Undressing the audience, part 2


I feel we glossed over the title in that last one, and it had so much psychological potential. The derobing of any audience through the persuasive ability of a speaker is a major feat of oratory brilliance, and to the best of my knowledge, it’s only been accomplished on three rather malleable types of onlooker:

1. Groupies

2. Nudists

3. The occasional protester

There’s an old cliche meant to soothe stage fright which goes, ‘Picture your audience in their underwear.’ Allegedly, the people who comprise any crowd are wearing underwear, so you aren’t picturing anything that isn’t really there. They just have the added accoutrements of pants and shirts and socks to contend with.

I don’t think this whole idea is based on accurate information anymore. I believe a goodly number of any persons gathered in a room today will in fact not be wearing underwear, as a lifestyle choice. (A few will also be commando because they have temporary laundry issues.)

If your intention is to actually make your audience naked, these underwearless are going to be the hardest nuts to crack (no pun intended). Why? Because if people are going to get naked, they’re going to hafta overcome the psychological safeguards in place that keep them from doing crazy shit in public. A key element to making a behavior seem acceptable is by having everyone present exercise the same behavior at the same time.

Nudity in concert.

It’s hard to picture, I know. The thought that any single key-note speaker could turn the PTA meeting into a nips and knobs fest; even Nietzsche himself couldn’t make a board meeting that interesting, surely…

Yeah, it’s a long-shot, but there is a practical possibility that a persuasive speaker could pull it off under the right circumstances. Ideally, you would have an adult audience, isolated from any larger group of onlookers or passerbys. You would also need a speaker with formidable stage presence and an air of personal authority.

Many people are willing to do the strangest things if you take away the element of personal responsibility. If you convince an audience they are hypnotized, while it doesn’t grant you actual control over their actions, you remove the uncomfortable element of responsibility from the participants shoulders, and they become more willing to experiment.

Additional possibilities include giving your audience masks to wear before entering the setting, and carefully constructing an artificial, mental environment where the boundaries of the real world are perceived to dissolve. Alter the structure of an individual’s personal reality, and often-times the rules of the real world will cease to operate for that individual.

A third approach which increases the influence of the orator requires some type of buy-in from the audience before their participation is granted. You can vest a figurehead with increased influence, merely by making that speaker’s inner circle difficult to attain. If audience members have had to go through some sort of difficult ordeal to be granted the privilege of attending, they will be more likely to go along with the speaker’s authority. They are invested.

But commandos still pose a problem. These are the black sheep, the free thinkers in some cases. If they are actual deviants, they will feel some vestige of puritanical shame at their naked under parts. Or, they may take pride in their ‘outsider status’, which means that though they might embrace the idea of public nudity, they will chafe against the perception of being lead to this state by a source of authority.

A commando will probably be the one to sink in their heels against the idea of removing their clothes ‘just cus everyone else is doing it’, no matter how the nudity is achieved. Even if the nudity is slow and gentle, with a whole group removing one article of clothing at a time, and being given the chance to grow accustomed to the idea gradually.

A commando is likely to simply not participate. That is how things can fall apart. There is a delicate point when most people have just gotten naked, and become aware that others in the room are still clothed. The element of self-awareness comes into play. If not all the audience members are acting in unison, even one person can become the equivalent of the eyes of God in the Garden of Eden. A single sweater-clad individual can make everyone else acutely aware of their nudity. They will feel awkward and ashamed. They will feel naked.

The only way to really circumvent this debacle is to bring the clothed person or persons up in front of the group and make them the center of attention. Preempt the moment of self-awareness by changing the focus. When surrounded by eyes and flesh protrusions, a commando will begin to feel the oddity of their clothed state. In essence, you can reverse the role of naked and clothed by creating a stigma out of dissent.

author’s note: I was gonna write this as humor, but it didn’t come out that way. What came out I think was pretty accurate. And that was actually kind of frightening, on reflection.