Hollywood Confronts the Last Taboo
Lee, Chris, Newsweek
Byline: Chris Lee
Why are so many actors dropping their pants?
A film's success rises or falls on the smallest of details. And so it was that the director of this month's medieval stoner comedy Your Highness found himself in a boardroom with the suits at Universal Studios, discussing every last facet of his minotaur's manhood. How to light the half-man/half-bull's prosthetic appendage? How large should the dimensions be? And what would the anatomy suggest about the beast's religious leanings? "We took the leap, culturally, and we circumcised him," the director, David Gordon Green, explains.
Yes, much has changed in Hollywood since Clark Gable pushed the boundaries of taste by appearing without an undershirt in 1934's It Happened One Night. For decades the dividing line between an R and an X rating was decidedly phallic-shaped. Not anymore. Male genitalia are getting unprecedented screen time at the multiplex and all over premium cable. "Male nudity has a humorous value because it's taboo," says Green, whose film garnered an R. "There's a gracefulness to the female form that's subject to this Last Tango in Paris, Jayne Mansfield-type of adoration. Where guys just don't get the same shot. So that, for me, is where it's ripe to come in and pull the pants down."
Full-frontal dude-ity isn't limited to visual punchlines in comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and this summer's The Hangover Part II. Male genitals (or, to use the now popular Hollywood vernacular, "peens") are cropping up across the cultural grid, on cable shows like Starz's Spartacus: Blood and Sand and HBO's Game of Thrones, and in blue-chip Broadway fare like Equus, where Daniel Radcliffe showed he's more than just Harry Potter. …