Women On Film – The Week In Women, March 13, 2009 – MaryAnn Johanson

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Some men are freaking out over Watchmen’s big blue cock, but don’t expect to hear a peep out of them about this week’s new movies that are chock full of female nudity.

WHO’S AVERTING THEIR EYES FROM THE NAKED WATCHMAN? Oh, it’s fun to see to the Internet fanboy demo freaking out over Doctor Manhattan’s nudity in Watchmen, as if they didn’t already know the glowing blue nuclear superman wasn’t totally naked in the source graphic novel. I worried that director Zack Snyder would shy away from adhering too closely to this reality of the original material — what does a god, even a formerly human one, need with clothes, anyway? — but good on him that he didn’t.

Which has occasioned some quite hilarious male outrage and consternation, as Kim Voynar deconstructs at MCN:

[W]hy is it that a director can display real female nudity, or have female characters running to-and-fro all scantily clad, or pan a camera lovingly over an actress’s bare (or barely covered) tits and ass, and that’s just dandy, but Snyder makes the decision not to shy away from the fact that Doctor Manhattan spends most of the story naked and suddenly that’s a huge deal? Yes, you can argue that frontal male nudity is “different” from frontal female nudity, what with male parts being all on display, but I would argue that the female breast is every bit as sexualized in our culture as the penis — perhaps more so, given the existence of web sites that track naked boobies in movies, but not so much instances of male nudity, full frontal or otherwise.

[Y]ou don’t hear most of the same folks who’ve written about the giant blue penis mention anything about the main female character being clad in an outfit that looks like it feels right out of some submissive guy’s secret sexual fantasy. The message seems to be: skin-tight, revealing costume on a female character? Awesome. Character who by all logic should be naked, walking around without his boys in a house? Not so much.

Why do we still make such a big deal over the idea of male full frontal nudity, even computer-rendered as it was in Watchmen, when female nudity on film is not only acceptable, but seen by many as a reason to see the film in the first place? Akerman’s rather unnecesssary brief nudity in the film is seen by most guys, I expect, as almost a bonus feature, while Doctor Manhattan’s fully contextual digital nudity is a subject of contention. Why? Doctor Manhattan, as a character, has evolved past the point of needing to clothe himself because of human moralistic standards. When will we evolve to the point that women can be shown nude on screen without being objectified for it, and a man can go full frontal without anyone getting their boxers in a bunch?

Voynar also references Paul MacInnes’ piece at the Guardian’s Film blog, discussing how the women of Watchmen have been watered down in the film — it’s well worth reading.)

RAPE FANTASIES, THE VIRGIN/WHORE COMPLEX, AND YOU. The big-blue-cock dismay is particularly interesting as it’s hitting at the same time as two of the most misogynist movies to come out of Hollywood recently… and on the same weekend, too. The Last House on the Left, a remake of the 1972 Wes Craven movie of the same name, is even more pornographically violent than the original was — and by that I mean that it portrays menacing violence against women up to and including rape as something erotic, and takes great pleasure in drawing it out for as long as it possibly can.

Even more revolting, however, is Miss March, as perfect an encapsulation of the virgin/whore dichotomy as the genre of the teenage-grossout may be able to approach. Women here are either idealized as pure, untouched perfection, decried as ruined when they’re not, and punished for any hint of sexual aggression, with penalities up to and including death.

House is opening at 2,401 locations across North American this weekend. March is opening at 1,742 locations. If you want to find a new movie with a less than demeaning attitude toward women, you could try for Sunshine Cleaning — starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as neither virgins nor whores nor superheroines in dominatrix getups, and written and directed by women — but it’s playing on only 4 screens. But good news! Next week it expands to 50 screens. Who says there are no movies about women out there?

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her AWFJ.org archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).