The blue menace
You know, a lot of crazy shit happens in Watchmen. Arms are broken so that you can see the bones sticking out. Someone brains a guy with a meat cleaver. Someone saws another guy’s arms off. Boiling hot oil is thrown in someone’s face, rendering it to gelatinous goo. Noses are smashed, hands are crushed, people are set on fire. A guy is literally vaporized. It’s all quite a spectacle. And yet, what do people keep talking about?
Dr. Manhattan’s penis.
Here’s a quick overview for the two or three of you left who are in the dark about Dr. Manhattan and what I’ve taken to referring to as his “lower Manhattan.” Dr. Manhattan is formerly a nuclear physicist named Jon Osterman, who, after one of those devastating accidents you always see in sci-fi and horror movies, is turned into a superhuman, the only one of the Watchmen who really has otherworldly powers and is invincible. He can teleport, move things with his mind, kill people with a thought, change his size, clone himself, predict the future and even subsist on Mars. He also spends much of the story, both in the book and in the movie, naked. I’m not talking walking around in his undies, I’m talking full Monty, glowing blue penis to go with the rest of his body. This above all else, even the teleportation, the going to Mars because he needs a quiet place to think, the ability to kill with his brain thing, seems to be blowing people’s minds.
While it’s been merely silly how many reviews feel it necessary to point out the fact that Dr. Manhattan is naked through most of the movie, and how often it’s mentioned in interviews with Billy Crudup, the actor who plays him, it’s downright disheartening to read blogs that mention the “embarrassed giggles,” or worse, the “uncomfortable grumbling” from male audience members at the sight of Dr. Manhattan’s, well, member. It’s not even Crudup’s own penis, he never once appeared nude during filming. It’s CGI, which means that men are feeling threatened at the sight of a penis that isn’t even real.
Make no mistake, Watchmen is in no way meant for children. It doesn’t matter that it’s a “superhero” movie, it’s absolutely not for kids. It’s probably one of the most violent movies I’ve ever seen, not to mention there’s a fairly graphic sex scene and a near-rape. So it’s grown-ass adult men carrying on this way, griping and at least feigning disgust that they should be subjected to the sight of something they themselves have, because apparently reacting in any other way, or not reacting at all, might mean you’re the g-word.
I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a prude. I believe that 90% of nudity in most films is gratuitous, a gimmick to ensure that the audience is paying attention. However, it doesn’t particularly bother me, mostly because I’ve come to expect it. To clarify, I expect to see female nudity, it’s still a big deal to see male full frontal nudity. It’s bizarre that, in the 21st century, it’s still controversial for an actor to be willing to show his bits in a movie. A small number, Ewan McGregor for instance, have done it a couple times, but overall when an actor makes that kind of “artistic decision” it tends to overshadow the rest of the movie. Remember the movie Wild Things? Of course you don’t, nobody does. There was female nudity in that, girls making out, etc., but what ended up being the most noteworthy thing about it? Kevin Bacon showing his junk (his “lil’ smokie,” as Mike Nelson referred to it) as he steps out of a shower. Panic in the streets! Okay, not really, but still, it was treated as though it was an epic event, like when an actor shaves his or head or gains 75 pounds for a film role.
Full-frontal male nudity is an automatic R-rating, while bare breasts can rate as low as a PG-13, depending on how often they’re shown. An erect penis is out of the question, and when there is full-frontal nudity it’s almost always shown in a non-sexual situation, such as in a locker room, dressing or the aforementioned getting out of the shower. In last year’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the main character was naked when his girlfriend announced that she was breaking up with him, ostensibly in an attempt to make him look all the more pathetic. There is nothing sexy or titillating about Dr. Manhattan’s nudity in Watchmen, nor should there be. It’s utilitarian, and, as is rarely seen in movies, keeping with the character. He is a character who has become progressively more removed from human society, isolating himself from virtually all contact with the outside world. Why would he need to wear clothes? Imagine how silly he would look wearing jeans and a t-shirt, or a pair of sweatpants. Most men I know are big fans of walking around in the au naturale when the opportunity presents itself, why should it be any different for a fictitious character, particularly a character who has forgotten most social niceties and considers himself above people?
Forgive me for being blunt here, but it’s just a dick. Every man has one, we’ve all had at least a passing acquaintance with them. Men need to grow the hell up if the sight of another man’s unit makes them disgusted and uncomfortable, instigating some sort of vague “gay panic.” I don’t believe that looking at a naked woman is going to turn me into a lesbian, because I know homosexuality or bisexuality doesn’t work that way. I don’t think any woman thinks that’s going to happen, this fear and revulsion at seeing your own gender naked seems to be a uniquely male trait. You can’t catch “The Gay,” certainly not through your eyes. Loudly proclaiming how gross you think it is to see a nude man doesn’t reiterate how straight you are, it makes you look like a child, one who is deeply insecure about your own sexuality. Perhaps instead of reinforcing a stereotype further by going home and watching ‘Girls Gone Wild’ or whatever, you should take a little while to consider what you’re so worried about.