From HBO?s Game of Thrones to the recently released Your Highness, the male appendage is taking the spotlight on screen. In this week?s Newsweek, Chris Lee looks at why so many actors are dropping their pants. Plus, see 12 clips of stars dropping trou!
No aspect of the minotaur?s penis was left to chance in the recently released Your Highness,
The fearsome appendage, which is revealed at a key moment in April?s medieval stoner comedy, came courtesy of extensive internal debates within and outside the film?s distributor Universal Pictures. How to light the half-man/half-bull?s prosthetic member? How big the balls? The penis? startling physical dimensions, the state of its, ahem, romantic rectitude?all were subject to boardroom discussions between filmmakers, concept artists and studio executives, resulting in a breakthrough for the R-rated action farce.
And there?s the rub: a once-seldom-filmed region of the male anatomy is getting unprecedented screen time at the multiplex and all over premium cable these days. It?s in mainstream film comedies, in sex-centric reality series and in gross-out movies? sometimes at the behest of Hollywood?s heavy hitters. Moreover, ?peen? (as man-junk is affectionately known among the blognoscenti) is being whipped out across the cultural grid, from blue chip Broadway plays like Equus to cut-away flashes on current TV series such as Starz?s Spartacus: Blood and Sand and HBO?s Game of Thrones, often arriving when sex has nothing to do with the action.
Take the Showtime reality series Gigolos, which follows the sexploits of a quintet of high-priced male escorts plying their trade in Las Vegas. Even when the men are not being shown vigorously servicing their female clientele, there is no shortage of incidental, full-frontal dude-ity. It?s a decided benefit of Gigolos? late night pay TV timeslot, but it also reflects a shift in social mores on the television landscape, says the series? executive producer Jay Blumenfield. ?These days, broadcasters seem to be more comfortable showing male parts. Depending on your perspective and upbringing, more male nudity can be viewed as less repressed and more balanced with what we see of women,? Blumenfield said. ?Or it can be a sign of the coming apocalypse. Our feeling is that a naked body is nothing to be ashamed of.?
Gallery: Full Frontal Male Nudity
For the last few decades, A-list actors from Tom Cruise to Richard Gere to Ewan McGregor have played the full monty card to establish their dramatic bona fides. And that?s not for nothing. To hear it from Your Highness director Green? who self-identifies as ?a pioneer of the penis? ? male nudity still has a powerful transgressive value. ?It is provocative,? he explained. ?Anything that?s going to rile up a reaction in people is, I think, worth exploring as an artist.?
For decades the dividing line between an R and an X rating was decidedly phallic-shaped. Not anymore.
That said, the penis can also be used to achieve other televisual ends. For a sequence in the March raunch-comedy Hall Pass-- in which Owen Wilson?s doofus character passes out in a gym hot tub and is revived by a naked man with oversized below-the-belt assets?the movie?s directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly vetted reams of actors? photos in search of ?the biggest schlong.?
But once the Farrelly brothers found their man(hood) and were shooting the sequence, Wilson grew nervous about photos leaking from the set. ?That was Owen?s biggest fear in doing that scene,? Bobby Farrelly said. ?Someone?s going to snap a picture of that on their phone and it was going to get out before the movie was released. At least now there?s context for him hanging out with this giant penis.?
A scene in Spartacus: Blood and Sand depicting a character who gets castrated (while also being crucified) lit up online message boards at sites like dvdtalk.com last year with heated debate. ?I don?t think I?ve ever cringed that much in a TV show before,? someone posted. Another commenter replied: ?[At] the brutality or the male nudity??
The simulated monkey fellatio in The Hangover Part II, meanwhile, is a totally different story. That footage resulted in a trailer for the sequel to 2009?s hit comedy getting yanked from theaters earlier this month. Returning as his memory-challenged screw-up Alan, Zach Galifianakis laughingly arranges to have a small simian perform what looks like oral copulation on an elderly ma ? a crude sight gag that cracks up a group of Thai men on a Bangkok bus.
?Hey guys, check it out,? Galifianakis? character exclaims, articulating what could be a motto for the whole onscreen peen movement. ?When a monkey nibbles on the wenis, it?s funny in any language!?
Chris Lee is a senior entertainment writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast. He previously worked as an entertainment and culture reporter for the Los Angeles Times. His work has also appeared in Vibe, Premiere and Details magazines and has been plagiarized in The Sunday Tribune of Ireland and The Trinidad Guardian.