The Cultural Significance of Chris Pine’s Penis in Outlaw King
It's not every day you see a penis on screen, but we sure do see a lot of breasts.
The Internet became an ocean of extremely interested Chris Pine fans when news broke that he would be completely naked in the highly anticipated Netflix movie Outlaw King. From Hell or High Water director David Mackenzie, the film is a “based on historical events” take on how Robert the Bruce became the King of Scots in the 14th century.
Granted, you wouldn’t know that from much of the media coverage. Once news broke that Pine has a full frontal scene, a majority of the buzz became centered around debating whether Pine was telling the truth in Wonder Woman when his character Steve Trevor claims to be “above average,” and if we would be observing that in real time or not. As with the recent fuss over the “batdick” making an appearance in D.C. Comics, seeing this portion of the male anatomy is so rare in mass media that these isolated instances become cultural events.
But here’s the thing: We shouldn’t be shocked when we see a penis. We’re certainly not shocked when a woman is nude. In the film, Robert’s English wife, Elizabeth (played by the ever-talented Florence Pugh) pulls off her dress and I truly didn’t bat an eye. I’m so accustomed to female nudity in my pop culture that I brushed off her boobs because almost every movie—and TV show, and many comics, for that matter—has boobs. Boobs galore. Boobs are abounding.
At least the brief glimpse we got of Chris Pine at the Outlaw King screening, and, well, Chris Pine’s work in general, is working to change the way we view male nudity. Prior to his turn as Robert the Bruce, Pine put the subject on everyone’s minds because of Steve Trevor. When Steve crashlands on Themyscira in Wonder Woman, he is placed in the Amazon pools to help him recover and he climbs out of one completely naked before realizing that Diana is in the room with him.
People were surprised that we saw most of his body (he wasn’t full frontal and we didn’t see his butt so really, it’s basically like he had on a very small speedo, shaped like his hand). The image of Steve Trevor like this was surprising (and refreshing) because it was a man arrayed for a female gaze—Diana’s curious one—and it also felt new and light-hearted. The scene was played primarily for winking comedy, not exploitatively in the way that female actresses have often expressed feeling pressured into doing nude and topless scenes. For women, it’s frequently expected, demanded as part of getting a part. Pine seems to be leaning into the casual nudity at full tilt, and for such a big star to be going there feels astonishing us.
This is because showing a penis still appears to be a jaw-dropping thing to the media. We do not blink at female full-frontal nudity—it’s everywhere. But the mere concept of this being applied to Chris Pine was breaking news months prior to Outlaw King‘s release (that will be on November 9th on Netflix). He got the ball rolling, but it’s clear this is an issue that’s going to take a while to settle.
It’s telling of us as a society that I openly gasped when Chris Pine’s mere happy trail was visible during a sex scene, but hardly noticed the topless nakedness that Florence Pugh exhibited first. Later on in the movie, Robert is bathing in a body of water and we briefly see Pine’s penis (which is hard to say three times fast), and it’s jarring—a rare cultural event—even if you basically just get an outline of what Chris is packing.
It is 2018, and we’re still shying away from male nudity. For so long, female nudity has been ingrained in our media (in pretty much every arm of the arts) and often used to exploit the female character. Now that it is male nudity coming to the screen, we’re shocked because we’re not accustomed to seeing a man’s penis or even his happy trail on the screen. Yet what still differentiated Pine’s nudity in Outlaw King is that it is employed for a sense of realism rather than on display for titilation—rarely the case when women are filmed without their clothes on.
Maybe this is the beginning of a sea change, an equal playground for nudity from both men and women. More bodies of varied types should be able to be shown in both sexual and non-sexual manners like Pine’s Outlaw King. Considering the hubbub that happened with even the briefest glimpse of a comic book-based penis like Batman’s, however, I think that we still have a long way to go. Chris Pine is at least giving us a jumping-off point.
(image: screengrab/Netflix, Warner Bros.)
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