MPAA be damned, we need to balance out the sexes when it comes to nudity. Last night I went to see Gone Girl, which was excellent and you all should see it. But I was disappointed. Not by anything in the movie, but by something I didn’t see. After the film’s premiere at the New York Film Festival last week, reports came about that we’d be seeing something pretty rare for a mainstream American film: penis.
The first reports I saw of a penis sighting in Gone Girl came from the great critic David Ehrlich.
hot take: Rosamund Pike is a revelation and Ben Affleck definitely has a penis. #GoneGirl— david ehrlich (@davidehrlich) September 26, 2014
He clarified with more excited tweets soon after.
Okay, so David might’ve been a little more preoccupied with Ben Affleck’s penis than most, including Jennifer Garner, but his tweets have raised an important point about the rarity of male nudity on film (and television, for that matter). I’m sure Affleck’s penis is very nice, and David might be genuinely excited to see it, but I think the more exciting thing is the prospect of seeing a prominent male actor reveal his parts in a big Hollywood production. That almost never happens.
We’ve all seen Jason Segel’s penis, though you’ll be forgiven if you can barely picture it. When he showed it off in Forgetting Sarah Marshall it was for a split second. Literally blink or you’ll miss it. But it was huge (the event, and also the penis). So rarely do we see male nudity in mainstream films that the story of the movie in the media became the story of Segel’s penis.
Even when it happens outside the mainstream it can be a big deal. In Shame, Michael Fassbender gave us all a gander at his swinging Charlie, and oh did it ever swing. In fact, the attention paid to Michael Fassbender’s penis may well have ruined his chances at winning an Oscar that year, and the film’s blasé approach to sexuality and nudity was likely a hindrance both at the box office and awards season.
America’s prudishness and suppressed prurience even made much of the talk surrounding Zack Snyder’s Watchmen come down to Dr. Manhattan’s blue dong. Oh no, all that blue dong, just hanging around in your face, in IMAX no less. Giant blue dong. No matter that it was animated and completely non-sexual in its presentation, the fact that there was visible schlong in a $100 million blockbuster was considered shocking and worthy of endless discussion and juvenile jokes.
During Gone Girl I was on the lookout for any hint of wang. From David’s tweets I knew to lookout for a shower scene. When it finally happened, in a shower, obscured by David Fincher’s signature shadows, and only in a side shot, all I could make out was a decent tuft of hair. There might’ve been a penis buried there. I’m not sure. I’d need to see the film again, and maybe do some frame-by-frame analysis. I assure you, though, I was let down by the fact that I didn’t get to see anything.
It’s not that I have some fascination with Ben Affleck’s penis, but the prospect of seeing a big Hollywood production featuring a plethora of great female characters AND incidental male nudity sounded revolutionary. Of course, a tiny hint of penis is nothing compared to the very clear and visible female nudity that occurs earlier in the film, but it’d be a step in the right direction. If male nudity were more common in films and television, the sight of a penis wouldn’t be some major concern. And it shouldn’t be.
The solution is clear. We need more penises! More dongs! More schlongs! We need them everywhere, all up in our faces. We need to normalize male nudity in the same way we’ve come to expect so many actresses to ditch their clothes for a good role. Right now it’s blatantly unbalanced, unfair, and illustrative of the sexist male gaze that has controlled the medium for too long. For years now, a vocal group of people—mostly women—have called for more male nudity on Game of Thrones to balance out the copious, often lurid, female nudity on the show. I say we extend that call to the wider film and television landscape. Show us your manhood, Hollywood!
Until then, go check out Gone Girl. Maybe you’ll see what I missed. Either way you’re in for a treat.
Corey Atad is a staff writer for Pajiba. He lives in Toronto.