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Kathy Bates Bares All

Not all of the men who appear naked in love scenes look like Richard Gere

Maybe it appeals to the feminist in me, or it could be, I just like Kathy Bates. Now I like her even more.

She did something few actresses her size would dare do. She appeared in a brief, albeit memorable, nude scene in About Schmidt. Bates flings off her clothes, flops into a bubbling hot tub and seduces a flustered Jack Nicholson.

"Did she really do that?" my movie companion asked. Not only did she do it, I observed. She did it with a certain exuberance.

We're talking Kathy Bates. Fried Green Tomatoes Kathy Bates. "I'm Your Number One Fan" Kathy Bates. Crazy-as-a-fox Primary Colors Kathy Bates. The same Kathy Bates, who delighted us with all of her memorable eccentric characters, never packaged herself as leading woman material.

Yet, in front of the cameras and everyone -- Bates, a large, middle-aged woman, drops her drawers, knowing fans will more likely laugh than breathe heavily at the sight of her naked body. When she jiggled into that hot tub with flabby thighs and drooping, middle-aged breasts, Kathy let people know she rejected Hollywood's weird beauty standards. Most actresses today who appear in nude scenes have perfect bodies -- with the help of a personal trainer and tons of plastic surgery, of course.

Watching Bates make her memorable entrance into that bubbling tub made me think about Hollywood's double standard. Not all of the men who appear naked in love scenes look like Richard Gere, the first actor to display frontal nudity in The American Gigolo.

Those who assume naked means pretty apparently never saw Chris Farley and Bill Murray naked. David Caruso broke a barrier when he exposed his white, pasty and not terribly attractive derriere on prime time TV in NYPD Blue. Did anyone really want to see Harvey Keitel expose his hairy torso in The Piano and then prance around naked in way too many other movies?

Hollywood accepts a more relaxed standard for male beauty, or these men would not appear so cavalier in nude scenes with really beautiful, thin women. Many of Hollywood's leading men shamelessly expose their scrawny butts, big bellies and small penises. But the women must be thin and shapely, just like Jennifer Aniston.

What can you say about an industry that actually considers a size 12 a plus-size model, when most large women only dream of ever reaching this size?

Then along comes Kathy Bates who bravely shows her flab. This marks a real turning point in films for women. Bates not only exposes her flaws; she seems to celebrate them.

Maybe Bates wanted to show she could laugh at herself, or perhaps she wished to prove in a place as plastic as Hollywood, not all women accept the film industry's terribly unrealistic beauty standards.

Clearly, more women resemble Kathy Bates than Jennifer Aniston or Gwynneth Paltrow, and we remain her Number One fans.

Terry Loncaric