Terminator Salvation
7 min

Full Frontal Fail

True, no one going into the new 'Terminator' movie expects to see Christian Bale's penis (though we still live in hope) but among the many reasons to be disappointed by the latest sequel (and sadly there are many!), the film's lack of nudity is oddly a problem.

The first movie, back in 1984, startled audiences by fully presenting Arnold Schwarzenegger's massive Mr. Olympia body (he arrives about four minutes into this clip):

Obviously, director James Cameron wasn't about to give us the full swarzenmonty here but there's a casualness to this nude murder scene that's creepy and still memorable.

Not so in the new movie, in which Sam Worthington arrives apparently naked but covered in thick mud and what seems like a jockstrap. It's not that I couldn't tell but that I even wondered at all that is the problem — it's a distraction from the story:

There's a similar issue later in the film, as the camera strives not to show an actor's junk but in avoiding the naked body they're telling us is naked, the filmmakers just annoy the audience.  If the character's supposed to be nude, then just show him nude and move on.  Trying to film around "the problem" just starts to look silly:

To be fair, 'Terminator Salvation' is a PG film and director McG cut a nude scene with Moon Bloodgood, even after asking a convention crowd, "Do you want to see Moon’s boobs in the picture?"  But I'd place solid money that he didn't ask the crowd what bits of Bale they'd like to see. The double standard between male and female nudity in film has been around forever because, University of Toronto philosophy professor Mark Kingwell once explained:

"Guys don't like to see penises in film, because they are either too
small (in travel mode) and therefore not worth all the fuss, or too big
(in action mode) and so threatening to self-esteem."

But this double standard isn't just perpetrated by men — even women agree, as one student journalist wrote:

"My first reaction when I see full frontal? Laughing…an uncomfortable response to something I don’t know how to handle." 

This is what director Zack Snyder's had to face with his movie adaptation of the classic graphic novel "Watchmen" — it featured a superpowered character who won't wear clothes at all and both audiences and critics alike had trouble dealing. Nearly every review of "Watchmen" screamed, "OMG! GIANT BLUE PENIS!!!

It got old fast but Snyder explains that he did what he had to do for Doctor Manhattan's character: "I felt like I would have sold out if I'd put some pants on him."

And then there's Judd Apatow who announced, "America fears the penis, and that's something I'm going to help them get over." As the producer of "Superbad," "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," Apatow got an unprecedented amount of dick into mainstream comedy.  In the latter film, he had a lot of help from star Jason Segal:


 
So far, Kingwell is right in that male nudity in film is either played for laughs or discomfort but that's starting to change. While gay men obviously enjoy the eye candy, it's really about leveling the playing field between men and women and eliminating pointless taboos. Actor Michael Pitt did a nude scene in "The Dreamers" and, when asked about the audience's discomfort, said:
 
"I don't agree with those values at all. It's totally fine showing
someone getting their head blown off in America and you can't show the
human body. I think that shows something about the culture."
 
It's just one more reason to like Hugh Jackman who, as star and producer of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," gave us an eyeful this summer:
 

Wolverine's sexy/scary nude rampage ranked up there with Schwarzenegger.  Too bad T4 missed out!