It is, simply put, one of cinema’s last taboos: the onscreen penis. Whereas (mostly male) filmmakers regularly treat audiences to a plethora of female nudity, the male anatomy is rarely given the same attention and appreciation on film. And when a penis is shown onscreen, it’s typically in an arthouse flick, e.g. Michael Fassbender’s Fassbender in Shame, played for laughs (Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall), or belonging to Ewan “Swingin’ Dick” McGregor (See: Velvet Goldmine, Young Adam, Trainspotting, etc.).
So, it’s a watershed moment of sorts to see one of Hollywood’s biggest actors (and filmmakers) in one of the year’s most anticipated films go full-frontal. And that’s exactly what happens in Gone Girl, the very violent, seedy latest from acclaimed filmmaker David Fincher, in theaters Oct. 3. There's a scene in which a nude Amy Elliott-Dunne, played with committed gusto by Rosamund Pike, is washing off in the shower. She’s joined by her husband, Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck. When he enters the shower, you briefly catch a glimpse of Ben Affleck’s penis.
“I try to get it in every movie,” the actor joked to MTV News’ Josh Horowitz, before doubling-down. “The penis is in there! It’s IMAX penis! You’ve gotta pay 15 bucks to see it in 3D… it’s better in 3D.” Later, he joked how “cold” it was on the set.
Anyone who’s read Laura Mulvey’s groundbreaking 1975 essay on film, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, is familiar with the different ways men and women are treated on the silver screen—that the voyeuristic aspect of cinema-watching, or the “look,” is typically viewed as an active male role, while the passive role of being looked at is a female one. Mulvey refers to it as the “male gaze,” one that has traditionally objectified women in movies in ways that men are not.
And, while this brief flash of Ben Affleck’s baby-maker in a mainstream Hollywood studio film is cause for celebration, especially since it comes after “Blurred Lines” stunner Emily Ratajkowski's chest is paraded, there’s still plenty that needs to be done to democratize onscreen nudity. Look no further than HBO. For all the bouncing boobs on shows like Game of Thrones and the late True Blood, only on the rarest of occasions are we treated to, say, a shot of Alexander Skarsgard’s penis—that is, right before he bursts into flames.
So Ben Affleck: We salute you. And Hollywood: Please, take note.