Wednesday, January 15, 2014


Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett: Important
Historically, horror films are known for showcasing gratuitous female nudity, and the seemingly unnecessary instances of topless women are frequently some of the biggest complaints people have against the genre.  As social justice becomes more prevalent and the feminist movement gains more spotlight than ever before, it would appear that equal representation of the sexes is starting to become a priority for those in the media.

With Women In Horror Month a little over two weeks away, I've been really starting to put on my "gender equality" hat and giving a more analytical eye to the films I love most.  After re-watching V/H/S/2, I realized something that completely flew past my radar on its initial view.  Simon Barrett's dick is way bigger than we realize.

V/H/S/2 opens with a couple doing the dirty in a hotel room.  Immediately we're given a shot of some perfectly shaped breasts with nipples that would make Tony Moss from SHOWGIRLS proud.  My immediate thought was "Awesome, the sequel is going to be just as misogynist as the original."  Then, something happened that came straight out of left field.  Simon Barrett's character stood up in front of an open window, and we were given a view of full frontal male nudity.  Perhaps it's because I'm so desensitized to nudity in general after years of watching movies, but the fact I saw a wiener didn't even register the first time I watched the film.  However, upon the second viewing it actually took me a second to realize I hadn't just seen nudity, I had seen MALE nudity.

I found this picture on the gay equivalent of Mr. Skin. That exists, by the way.

In terms of nudity represented by the genders in horror films, women have got the men beat by a devastating landslide.  I can list off horror movies where I've seen female nudity without a second thought, but I have to genuinely concentrate to recall films that showcase male nudity.  I don't know if it's because men are way more insecure about their sexual organs or if women are just so used to being objectified that finding a woman to take her top off is a lot easier, but women are way more likely to be presented nude in a horror film than a man.  This brings me back to Simon Barrett's penis, and why it might be one of the most important things to happen to the horror genre in recent memory.

Right now, Simon Barrett is becoming a household name in the horror world.  Thanks to penning films like YOU'RE NEXT, he and Adam Wingard seem to be turning into the indie directors that busted out and took over the world.  Their status as the household names of indie horror are precisely why showing Barrett's package is so important.  Simon Barrett is a writer, and a damn good one at that. The things that writers write are done specifically and intentionally.  One of the biggest names in horror screenwriting specifically wrote for there to be a nude male on camera.  More importantly, he wrote that the often implied (but rarely shown) parts of the male anatomy were to be front and center.  It's important to note that Simon Barrett directed this piece as well as starred in it.  That's possibly what is the most spectacular about the whole situation.  This isn't the member of some actor who is getting paid to do what a director tells him to do, this is a writer/director performing a role that requires male nudity and doing it deliberately.  We're constantly demanding equality of the genders, and allowing for the potential sexualization of a character that has a Y chromosome is a sign of the progression of equality in horror films.

Still from Eric England's CONTRACTED

This isn't the only time Simon Barrett's penis has been a beacon of equality.  Recently, Eric England's film CONTRACTED showcased an out-of-focus Barrett as a man that gave a girl an STD that caused maggots to fall out of her vagina and ruined her life.  Barrett willingly made his sexual organs the villain in a horror movie.  His character in CONTRACTED resembles the faceless killers of famous slashers, but also closely resembles the often-faceless men of pornography.  In many instances in pornographic films, men are nothing more than a torso or a lower region and their value in the film is entirely dictated by their penis and what is has to offer.  Simon Barrett's character is the personification of the male objectification in pornography where we care less about the face and personality of the male, and more on their physical gusto.  By blurring the focus on Simon Barrett's face, he becomes the everyman that PSAs and Sexual Education classes have warned countless students about.  Depicting his weapon as a penis is exactly what the root core of slasher films embody.  The phallic imagery is now exactly that.  He penetrated his victim and she suffers as severely as anything a knife could provide on Halloween night.  At least here, lust is the motivation behind the crime (you do know it's illegal to have sex with someone if you knowingly have an STD, right?)  What does this have to do with equality?  In every other horror film, horror fans tend to gravitate towards the villain.  We root for Freddy to slice up teenagers and we scream with laughter when Jason makes a pinata out of sleeping bags filled with people.  By making the villain literally a body part, this puts the focus where every horror film should be...on the victim.  Simon Barrett willingly put himself in a position where he was nothing more than a body part, and that speaks absolute volumes about his character and his intentions.

Simon Barrett, Sharni Vinson, & Adam Wingard
This leads me to revisit a point I made earlier this year about Barrett and Wingard's film YOU'RE NEXT.  (Seriously, I analyzed every single female character in that damn movie.)  Although the justification for the lead character Erin's knowledge on how to survive a home invasion was a little disappointing for my taste, it doesn't change the fact that Barrett and Wingard wrote a film that contained a game-changing female character.  To quote the previously linked article:
"Erin is a female fighting a bunch of male animals with incredibly phallic weapons.  In the Animal Kingdom, the alpha male is always seen as a dominant and physically aggressive creature while the alpha female is important for breeding purposes. Erin completely changes the game. While her male animal attackers are shooting arrows at her (reminiscent of the way animals "mark their territory" and determine things to be off-limits to other animals) or trying to insert overly long phallic machetes (hurray for wiener imagery) into her body.  99.99% of the time, female horror victims express pains in sounds that resemble an orgasm.  Erin expresses pain with barbaric wails or subdued sounds of pain, never once does she sound post-coital. This simple action shows that Erin is a woman that is not defined by the male sexuality, but secure in her own identity."
This is the sort of female character being written by a man who uses his penis in responsible representations in horror. The horror genre is home to a man that challenges the representation of the genders in horror movies with the work of Simon Barrett, and it is encouraged by the directorial work of Adam Wingard.  What Barrett writes down could easily be manipulated in an opposite direction by Wingard as a director, but he and Barrett clearly share the same mindset and a great amount of their work is very encouraging of gender equality.  Again, no film is perfect but seeing these two produce films that are making waves outside of just the world of indie horror is very, very important. 

Do you know how hard it is to find pictures of him without Wingard? Damn, Google Images. Step up your game.

Look, I'm not saying Simon Barrett is some feminist God, but whether he realized it or not, the decisions Simon Barrett has made with his genitalia in regards to horror films were much bigger than any of us could have anticipated.  What I hope, is that this ushers in is an era of gender equality in horror through sexuality.  That men can be seen and embraced for their sexuality, and that people realize a penis can be just as titillating as, well, a pair of tits.  I also hope that this will de-mistify and promote a healthier body image than what pornography usually depicts with its representation of men.  The other thing to consider is that by embracing male nudity, it's also an inclusion of all people that enjoy male nudity.  Heterosexual females as well as homosexual males; two groups that heterosexual males can admit have been marginalized (put away your fedora, damn it.).  There's a chance that all of these decisions were merely coincidental and I just spent way more time than I'd ever admit trying to psychoanalyze a penis, but what I hope to address is the growing problem that there are more and more fans clammering for the same treatment for male nudity in contemporary cinema...and the fact Barrett is willing to treat the genders of his characters equally, starting with himself.

3 comment(s):

Heather said...

What do you say to the allegations that his wrap-around segments in VHS are sexist? I personally think that is bullshit, but curious to hear your thoughts since I've heard that allegation a LOT.

Unknown said...

My sister pointed out to me that she hates the phrase "sex sells" being used to justify T&A in movies, because it isn't really sex that they're selling. If it were, then men would be nude just as often, it wouldn't be an anomaly that makes everyone stand up and take notice. Pun not intended, but I kinda like it!
What they really mean by "sex sells" is "exploitation of women sells." They're trying to keep the Dudebros happy.
She's absolutely correct.
I'm happy to see more male nudity, and not just because I'm a big flaming homo. I'm happy to see it because it's a sign that a bit of equality is creeping in to filmmaking.
You wouldn't be majoring in sociology, by chance? Because you've got a damn good grasp of the subject.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I've always felt that female nudity in a film is way too overexploited and overexposed in your average film anyway---it's so common, it's no big deal anymore. Since men dominate the film biz, of course you're only gonna see films from a male P.O.V., which the average filmgoer--male or female--does.

That said, the only time you see any male nudity in American films is in porn movies or the occasional indie flick. In European or even Asian films, nudity is treated as more natural and they seem to have a far more mature attitude toward it,anyway.

That said, it still takes a man who is comfortable enough with himself and his gentlemen parts to not mind letting it all hang out, so to speak, in front of a camera. It's rarely done in mainstreams films, so when a full make member is seen in a film, it's a big deal, like the actor Michael Fassbender showing his in the movie SHAME (which is part of he reason he's so popular now.)

But anyone, nice to see a blog exclusively on women in horror with a female perspective. I'm a women who grew up on horror films myself---I'm just tired on the gore in movies though--and yeah, I liked the Erin characer in You're Next--she's the only reason I even bothered to see the film. In fact, if I hadn't read a review saying that there was a female character kicking a** in it, I never would have gone to see it, because it came out around the same time as the first PURGE movie, so I thought You're Next was just a quick cash in on it--even though, as I found out, it has actually been made two years before the PURGE. (The new PURGE sequel is actually even better than the first, and it has three main strong female characters in it,too.

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