Archive for Blindness

Picture Perfect: Seeing Around the Blind Spots

So, apparently I’ve gone on a 2-month hiatus from WordPress; who knew. I’ve been so busy doing absolutely nothing of importance that I never realized how much you all had been anxiously awaiting my return.

Why have I inexplicably disappeared? Truthfully (insert uncomfortable squirming here) in the time that I haven’t been wisely spending teaching, prepping lessons, grading papers, revising my dissertation, drafting articles, or sipping coffee and looking important while I pretend to do any or all of the above, I’ve been extremely busy and important, catching up on innumerable episodes of Season one of CBS’s “Elementary”. (Don’t judge me. Watching Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch have a fierce arm-wrestling match in my mind over which of them will take me to dinner is an endless source of free entertainment). But when being battled over by two British hotties in my brain gets too dull, I’ve been amusing myself with the notion that, thanks to my iPhone and a nifty little app called Tap Tap See, I can abandon my lofty dream of a career in academia and pursue my newfound passion for photography. Basically, the principle of the app is this: a blind person can take a photo of what’s in front of him or her, and voiceover (the iPhone’s onboard screenreader) describes the image. I’m told by the creators of the app that they rely on a combination of computer vision and crowd-sourcing to process and describe the images, but I still suspect that aliens are somehow involved. So, when I feel like I’ve spent too much time flopping on my sofa snuggling with Jonny Lee Miller and fancy a bit of exercise, I promptly grab my phone and proceed to chase my dog around the apartment, endeavoring to capture him on camera.

Aside from the realization that candid shots of moving targets are particularly difficult to obtain, I’ve made a number of enlightening discoveries about my surroundings:

1: The wood-engraving of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy hanging on my bedroom wall is apparently crooked. I can only assume that Colin has been sneaking sips of my sangria when my back is turned; this would certainly account for his lopsided appearance combined with the mysteriously empty wine bottles appearing in my kitchen. My inability to see straight, or the idea that home-decorating projects go well with alcohol are not to blame.

2: My parents have apparently been lying to me about my gender for nearly 30 years; after sharing my discovery of the tap Tap see app with my mother, she requested several pictures, and to satisfy her, I attempted to photograph myself and the dog. This should have been relatively uncomplicated given that I knew the relative positions of the intended subjects of the picture. So, imagine my horror when, upon checking that I’d taken a decent photo, I heard the description, “picture is of man holding yellow dog.” Man? Did you say ‘man’? The resulting gender identity crisis has been rather trying. I might need therapy.

3: In addition to navigating me safely across busy streets and helping me to avoid crashing into trees, my dog has the hitherto unnoticed ability to change color. He is alternately tan, white, or yellow. Whether this is a trick of the light or dependent on the phases of the moon, or only occurs on days that end in ‘y’, I’m still uncertain; more extensive observation is required.

In any case, textual descriptions notwithstanding, the pictures I’ve taken might not be worth a thousand words, but they’re definitely worth a few good laughs.

Note: all kidding aside, I’ve actually found the accuracy of the Tap Tap See app to be highly impressive, and it does take decent pictures. I’ve had a lot of fun with it, sharing pictures I’ve taken with my family and friends, and I’ve even found practical uses for it sorting canned goods in my kitchen. It’s especially useful for identifying colors and distinguishing between items in one’s refrigerator, closet, or pantry without sighted assistance. Visit http://www.taptapseeapp.com to check it out!

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Now you see it, Now you Dont: Blindness and the Nostalgia of Visual Memory

Just the other day, I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and sipping my coffee, expertly avoiding work, and suddenly I paused on a friend’s tweet describing a perfect sunrise captured in a photo while jogging. I read and reread the tweet, closed my eyes, tried to mentally pull the image into focus, and as I did, I felt a twinge somewhere deep inside; I wanted to see it. I had that fleeting moment—one that comes far more often than I’m generally willing to admit—in which I wished I had a switch that would allow me to turn on my eyes for five minutes, even five seconds a day.

Over the years, I’ve learned to live without my sight, and at the risk of sounding complacent, I think I’ve adapted fairly well. Those who know me can attest to the fact that I’ve embraced my blindness like a quirky personality trait, and I’m generally the first one at a party to dust off the Stevie Wonder jokes. Yet I realized something in that moment the other day, trying to remember just what the sky looks like at sunrise. One of the questions I often get—the one that makes me far more uncomfortable than most—is usually along the lines of: “If you could see anything, anything at all, what would you want to see?” Having been born with partial sight, I find the answer to this question difficult to try to unpack. You would think, wouldn’t you, that I’d want to see all of the things that have come into being since I lost my sight, because I’m aware that the world looks different now: Facetime and webcams, touch screens and HD TV. The truth is, though, that the things I want to see aren’t necessarily the things I’ve never seen before. I’m curious to know how things look; I’d love to be able to appreciate the clarity of watching my favorite film in high definition rather than, as a friend once put it, “all weirdly pixelated”. Yet I don’t feel like my imagination is lacking in filling in the gaps.

What I want to see, what I sometimes wish I could see, are the things I remember seeing—the things in my memory that I haven’t quite forgotten, but that naturally, with time, fade around the edges: sunshine on the water, rainbows, autumn leaves. It’s a kind of…visual nostalgia, I suppose, and I think that as I grow older, and layer upon layer of dust obscures those memories, it’s a longing that is entirely natural. I think that, having had some minimally usable vision, I sometimes inhabit two worlds: the one in which I see, and the one in which I don’t. Sometimes I think I want to return to those memories, take them out, dust them off, look at them again (literally and figuratively) because I have some deep, unspoken longing to reaffirm my experiences as a (partially) sighted person, to confirm that that world I inhabited was real.

I’m no longer sure to what extent my imagination has colored in the blind spots in my visual memory, but maybe that doesn’t matter. We’re all guilty of revising the narratives our memories tell. No memory is entirely accurate. Our memories are a kind of image-text of a literary biography. The basic facts are verifiable, but we’ve colored in the gaps with details that might be true, or might just be stylistic flourishes intended to reinvigorate the memories for ourselves when we relive those moments.

Question: what is your most vivid visual memory?

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There Seems to be No Sign of Inteligent Life Anywhere: on Mozilla and Morons

Do you remember the scene from Disney’s “Toy Story” in which Buzz, after an assessment of the environment in which he has apparently landed (AKA Andy’s room), concludes, “There seems to be no sign of intelligent life anywhere.”?
This about sums up my reaction to a recent attempt to troubleshoot a technical problem I was having with my web browser.

Several months ago, I encountered a problem with Firefox in which my menu and tool bars mysteriously decided to disappear. Needless to say, I was not amused, and the situation was compounded by the fact that, being unable to see the screen, I couldn’t determine what specifically had changed, because I was certain that I hadn’t, at least intentionally, altered any settings. (Every now and then, being blind has its drawbacks, but you just gotta keep livin’, as they say).

It transpired that somehow, my screen had been minimized, and my screen reader (the text-to-speech software that enables me to use the computer) will only function properly if Firefox is operating in full-screen mode. A friend provided me with the correct key command (which was F-11, because you were dying to know) for restoring the screen to normal, and my internet-browsing returned to its regularly-scheduled smoothness.

This time, not surprisingly given my slow but relentless march toward aging, the problem arose when I couldn’t remember the ridiculously simple, one-keystroke command that my dog could probably have performed with his dewclaw. No amount of searching (aka approximately fifteen minutes spent on Google followed by another 20 executing random key combinations to no avail), so I tossed my problem into the black hole of tech troubles that is Twitter. After only a few minutes, someone affiliated with Mozilla responded and attempted (operative word) to troubleshoot the issue.

I subsequently walked away with two life-altering lessons with which I will now edify you, dear readers, because unsolicited advice is part of the package you get for subscribing to my blog.
1: a communication platform that limits you to 140 characters per message does not lend itself well to online troubleshooting. Well, duh, you say. *that’s* your advice? Well, I did say it was free of charge, and you get what you pay for.
2: Every time I think the universe has hit its stupid quota, I am proven wrong, and yes, I count myself among the allotted number of idiots given leave to wander the planet unsupervised. But I am a child of Einstein compared with the single-celled organism I was unfortunate enough to encounter. After specifically explaining my problem and emphasizing that I was a visually-impaired screen-reader user, the individual on the other end of cyberspace, apparently at the end of his rope, sent me the following tweet: “Do you want your screen to look like this?” the tweet was accompanied by…wait for it… a screenshot. OK, Einstein. Let me explain this to you slowly, in monosyllabic words. I…am…blind. I…can’t…see…that. Comprende?

I did eventually resolve the issue, sans stupid techie, but I don’t remember precisely how I managed it, because that was the point in the story where my brain exploded.

To borrow a phrase from Bill Engvall, here’s your sign.

Question: Have you ever had a ridiculously trivial tech troubleshooting problem?

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The Cultured Cocktease: or, Why you can’t Take a Blind person to an Art Exhibit

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder, but if, like me, your eyes don’t behold much beyond shadows and the occasional patch of sunlight, beauty, or at least visually-appealing beauty, is bound up in the equally creative art form of the descriptions relayed to you by sighted companions.

so when a group of friends and I decided to head into downtown Gainesville several weeks ago to check out the local art walk, I anticipated an evening of free entertainment provided by my friends’ running commentary. As I meandered in and out of each gallery, I admit to being more preoccupied with the challenge of nibbling pretzels, sipping lime punch, and weaving through the maze of masterpieces while silently praying that my guidedog wouldn’t suddenly demolish the entire display with a single sweep of his lethal Labrador tale. I was also teetering precariously on high-heals, a dangerous fashion choice in the current environment for someone who epitomizes the proverbial rhinoceros in an antique shop. Still, considering I have about as much class as blue jean cutoffs at a 5-* restaurant, I managed rather well despite feeling a bit like Eliza Doolittle at the embassy ball. I kept waiting for someone to expose me as the uncultured, squashed cabbage-leaf of Covent Garden—I, who probably can’t tell the difference between a priceless Renoir and a child’s finger-painting, even with the gift of two working eyes.

My last trip to an art gallery of any kind occurred when my college roommate and I paid a mandatory visit to our university’s local art exhibit to complete an essay assignment for an online class in which we were both enrolled. My roommate, understandably, chose what seemed the least complex of the pieces on display: a glass jar filled with sand, containing a miniature car, palm tree, house, and scattering of seashells—some eclectic assortment of items you’d expect to find in South West Florida.

“OK, I don’t get it,” my roommate declared after describing the piece to me.
“What don’t you get? It seems pretty straight-forward to me,” I replied.
“Well,” continued my roommate, “the piece is called Neapolitan Landscape, and I don’t get what any of this has to do with ice-cream.”
“Please tell me you’re kidding,” I managed between bursts of hysterical giggles.
“What’s so funny?” asked my roommate.
“Well,” I said slowly, “I’m not exactly an art expert, but I’m pretty sure ‘Neapolitan Landscape’ isn’t referring to a flavor of ice-cream. I’m pretty sure it’s a reference to Naples, Florida. You know…the city we live in?”

I couldn’t help recalling this story as I wandered past various carvings, photographs of mountain-ranges and sunsets, and the occasional hunk of twisted metal masquerading as a masterpiece. Suddenly, the friend with whom I was walking paused and laid a hand on my arm.

“You need to see this,” she said. I should point out that she was using that phrase fairly loosely; by “see,” she naturally meant “Someone really needs to point this out to you, because your inability to see it shouldn’t deprive you of what the rest of us have to suffer.” It was rather like the time in middle school when a friend of mine insisted on removing the rubber bands in her braces at the lunch table and thought she would enliven the process by making noises so that I wouldn’t feel left out of the entertainment. While I love my friends, I think I can safely say that this just takes the concept of accommodation to a level beyond appropriate.

Anyway, it turned out that my friend and I had stopped before a sculpture of what was unmistakably a naked man. This in and of itself wasn’t terribly shocking; what my friend felt compelled to point out was the fact that the artist, for one reason or another, decided to represent the man’s genitals with a pine cone. Perhaps Said artist was attempting to remind the viewer of the link between man and nature, or maybe he’d just run out of whatever material he was using for the sculpture. In any case, because my inner child has the maturity of your average four year-old, I was intrigued by the pine cone penis.

“You’re not serious. A pine cone penis?”
“I’m totally serious. It’s…definitely interesting,” said my friend. This description wasn’t nearly colorful enough to satisfy my curiosity.
“Are we allowed to touch it?” My friend hesitated.
“I…don’t think so. There’s a sign that says don’t touch.”

Well, this was disappointing, mostly because suggestively fondling a piece of local art would have been the most action I’d gotten in some time. Reluctantly I went off in search of a piece of art on display that was less touchy about being tactilely appreciated, but needless to say, I left that night with a very different impression of the concept of the cock tease than what is generally meant by the expression.

Question: what is the strangest piece of art you’ve ever seen?

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Open Your Eyes: Blogging Against Disablism Day 2012

Those of you who know me or who have been following this blog for any length of time know that in addition to being sexy, intelligent, witty, a decent cook, and modest to a fault, I am blind: or rather, I am a person who happens to be blind. There is a difference between being a blind person and a person who happens to be blind, and it is not a subtle one. Every day, we tell ourselves stories about who we are, and those stories shape the images we create of ourselves and the world in which we live. To call myself a blind person would be true, but it would also be a gross understatement—an oversight of the many ingredients that, mixed together, make up the unique flavor of my personality.

Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day, and as I reflect upon the ways in which society defines me by the disable label, I also find myself thinking about the eye-opening moments I have been privileged enough to share with those who have been willing to look beyond that label.

Last spring, I taught a course in 20th Century British Literature, but I was transparent about my passion for my area of specialization—the Nineteenth Century—and especially my Jane Austen fanaticism. One of my students, who I afterward affectionately termed my “Jane Austen student,” came gushing to me after class one day about her trip to England the previous summer and, in particular, her visit to Chawton House—the residence of Jane Austen.
“I have pictures,” she informed me. “If you’d like, I can bring them next class and show you.” Insert very long, uncomfortable pause punctuated by chirping crickets. Class had been in session for roughly four weeks at this point; either this student was terribly unobservant of the Labrador that sat curled at my feet during every lesson, or she needed to have her own eyes checked out. That said, I have non-confrontational tattooed across my forehead, so rather than point out the obvious and add an even thicker layer of awkwardness to an already awkward situation, I smiled and responded, “I’d love to be able to see them.” ‘Hurrah,’ I thought. ‘I am paragon of inner poise and diplomacy.’ I said “I’d love to be able to see them,” which was, I thought, the truth. I would, but I could not.

“great!” responded my student. (Did she need a bomb to drop on her?). IN this case, it was my dog discretely, or not-so-discretely, treading on her foot with his paw.

When I walked into class the following day, I wondered whether or not Jane Austen student would in fact remember to bring her pictures of Chawton and, if she did, how I would explain to her that I would not, in fact, be able to see them, much as I wished to. ‘Idiot,’ I thought. ‘Golden opportunity for a teachable moment here, and because you’re such a politically-correct chickenshit, you’ve let it slip right past.’ As I suspected, Jane Austen student did in fact bring her pictures and suggested walking to my office with me so she could share them. Now the moment had come; there was no way out, but how could I offend her when she’d gone out of her way to bring the pictures and seemed so enthusiastic about sharing them with me?

We walked across campus together, chatting about the weather, classes, my dog—safe subjects. As we drew nearer my office, I was still wondering how I might be able to salvage what was left of this uncomfortable situation and transform it into a teachable moment. While I rarely if ever call attention to my blindness, I try whenever possible to educate my students about how best they can be of service to someone with a disability when the need arises.

When we arrived at my office, I thought I’d let the student initiate the dreaded picture conversation and see what might happen; I was buying time. At this point, “Lovely, but I can’t see it” was still the only thing I could conceivably think of saying. Subtlety is not a virtue I claim to possess in large quantities–in any quantity actually. To my astonishment, with no prompting from me, Jane Austen student brought out her pictures and, flipping through them, proceeded to describe each and every shot to me in detail. It was as if she were simply sharing her adventure with me, using the pictures as a way to refresh her own memory. She must have spent a good hour with me, describing in detail the landscape surrounding Chawton House and sharing the story behind each picture—like the one of the exit-ramp off the highway where she and her friend had accidentally found themselves when her GPS inexplicably switched from the pedestrian setting to the car setting.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this instance, it truly became that, and so much more. IN that moment, it was my ignorance, and not my student’s, that had been exposed—my assumption that this girl wouldn’t be able to fathom how to bring the world into view for someone who couldn’t see it.

In honor of Blogging Against Disablism Day, I urge you to check out Gin and Lemonade, a wonderfully witty blog by a wonderfully witty woman who, among other things, writes prolifically about living with a disability. She rocks—and (quite literally) rolls.

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Doggone It: or, How to Avoid being Kicked out of a Boston Hotel with a Service Animal

Thursday, April 12th, 5:00PM, Boston

I’m standing at the front desk in the Boston Copley Marriott with my friend and colleague, the lovely and talented K. Flush with the success of having completed the Sherlock Holmes book chapter we’ve been slaving over for the better part of this past year, we have arrived to present our labor of love at the 2012 conference of the Popular Culture Association. The day has been a haze of airports, metal detectors, and bad coffee. (I am still determining whether or not to grant amnesty to the Atlanta airport for that assault on my digestive system they called coffee). My guidedog is unceremoniously dripping rain-water on the highly polished lobby floor, and after months of anticipation, I’m thinking this is a rather inauspicious beginning to our adventure.

After determining which of the hotel’s approximately eight elevators will take us to our room and depositing our belongings, K and I descend to the lobby to discretely inquire where we might find a patch of grass for my dog to relieve his bladder. Being a suburban Floridian where foliage is plentiful, I have apparently underestimated the difficulty of locating greenery in downtown Boston. A severe-looking bellhop informs us that our only option is to walk around the corner of the hotel, which seems simple enough until K and I walk outside and discover that a: it’s still raining, and b: “around the corner” is actually about three blocks away. A simple trip outside has now become operation dogwalk, which we will execute about four times a day during the duration of our stay. (On Friday I will attempt, with only partial success, to execute operation dogwalk in high-heeled boots, a decision for which K will remonstrate with me in mingled amusement and exasperation). For now, we slosh through the puddle-dotted streets, dodging raindrops and the occasional pedestrian-oblivious driver, Zeus does what he set out to do, and we trudge back to the hotel. I am about to express my relief at being indoors when my dog, ever a paragon of poise and grace (except when he isn’t) performs a muddy paw-print prance across the lobby, shaking the water from his back and spraying a half-amused, half-disgruntled bellhop in the process.
“Bit wet out there, eh?” he remarks as we pass. Since my teeth are chattering with cold, I cannot smile without biting my tongue, so I settle on a nod of acknowledgement as we head for the bank of elevators that seem more at home in Panem’s District 13 than here.
“I think he shook his fist at us,” whispers K as the doors close behind us. She doesn’t think he’s actually angry; Zeus has probably managed to diffuse the situation with cuteness, but I wonder if there’s a button on the wall panel that will take us to a subbasement, since there doesn’t seem any hope of the earth opening and swallowing me whole. We’re going to be kicked out…and we haven’t even made it to the hotel bar yet.

12:30AM

After what will hereafter be referred to as the “lobby incident,” nothing—not even increasingly painful stabs of hunger—could convince me to leave my room, where I was content to hide my face in shame for the remainder of my stay (assuming, of course, that we weren’t going to be asked to leave, or at the very least to mop the floor). It was with the suggestion of alcohol and the assurance that the hotel’s restaurant’s location on the 2nd floor would allow us to avoid another encounter with the wet bellhop that K coaxed me to leave. We ate a celebratory “hurrah, we are in Boston and will kick ass tomorrow” dinner in the hotel restaurant, where I am compelled to emphasize that we partook of only one adult beverage each. Note this for future reference: it will become important later in the story.

After another trek to the poop park to avoid potential dog-related shit hitting the fan, we popped into 7-11 to obtain alcohol only to remember that grocery and convenience stores in the North do not carry alcohol. From the perspective of the girl who runs into her local grocery at 12:45PM on a Sunday for a bottle of wine and purposely spends an unnecessary amount of time deliberating over red or white until 1:00PM so she can purchase said wine under Florida law, I found the resignation of returning to the hotel from an aborted mission to obtain adult beverages just a little sad.

In any case, we are now snugly settled in our room for the night, depressed by, well, our failure to obtain depressants. We discuss what time we should be up and about the following morning, and K heads for the bathroom to brush her teeth.

K: We have a problem.
Me (pausing in the search for my own toothbrush, which I suspect might be buried in the dog food): What’s the matter now?
K: it’s…the bathroom door.
Me: What’s wrong with it?
K: It’s stuck. I think it’s locked.
Side Note: the bathroom door is a sliding contraption with no outer handle–just a screw to indicate where the inside lock has probably, and, inexplicably, gotten stuck. Additional note: alcohol has been consumed only in limited quantities–see above.
Me: but that’s impossible. It can’t just lock itself. Are you sure?
K: Well, I can’t open it.
Me: Let me try. (Pull, grunt, insert four-letter expletive of your choice. Lather, rinse, repeat).
Zeus: looks on in bewilderment at strange humanoid antics.
Me: Um, you’re right. It’s locked.
K: (in v. “Thank you, Captain Obvious” tone)I told you it was.
Me: Well, I just wanted to be sure. I guess we should call the front desk.
K: Which would be fine, but I don’t see any numbers posted anywhere.

We begin searching for paper containing need-to-know information. We discover a room-service menu advertising Eggs Benedict for the reasonable price of $17.00. (Let it be known that unless the Benedict associated with said eggs is one named Cumberbatch, I cannot justify the cost).

K: I’ve found something. This says to call “at your service, and we’ll be happy to assist you.” Which would be great, except there’s no number listed.
Me: Maybe there are dialing instructions on the phone?
K: I don’t see any.
Me: Are you sure? (Pointing to phone on nightstand).
K: Oh my god, there are two phones. (Walks over to examine keypad) and, there’s a button labeled “At your service” right here on this phone. What a waste of time!
Me: Just so we’re clear on this, I’m the blind one, right? But wait…what phone were you using? I’m confused.
K: This one, over here (pointing to phone at the other side of the room).
Me: I…what?

Apparently, for reasons clear only to the hotel staff, there are two phones approximately 10 feet from each other, both of which connect to the same line, rendering the necessity of two phones essentially pointless, what with this being the 21st century and all, where people need to be surgically detached from their portable electronic devices. I want to laugh, but consider banning this activity until the bathroom door has been unlocked, because I’m not sure my bladder can withstand the unnecessary pressure.

1:00AM
K has successfully placed a call to the front desk, after which we endure an agonizing waiting period. Finally two men from the maintenance staff arrive, screwdriver in hand, and the path to the porcelain throne is unbarred, much to our relief.

Me: Well, we’re off to an interesting start.
K: That was weird. Two strange guys with screwdrivers just came into our room, at 1:00 in the morning.
Me: and I wasn’t wearing a bra. V. awkward, that.
The only thought I can form as I crawl into bed is “Thank god they haven’t kicked us out…yet.”

Coming soon: Episode 2 of the Boston Chronicles-stay tuned!

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BBC Naked: the Clever Coverup that Reveals all!

The other night I finally had the opportunity to watch the final episode of the BBC’s Series 2 of “Sherlock” with my friend and colleague, the lovely and talented K. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might recall K’s appearance in the Birthday Chronicles, and those of you who have seen us together will express little surprise at what follows.

K and I have spent many a Saturday night at my apartment, watching and re-watching some of our favorite films, most recently BBC’s “Sherlock” (about which we are publishing a long-anticipated book chapter…watch this space for details). Well-equipped with equal measures of wine and wit, K keeps up a steady stream of live descriptive video. As she has frequently pointed out, my blindness shouldn’t rob me of essential (and sometimes non-essential) visual details. So adept has she become at transmitting visual information that, in true Sherlockian fashion, I have often declared, “I’m lost without my describer.”

This past Saturday night’s viewing of “The Reichenbach Fall,” in addition to the usual routine of giggling, pausing, rewinding, and giggling some more, was responsible for the coining of a new catchphrase about to take the world by storm. Partway through the episode, K drew my attention to two particularly enticing scenes. IN the first, John Watson (Martin Freeman) emerges from the shower at the Baker Street flat he shares with Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch).

K: John just walked into the room, and he just got out of the shower, and his hair is wet, and it’s really sexy. Oh, and he’s wearing a robe. Nothing else. Just a robe. You need to know that. It’s important.
Me: And he’s clearly naked under the robe, even though you can’t see anything, because, you know, this is the BBC.
K: Yes, exactly, and he looks really sexy. I mean, really. I just think you need to know. I don’t want you to miss out.

Scene Two: Sherlock and John are in their Baker Street flat, finishing dressing for a court appearance.

K: OK, so, get this. Sherlock and John are in the flat, and they’re finishing getting dressed for court. IN the same room. Sherlock is buttoning up his shirt, and John is adjusting his tie, and oh…there’s eyefucking. Sherlock is totally eyefucking John’s reflection in the mirror. So, they either were just naked, or they’re thinking about getting naked.
Me: They’re BBC naked!

And thus was coined the phrase “BBC Naked,” adjective- a state of appearance in which a character’s clothing is arranged in such a way as to suggest a prior state of nudity or to encourage the audience to visualize the character in a state of nudity to circumnavigate the awkwardness of actual televised nudity. Perhaps one of the best-cited examples of BBC naked is this scene from their wildly popular television adaptation of Jane Austen’s /Pride and Prejudice/ (1995). Discussing the scene in an Interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s “Fresh Air” several years ago, Colin Firth (whose dripping Darcy has become iconic among fans and scholars of Austen alike) revealed that in the original script, Darcy dives into the lake completely naked. “But,” Firth pointed out, “the BBC didn’t consider that acceptable…so, then in the end I thought, well, what’s second most spontaneous to taking all your clothes off and diving into a pond? And I suppose, really, not taking any of them off.” Thus the image of him emerging from the lake to confront Elizabeth Bennet, dripping and distinctly flustered, while intended to lend an air of propriety to the sexually-charged scene, had precisely the opposite effect.

Hence my assessment of the above “Sherlock” scenes as prime examples of the BBC naked strategy, particularly in scene two. The ritual of dressing together is sumptuously sensual. If John and Sherlock are not dressing after an episode of intense lovemaking (which K and I have in fact theorized is the case), the depiction of dressing together intensifies their level of intimacy and comfort with one another, which, sexualized or not, is an oft-inevitable result of sharing domestic spaces and routines.

Now, of course, having coined this catchphrase, I am presented with a daunting task, because with great power comes great responsibility. It is now my mission to re-watch every BBC series to which I have ever been exposed to seek out examples of “BBC nakedness,” which extensive list will serve as evidence for introducing the term into popular discourse. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

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