The shot suggested that the answer to this character’s lack of emotional fulfillment and utter incompleteness lay somewhere more mysterious, harder to access — it asked us to confront our own, perhaps erroneous, ideas about the importance and the dominance of the phallus. This was a man whose life was, we’d say, literally being led by his dick, and this strange shot — whose resulting dominant discourse was “Michael Fassbender has a big penis” — was key in introducing this man’s sad existence, and in leading us to question whether he was being led by his dick, or if his dick was at the mercy of an increasingly alienating, sex-obsessed society. (Where was I going? Oh right. Michael Fassbender has a big peen.)
And I wonder, based on my own tendency to join in these frivolous conversations, if the political statement mentioned a few paragraphs ago — that of the scrutiny of the object that so often refuses to be scrutinized, but which so often is seen as the symbol of the way we scrutinize female body parts — might be wearing off, or might not be the most productive in general. Perhaps, I’ve been worrying, we’re just peen-crazy for the same purely sexual reasons men have, for so long, put women under their lecherous magnifying glass.
Recently, whenever I’ve lazily commented on Ben Affleck in the last few weeks, I haven’t been doing it with the notion that, as a gay man, I am exerting some weird power over cinematic heteronormativity (though maybe I’d hide behind this notion if called out for sounding lecherous). Rather, I am probably just being kind of gross. The fact that “peen” has done a lot of awful things to most of the world throughout the history of said world understandably gives us the idea of a go-ahead to objectify specific actors who are, for some reason, willing to present their own incidental symbols of mass destruction. But are we really fighting anything by simply using the vague idea of a fight as a veil for a language of pure objectification as a pure expression of lust? Have I just been catcalling Ben Affleck for the last few weeks, and should I probably stop? I’m thinking maybe I — we — should.
It’s one thing to love peen — but perhaps anyone who chooses to show their body onscreen should be given just a bit more respect, at least in public discourse: perhaps, on the rare occurrence of a peen in film, we should analyze why it’s there in the first place, what it’s doing for the film, and why it’s important for male nudity to become as normalized as female nudity, as some minor measure towards correcting a certain type of gender imbalance. We should similarly analyze why female nudity is there: if such analyses leads us to realize it’s gratuitous, which wouldn’t be surprising, it would again underscore the need to balance out the cinematic exhibition of naked bodies.
Is the best way to find this balance to treat men with the same disrespect with which they’ve treated women? Obviously the image of a sexual organ bears a lot of weight, it should be considered for its symbolic role in a narrative rather than for its physical girth. Or at least as well as its physical girth. There. Poof. The world is better.