How 'Euphoria' Transformed Expectations of Male Bodies
How many penises are too many? On HBO’s "Euphoria,"there can never be enough.
The drama series starring former Disney Channel star (and genuinely astonishing Emmy-winning performer) Zendaya, which premiered in 2019, centers on teens struggling with addiction and the usual angst and drama of high school and college. It soared to popularity in part by putting it all out there. Throughout its first season, "Euphoria" touched on themes of deceptive app-based hookups, assault and the dangerous reality of being young and transgender. And, of course, it included dicks. By the dozen.
The montage of male members in "Euphoria's" second episode, "Stuntin' Like My Daddy,"became instantly famous—or infamous, depending on who you ask. One critic wrote that the much discussed scene of this episode, which included an unforgettable quick cut of flaccid penises in a locker room, was "pointlessly gratuitous" and "crude." In 40 seconds, viewers were shown 21 penises ranging in appearance from big to small to medium-sized, circumcised and uncircumcised, knobby, white, and brown. Basically, the whole spectrum of soft penis was represented. And as it turns out, audience responses on social media were more delightedly shocked than scandalized by the bounty.
The initial fuss begs the question: How exactly can a flaccid penis be "crude"? "Euphoria" was making a point, and not just in its story—though the parade of dicks is critical to the show’s quarterback character Nate, who deals with intense shame over his own queer desire.
"Euphoria"wants you to know that hanging dicks are normal, even when they don't look like yours. And the acceptance of the genitalia of roughly half the human population has been long overdue in mainstream pop culture. This show just happened to gleefully leap on the opportunity.
An uneasy pact has long existed in Hollywood: You can get away with lingering on women's bodies, especially when a scene doesn't involve sex, and not overstep the MPAA's capricious rules (see: the R-rated 1981 hit "Porky's"). But keep the camera on bodies engaged in actual sex, and you’re doomed. Stanley Kubrick is no doubt rolling in his grave over the digital manipulation used to ensure a more commercially viable R-rating for "Eyes Wide Shut."Just imagine all the dicks that could’ve been viewed throughout the infamous masked mansion orgy.
These days, "Euphoria"is not alone. Full-frontal male nudity in movies and TV is not only becoming more common, but is often incorporated in casual ways that make it feel like it's not such a big deal. Lustful viewers might've fixated on Michael Fassbender's ample goods in "Shame" (and who can really blame them?), but that was one piece of a larger story about disordered sexuality. Richard Gere was a nudity pioneer in 1980's "American Gigolo." Kevin Bacon ("Wild Things," "Hollow Man") and Ewan McGregor ("The Pillow Book," "Velvet Goldmine") have long been happy to show off what they're working with, usually in arty or smaller-scale releases. Ben Affleck and Giovanni Ribisi have both gone full bush. Harvey Keitel and Viggo Mortensen made male full-frontal nudity creepily appropriate for crime thrillers. Jason Segel made it funny. Meanwhile, the always charming Chris Pine would love for you to get over the fact that he walks out of the sea with his wiener in full view in Netflix's "Outlaw King" in 2018.
These scenes are (mostly) not sexy, which is the whole point. The nudity isn't gratuitous, rather, it serves the larger story line—even when the dick in question isn't real.
In a pivotal, disturbing scene filmed for "Euphoria's" second season, Eric Dane wears a prosthetic while playing a troubled "daddy"-type figure having sex with young men and trans women. The episode is set to air later this year. Though the scene involves full nudity, Dane was ready to bare it all for all the right reasons.
"I'm willing to do anything that's critical to the story and crucial to creating a very real and truthful feel to how the story is gonna go down," Dane told Entertainment Weekly. "I just don’t see how you shoot a scene like that without showing nudity. And, you know, it kind of matches the stakes. The stakes are so high, you can't hold anything back, really."
The stakes may be high, but viewers are finally starting to get it. "Euphoria's" season one finale earned the show its highest ratings yet. Turns out people don't mind dicks.