The Full Monty

The Full Monty, if you don’t already know, is a great comedy about unemployed British men who can’t catch a break and decide to make some money by stripping like the guys at these clubs their wives go to. It suggests a lot of dialogs we could have about gender. We see men with body shame issues. We see men selling a peek at their bodies just the way women have for so many years. We also see the art of stripping at its purest, where the strippers are their own agents, where they’re having fun, where the audience is having fun, where it’s not about power or sex. This could generate so many conversations, I’m not sure where to start.

So I’m going to take this in a completely different direction and talk about the MPAA and network censorship. The phrase “The Full Monty” means full-frontal complete nudity. In the end that’s what the strip routine gets down to. But we mustn’t see it. In the movie version, we see the men from behind as they triumphantly toss out the hats that were the last items of clothing covering their nether regions: full backside nudity. But we can’t see them from the front. Whether this is the MPAA’s misogynistic “penises = rated X” rule at work or whether it was just impossible to find enough male actors willing to get completely naked on screen (I doubt it), the end result is the same. And in this case, I think it belies one of the most powerful messages of the film: that the body isn’t just a sex object. It’s also something to have fun with, to be proud of even if you’re not in ideal shape, to enjoy and celebrate.

But according to the MPAA, that’s not the case for the penis. It’s the one part that we must be protected from seeing because it’s dirty. It’s an automatically rated X body part. It’s pornography.

What are the censors really afraid of? Of seeing men objectified like women have been all these years? Of seeing naked male actors and finding themselves turned on? Of nice girls seeing naked male actors and realizing the few men they’ve been with weren’t the best available in the world?

Comments

  1. says

    As I recall, the unrated version of Eurotrip contains just the opposite: scenes of men at a nude beach with their whing-whangs hanging out, but the women at a comparable beach were only topless, not nude.

  2. Jennifer Kesler says

    “Unrated” is substantially the same as “X”, so you’re reinforcing my point, not arguing against it.

    See, the MPAA rating is optional: you can always produce a film without a rating. So why do people always get their films rated? Because the theaters and audience members you want to attract will assume “unrated” means “would have been an X if I let the MPAA get at it”. And they will more or less blacklist it accordingly.

    “Unrated” cuts do well on DVD because people expect them to be pornographic. In the case you’re describing, it seems that once again, penises = pornography. Which was my point.

  3. Graculus says

    Maybe they’re afraid that if they start showing penises that people will point and laugh? ;)

    I can’t say I agree with the direction of your post here, but I’m struggling to put my finger on just why that is… I guess that for me, the issue is not about what-will-the-MPAA-allow (BBFC, for those of us this side of the pond, which is somewhat more liberal) but whether it actually fits the story. Gratuitous whatevers don’t impress me, regardless of gender. I’m more vexed by the feeling I get from some (mostly male) film makers that (mostly female) bodies are just commodities, or extra set decoration, and maybe the MPAA and BBFC help tone some of the worst of those teenage geekboy fantasies down to tolerable levels for the rest of us?

    Where The Full Monty was concerned, would it have actually made a significant difference to the movie if the final shot had been from the front instead of the back? For me, I’d say that the choice to go for full frontal at that moment would have been inconsistent with the tone of the movie, and therefore gratuitous.

  4. DNi says

    As I recall, the unrated version of Eurotrip contains just the opposite: scenes of men at a nude beach with their whing-whangs hanging out, but the women at a comparable beach were only topless, not nude.

    Actually, that’s in the rated version, too, I believe. However, that sequence and the one BetaCandy’s describing are completely different for a fundemental reason: the dongs in Eurotrip were there for laughs. Dozens of gawking naked men with their flaccid, floppy dangly-bits chasing after the one and only girl on a nude beach.

    On the other hand, in The Full Monty, there was a distinct element of sexuality to it’s sequence. It wasn’t comedy, not that part; it was sexuality on display — male sexuality on display — men stripping for the pleasure of women.

    It’s an interesting sort of misandry on the part of the MPAA (and, actually, the media in general), actually: the female form is sexual, and the male form is comedy.

  5. says

    My impression is that the point of The Full Monty is to explore the men’s self-esteem issues about losing their jobs, and taking charge of the situation by deciding to become strippers, with the question of question in the air of whether they’re losing their dignity or gaining it.

    I think it would have made a big difference to have the final shot really be “the full monty.” Seeing them in this vulenrable position, and seeing their (the performers’) reaction — how the characters themselves handle it — would have been very relevant, far more relevant than seeing their backs and the reaction of their fictional audience. Letting the movie off the hook of really doing “the full monty” definitely lightens the ending, but I think showing them from the front would have been appropriate for the dramatic tone of the film. Yes this is a comedy overall, but it’s not pure fluff — it’s fairly serious and meaty for a comedy.

    I think BetaCandy is right that it was a question of getting the rating.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    Grac, I see your point and I definitely agree that gratuitous stuff sucks. But when is nudity not superfluous? When someone’s posing for a painting? Nah, that’s hardly necessary. When people are having sex? We don’t need to see that at all – old movies proved that.

    C.L. said it perfectly, so I’ll leave it there. The feeling I had was that we should see these imperfect bodies in all their glory, after we’ve seen the inner beauty of the characters. We the audience should have seen what their audience saw. And we should have celebrated. Not because it was “oooh, naked” but because it represents how they’ve overcome ALL of their insecurities and accepted themselves.

  7. Jennifer Kesler says

    And DNi is correct that another distinction made between male and female frontal nudity is that the male form is for chucks and giggles. I don’t think Michelangelo saw it that way, and I daresay anyone who’s seen or studied David (aside from Ashcroft) would get that. It’s definitely a modern (and odd) sensibility that enables a male-dominated film industry to loathe the women it displays for titillation while laughing at the few men it displays for laughs.

  8. says

    There is one obvious anatmoical reason why male full frontal nudity is considered a bigger deal than female full frontal nudity: you can see more of the male.

    A man gets naked, and faces more or less forward, and you can see just about everything of his private parts that you can see without using a scalpel.

    A woman, on the other hand, shows nothing more than a small crack unless she is spreading her legs fairly wide and you are looking at her from below (or unless she manually spreads her labia). Even this you won’t see if she is facing at an angle, or if she puts her legs together a little (a man would have to “tuck” to do this). And I am not certain that you would even be able to make this much out unless she shaved completely.

    So in terms of what you can actually see, simple full frontal nudity* on a man is probably more equivalent to a woman – er – “opening up” than to simple full frontal nudity on a woman.

    *Simple full frontal nudity (FFN) – FFN where a person is not deliberately posing for maximum exposure of the crotch.

  9. sbg says

    We’re talking basic nudity, though, and not a minute examination of genitalia.

    I fail to see how the fact that men have more dangly bits to expose as a valid reason for the discrepancy – it doesn’t jive that it’s vulgar and/or inappropriate to see a man naked from the front but perfectly peach to see a woman so.

    It’s a vulnerability thing, and somehow people are FAR more accepting of a naked and vulnerable woman than they are of a man.

  10. says

    I fail to see how the fact that men have more dangly bits to expose as a valid reason for the discrepancy – it doesn’t jive that it’s vulgar and/or inappropriate to see a man naked from the front but perfectly peach to see a woman so.

    Maybe not a valid reason, but I think likely it is the true reason.

    It’s certainly no more bizarre than the fact that showing a woman’s nipples is considered more risque than showing a man’s (the only difference between these is that the woman’s are on average bigger (I think) and that the chest around the woman’s protrudes more (in most cases).

  11. Jennifer Kesler says

    Maybe not a valid reason, but I think likely it is the true reason.

    I think you’ve done a nice job rationalizing here, but male privilege is getting in your way. You have the privilege of thinking of your penis as a private thing, startling to see in the light of day. I see breasts everywhere I look.

    When I was a kid – and we didn’t have close-enough-to-naked breasts on every billboard, TV show, etc. – grown up female breasts were as shocking to me as penises. Maybe more so, thinking, “OMG, I’m going to have THOSE? Ew.”

    I think if you didn’t have the privilege of your dangly bits being protected, you’d see what we’re talking about.

  12. Jennifer Kesler says

    An additional point, Glav:

    You’re claiming that because of anatomy, naked men are “more naked” than naked women – whereas we are arguing naked is naked, full frontal is full frontal, either gender should be treated the same.

    The “more naked” argument only works if you accept the presupposition that the male dangly bits are dirtier or more pornographic than the exposed differentiations on a woman. Like people accept the presupposition that female nipples are somehow dirtier or more sexual than male nipples, as you pointed out.

    Which supports my earlier argument that there is a presupposition at work here that is based not on logic but on male preference.

  13. says

    The “more naked” argument only works if you accept the presupposition that the male dangly bits are dirtier or more pornographic than the exposed differentiations on a woman.

    But unless the woman shaves completely, there is a good chance that all you will see is hair. So you are arguing that there is no difference between seeing pubic hair and between seeing pubic hair and the erectile organ and the sac holding the gonads.

    Which supports my earlier argument that there is a presupposition at work here that is based not on logic but on male preference.

    Well, I guess you can say that it is based on societal preference. My particular point does not necessarily have anything to say about whether or not the preference is specifically male, though.

    As for whether the presupposition is based on logic, I think you could have a good case that the nipple issue is difficult to rationalize.

    On the crotch issue, though, either the idea that male FFN is diriter than female or the idea that both are the same are both logical, depending on your premises; that is, is it the lack of clothes that is “dirty” or is it the exposure of the genitalia, or the exposure specifically of the erectile organ (either the penis or the clitoris)?

  14. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, I guess you can say that it is based on societal preference. My particular point does not necessarily have anything to say about whether or not the preference is specifically male, though.

    All historical societal preferences are male. Hell, you boys didn’t even generously give us the vote until the 1920′s.

    So you are arguing that there is no difference between seeing pubic hair and between seeing pubic hair and the erectile organ and the sac holding the gonads.

    I said “exposed differentiations”, not hair. It should have been obvious from my post that I meant breasts. When you consider that slightly less than half the children of the world know what penises look like from as early as they’re able to see their own, it’s hard to argue that this is more shocking to the child populace at large than adult female breasts – which neither gender of child has seen before (except in nursing, which to my knowledge people do not generally recall).

    So to protect the children and teenagers who aren’t old enough to see rated X movies, we present them with female breasts galore, but not penises? Nah, it just doesn’t make sense.

    Again, you’re failing to take into account your conditioning that makes you THINK your penis deserves privacy. You don’t risk seeing penises when you take a woman to a PG-13 movies and wonder if she’ll be disappointed when/if she sees yours. You don’t see barely covered penises in every ad, in every TV show. Of course you think the penis more shocking. You’re completely desensitized to seeing female breasts everywhere you go. You take it as a given.

    I’m sure the MPAA probably gave themselves some rationalization like what you’re giving here. But rationalization is not reason. Underneath every rationalization is the true reason. That’s what I’m looking for. You’re just looking to rationalize a system that gives you nice privileges you want to keep. That’s what you do pretty much every time you come to this site. And then you go back to your own blog and make fun of us – one time, you even deliberately twisted something I’d said AFTER I clarified it for you over here. I think you have a weird unrequited co-dependent thing with my blog.

  15. says

    I said “exposed differentiations”, not hair. It should have been obvious from my post that I meant breasts.

    Actually, no, I thought you meant the female crotch. I was honestly mistaken. In the post you had talked about the male crotch being seen as dirtier than the female and I had brought up the female nipple being seen as dirtier than the male nipple. I hadn’t been thinking about directly comparing nipple and crotch of either sex, so it didn’t occur to me that that you were comparing the penis to the breast.

    In any case, it was not my intent to defend the system that says that male nudity is worse than female, or to suggest that women shouldn’t object to the double standard. I was just explaining what I believe is the “subliminal thinking” behind the double standard, which may be unfair, but which I do not think is intentionally so.

    I’m not denying that there is a double standard or that it is unfair to media consumers who would like to see more male skin, or that it makes females appear more vulnerable than males in the media. All I disagree with you with on about this issue (as far as I can tell) is on the issue of whether the double standard is intentionally designed to make women more vulnerable, or to protect the egos of poorly-endowed men.

    You are arguing for a system that compares body-to-body and says male is equal to female, as opposed to an organ-to-organ system where generally the nude female would be seen to show less than the male. That’s not what I disagree with. I just disagree with the assumption that the current system is based on the body-to-body asumption, so that the male nudity deficit is intentionally unbalanced.

  16. Jennifer Kesler says

    See, there’s that co-dependent thing. My last comment made you feel like you’re in trouble with She of Banning Powers, so you back off and try to sound reasonable.

    Of course, you completely ignore the issue that you make snotty remarks about me on your blog, yet expect to be treated with respect here. Funny – no one else who comes to this site and expresses disagreement with me is that lacking in class. It’s just you.

    And I’m bored.

  17. Robert says

    I don’t think they’re showing vaginas on mainstream film (yet). But I digress. The entry mentions MPAA ratings, but goes on to criticize network executives. Are we talking film or television? Broadcast or cable. MPAA=film. Networks=television/cable. So, you’re saying the title of the film is a tease? Well, that’s not surprising…
    I never saw the movie. But a female friend did see the theatrical production.

  18. Jennifer Kesler says

    My bad – I edited out a reference to the WE cut of the film, which also dropped the full backside nudity that the theatrical cut included.

    Read the comment thread for logic as to why female breasts would be as shocking as the penis if we didn’t all see them constantly, and therefore the argument that the penis shot is equivalent to a vagina shot misses the point.

  19. Michael says

    Many of the comments here are good examples of the double standard that’s under discussion. Note all the silly and childish euphemisms for male genitalia. “flaccid, floppy dangly-bits” for example. Most of those comments were an attempt to elicit a chuckle, and my theory is that the chuckle is an attempt to relieve a certain level of stress the author felt when he was writing. It is much the same thing a five year old does when he chuckles after he “farts”. He knows he’s about to get into some kind of trouble, and so he tries to relieve that stress with a laugh.
    I think the “presupposition” being debated earler is the very same thing that causes us to use the silly euphemisms. And that’s the fact that men are considered evil in American society and women are considered good. Not in every single example, of course. But overall that’s the unspoken perception and it probably came from the characteristic aggressiveness men have as a result of our biology. Overall, women are passive and weak and therefore not seen as dangerous, while conversely, men are usually assumed to be a danger at first sight. And it is only with time that one makes a more informed appraisal of the man’s character.
    So men are feared and women are not. When you take that attitude into the world of sex, it seems to still hold true. At first superficial glance, I think that naked men are always (unspokenly) assumed to be naked for some evil purpose. Be it rape, or self-gratification, or whatever, the assumption is that they’re dangerous to woman and therefore need to be stopped. Whereas women, on the other hand, are not considered either evil or physically dangerous at first impression, and so the people who see them are not fearful. Therefore their natural desire to indulge in their sexuality is not overwhelmed by fear and they can enjoy the moment.
    The nude beach scene from “Eurotrip”, written about earlier, is a perfect example of this attitude. All the men in the scene, from the boys on the sand dune to the dozens of naked men on the beach, all of them are implied to be there for either voyeurism or exhibitionism. “FYI” both voyeurism and exhibitionism are legally crimes in the United States. On the other hand, the one female in the scene is shown to be “wholesome” for lack of a better word. She is shown untying her top for the singular reason of it being a nude beach, and not for any ulterior purpose. So the unspoken theme of the scene is that the men are there for evil purposes and the woman is not. And that theme is actually shown outright in the very last moments of the scene when the naked men actually chase the girl down the beach. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also very telling and for me anyway, just a little insulting.
    This is what leads to the ridiculous double standard in print, written and filmed media. Listening to any newscaster tell a story about a male streaker will reveal the same childish euphemisms that you read here, along with uneasy jokes and always, ALWAYS something about the police either capturing them or looking for them.
    Yet these very same people can tell a story about a female streaker and the tone will be completely different. They will be at ease, and will probably let on in some subtle way that they find the woman pleasant to look at and they wish the police would just go away and leave her to her nudity.
    So it all really comes down to fear around men and ease around women. One is strong and violent, the other weak and passive. One is a perceived threat while the other is not. And I think that is why you see women naked in movies and men wearing pants. As a society, we are just too distrustful of men to allow ourselves to be aroused by them on the screen.

  20. Jennifer Kesler says

    And that’s the fact that men are considered evil in American society and women are considered good.

    That is such bullshit. Women are blamed for their own rapes, because we are considered “bad” just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or wearing certain clothes. Perhaps women who conform entirely to patriarchal standards and put up with being controlled their entire lives are considered “better” than men. But the urge to control women and dictate their lives comes from a centuries-old perception that women are evil and men are pure. It goes back to the writing of the Garden of Eden story. Until last century, scholars wrote of how men are pure and virtuous until women corrupt them with earthly pleasures, thus blaming women for every sordid act men engaged in.

    That’s not biology: that’s rationalizing to avoid responsibility.

    I don’t tolerate gender essentialist evolutionary biology theories being spouted as fact on this site, for future reference. You can believe that bullshit all you want, but there is no way to isolate a human being from social conditioning sufficiently to determine that she’s acting on biology and not conditioning. The entire scientific hunt for such evidence is an act of intellectual masturbation: people looking to justify something that means no change is required in society.

  21. Anemone Cerridwen says

    This got me thinking that male nudity would be more naked than female nudity at 30 below, but don’t take that thought seriously.

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