The Rupert MurdochWonderful Life sketch has Murdoch comment that "You need tits to sell a newspaper" after opening a newspaper in a world where he'd never been born and finding that page three is just more news.
- From the Yes Prime Minister episode "A Conflict of Interest":
Hacker: The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.
- this is something of a Dead Horse Trope ; the various references being to the then-considerable role of organised Trades Unions in Party politics (Daily Mirror) and the influence, or otherwise of the USSR (Daily Telegraph)
- Also referenced in an episode where Hacker's daughter is threatening a nude protest over endangered wildlife. He laments that the stunt will get her onto the front page of the paper — "and probably page three as well".
- In The West Wing episode "Enemies Foreign and Domestic," there was a reporter at the White House who worked for a Russian newspaper, asking for press credentials because her work was brutally censored by the Russian government. She told this to Toby in a way that made it appear that she was some heroic, intrepid Lois Lane-style muckraker for daring to criticize an oppressive government... but she was actually censored because she ran one of these newspapers, who not only had naked women on every page, but also engaged in putrid yellow journalism, posting and mocking the high school grades of the children of government officials and such. Toby gives her the credentials but viciously lambastes her and wonders how she can waste what little wiggle room her country gives her with regard to freedom of the press on such trash.
- In The Vicar of Dibley, Owen photographs Brenda the barmaid as one for the village newsletter. She's 65. Exaggerated Trope as he also includes a "Page 4 girl" (her mother) and a "Page 5 girl" (her aunt's mother, who has recently died).
- Australian comedy series Fast Forward had a spoof where media mogul Rupert Murdoch takes over the Daily Planet, promising "Page 3 girls on every page!"
- Lola, the victim in the London-set Elementary episode "The Further Adventures". The picture we see has her in a bikini. It's suggested the paper she appears in is the last one in the UK to still have this feature because the owner is secretly Lola's mother and doesn't want to put her out of work.
- Being a parody of sensationalistic tabloid papers, the Weekly World News featured a "Page 5 Girl".
- Mentioned in the Tom Robinson Band song "(Sing If You're) Glad to be Gay":
Pictures of naked young women are fun
In Titbits and Playboy, Page Three of the Sun
There's no nudes in Gay News or One magazine
But they still find excuses to call it obscene
- The Beatles' "Polythene Pam", most likely — "She's the kind of a girl that makes The News Of The World, yes, you could say she was attractively built"
- Fall Out Boy's 'Thnks Fr Th Mmrs" has the lines "I only think in form of crunching numbers/In hotel rooms/Collecting Page Six lovers."
- Referred to in Elvis Costello's "Welcome to the Working Week" from My Aim Is True:
- Rock Star Ate My Hamster has The Stun, whose in-game representation pictures a topless girl on the front page when the top story isn't about a rock star. Issues also occasionally advertise a contest to win a night out with a Page 3 girl.