Saturday, March 28, 2009

Who watches the watchmen?

warning. this post includes Japanese and European master artists' hyperreal depictions of genitalia and erotic acts,
as well as the naked Dr. Manhattan.



"In art, immorality cannot exist. Art is always sacred" - August Rodin

I just saw Watchmen on the big screen. $18 and it was worth it, because I loved the comic and thought from beginning to end this thing was right on the money. I few changes, but necessary for the length.  

My cousin, who I deeply respect, saw it, liked it, and told me that the media in America is jumping all over Dr. Manhatton's cg penis.
I checked it out, and sure enough, he was right. I guess critics are uncomfortable not addressing the fact that there is a naked man in the film, and that his penis is uncircumcised. and big. sounds like penis envy? And valid, as far as that goes.  
                                       Sometimes people want distraction from sexual energy?
My two cents--the explanation I sent to John was that you know the general rule is "repression leads to obsession, which leads to distraction," and in this case that’s distraction from the rest of the film, from other characters in a scene, or from any meaningful criticism.   

But this rather predictable response from the media is not shallow. It's actually the tip of very deep iceberg, one that reaches down into the depths of our shared homophobia, erotiphobia, genitalphobia, and the power-politics that go with them. (John Ince is the man)

Our culture’s general repression of the penis is evident in the lack of them in movies, on alians, but also in the social norm to not look down in a group shower, or not compare size at the urinal. These last two norms are not evident in Japan though, (which is fine with me). 

A 15-year-old student was standing next to me in the bathroom staring down at my peen and I said, “What are you doing?” He looked up and said “What, Is looking at other penises rude in America?”
“Yes, it is." I said, and laughed. 

It shouldn't be, though. After all, we compare other body parts, other muscles, why not penises? It’s because we have eroticized the penis, and "sex is dirty and bad." (?) Therefore looking at one is considered “gay” or “peeping” or whatever. If it wasn't erotic, then it wouldn't be a big deal, seeing a naked blue man would be no big deal, and heterosexuals could give each other handjobs like they can give each other massage. This is not the case in our culture.

I went on to talk about genitalphobia, which I find fascinating, and ended by anticipating the Japanese people's reaction to Dr. Manhattan's penis. It will be very different, considering this culture's fame for having the most erotic comic books on earth. Compare erotic arts from Japan 1800 with erotic art from Europe 1800 and you will see a big difference. Here, adult men read "cartoon porn" at convenience stores, and general pornography is more acceptable, accessible, respectable, than in America. Japan has come to terms with its perversion, moved on, while America hasn't, and so we get caught in these discussions about whether genitals are fundamentally dirty or's pathetic, and yet, it's there. When are we going to come to terms with our genitals and erotic arts? That's another great art history class: Human Genitals.

Japan is so interesting though, because, in order to keep genitals erotic, in (most) porn movies (real and cartooned) the genitals are fuzzed out. Paradoxical, and yet it makes sense. At first I though this was part of their own genitalphobia, but now I'm beginning to think it's just the opposite. Fuzzing out the genitals actually saves them from media mutilation. It keeps the real experience more exciting as well, I can imagine.


Rod said...

"Japan is so interesting though, because, in order to keep genitals erotic, in (most) porn movies (real and cartooned) the genitals are fuzzed out. Paradoxical, and yet it makes sense."

Poppycock. They're fuzzed out because it's the law. It's an act of the State saying, "You can't look at that because we say so". And when Japanese people lamely say "We prefer it like that because then it's more sexy", they're simply demonstrating their submission to the nanny state. When the customs man pulls out the porn magazine you brought back from your European holiday, it goes against the grain to say, "What the fuck do you think you're doing? Put my property back RIGHT NOW! What is your name, anyway?"


David said...

I agree, but im not sure it's that simple. i used to think it was, but im beginning to think it isnt. There isnt a group of men controlling how the people view pornography. Its a cultural thing, far more complicated, so when they say "We prefer it like that because then it's more sexy", they aren't lying. ne?

David said...

The law is genitalphobic,
the eroticism is genitalphelic. which came first? probably the law (Hokusai sure as hell didn't fuzz his genitals out!). your right.

David said...

but this is the same culture that has as a traditional eroticism the hint of a face seen from behind. its not a stretch to think that fuzzing out the genitals would be, for some, more exiting.

Rod said...

The eroticism of a face (hair) from behind is the triumph of hope over experience. (I always fall in love with masked dentists' nurses because their eyes always seem beautiful, and I imagine the covered bit must be equally so.) The erotification of censorship is surely a compensatory response.

There are actually groups of men and women controlling Japanese pornography, but they lost the total control they exercised until only a few years ago with the appearance of the Internet. Yay!

You've got me thinking about my response to being openly peered at in urinals, and I still don't know whether to be amused or annoyed by it. An English colleague at my old company in Nagano used to insert his whole body into the urinal to maintain his privacy, and that was amusing to see.

lau said...

I feel like men have managed to make up for any "penis repression" by designing & creating phallic architecture, weapons, instruments, epitaphs, etc...

chrisromain said...

I think your observation of repress, obsess, distraction is right on David. Mainly, wouldn´t you say, the US´s restrictions on genitalia are results of the influence of Christianity and an initial carry-over of Victorian era ideas from England? We know the Native Americans had no reservations about living in the nude, weather permitting. The closest thing to a community bathhouse that resides here in America is a sort of gym shower-frathouse mentality, and that is kind of where the mass culture peen seems to lay these days. Oh, have you seen the movie I Love You, Man´? It´s good.

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