In a recent interview, Nicholas Stoller — the director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Five Year Engagement, in theaters today — revealed that Jason Segel takes personal credit for jump-starting the latest golden era for male full frontal: “Jason will say, too, that [Sarah Marshall] was the first movie where a lead of a comedy showed his penis, and since then there have been penises … there’s been a wangolution, culminating in the Fassbender.” You can certainly quibble with the kick-off point (Vulture did happen to declare 2007, the year before Sarah Marshall, the Season of the Wang) but there’s no denying that a recent junk-upheaval has occurred, peaking with Michael Fassbender gloriously hanging dong in Shame last year. Now, with the end of the wangolution at hand with the release of The Five-Year Engagement (don't get too excited, we’ll explain later), we've charted out the course of its growth. (Get it?! Growth?!!) Anyway, here we go.
April 2008: Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
As Segel and Stoller have repeatedly explained, the full frontal in Sarah Marshall had a well-defined purpose beyond the comedy: Jason’s character is just getting out of the shower when he gets dumped by his TV star girlfriend of five years, and is overcome with grief. Exposed Jason = vulnerable Jason. Future usages of the male full frontal would not be as couth.
June 2009: Ken Jeong, The Hangover
In The Hangover, Jeong, as Asian mobster caricature Mr. Chow, leapt (naked, out of the trunk of a car) right into our hearts. Ask yourself, truthfully: What other contemporary American actor has the courage to so brazenly display his shortcomings? As Jeong would later explain, “Unfortunately, [nude scenes] just come naturally to me ... 'cause I have a small penis.”
October 2010: Jonathan Ames, Bored to Death
Most people, once they’ve worked their way into a position of power and prestige such as “HBO showrunner,” would abuse that position toward their own salacious ends. Jonathan Ames, though, used it to write himself an embarrassing nude cameo. (See here.) Explains BTD star Jason Schwartzman, “When we finished the first season, Jonathan and I were walking together one day and he said, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to get picked up for a second season, but if we do, one thing I’ve been thinking about is that maybe I would be in it naked.’ And from that moment on, I said a little prayer every night, ‘Please, please let us get a second season.’”
April 2011: Minotaur, Your Highness
Nobody saw Your Highness, which means nobody saw the giant Minotaur dong (possibly NSFW, depending on your company's mythical creature genitalia policy) in Your Highness. (Explained David Gordon Green: “When we filmed it, the creature’s manhood is swinging back and forth between his legs. It was actually the head of the studio who had the idea to give him a boner.”) Yes, you all missed out.
May 2011: Ken Jeong, The Hangover II
Any shreds of subtlety for Jeong’s nude work in the Hangover franchise were forever eradicated in the second installment, where a monkey bites down on his member. Actually an important moment for identifying the rising wangolution — where once brief flashes would suffice, now shades of bestiality were required.
May 2011: Game of Thrones
No show in recent history has sparked as many cogent and entertaining debates about the use of nudity on screen than GoT. Most relevant to our focus here is the contention over the disparity between guys and girls in the buff — while the lack of male full-frontal is partially remedied beginning in the fifth episode of the first season, where Theon Greyjoy shows his stuff, it’s still the ladies doing most of the work. And the arguments get even more complicated: Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin has said that “I've got a few letters from gay fans who, while they were pleased by the naked male sexuality, were upset that the penises were not actually erect.” (By the way, important question asked by AfterElton: “What's it like for an actor when he appears naked in something like this? Does he invite all his friends over to see the episode? Does he change the channel when this scene comes up? Or does he just say, 'Hey, look, there's my wang!' And what's the protocol for the guests? 'Great wang there, Alfie!'")
June 2011: Hall Pass
OK, back to the penis as a comedy prop. As Newsweek reports, "in raunch comedy Hall Pass, Owen Wilson’s doofus character passes out in a gym hot tub and is revived by a naked man in the locker room ... Once they were shooting the sequence, Wilson began to fret about photos of the scene leaking from the set. 'That was Owen’s biggest fear in doing that scene,' Bobby Farrelly says. 'Someone’s going to snap a picture of that on their phone, and it was going to get out before the movie was released. At least now there’s context for him hanging out with this giant penis.'" And the wangolution continues to move away from the elegance of Stoller and Segel.
September 2011: The Weekend and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy
In the fall of last year full frontal briefly went high brow, in praised gay-romance indie Weekend. (I haven’t seen it, but my sources tell me "there is brief but not necessarily extended penis.”) And then it went right back to the broad comedy. In the little-seen Jason Sudeikis movie A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, there is what TheFilmStage refers to as “full frontal old dude.”
December 2011: Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Change of pace here, as Rooney Mara is, no, not a dude. But seeing as her full frontal nudity was such an integral part to her Oscar-nominated performance, it would seem a dereliction of duty not to mention it. As Mara herself explained, “There was a lot of discussion that went into my merkin for the movie, because I was naked quite a lot ... there was a lot of discussions around that.”
January 2012: Michael Fassbender, Shame
And now, the aforementioned high point of the wangolution. Shame, as a movie, had both highly vocal supporters and detractors, but one thing that unified us all — boy, does that Fassbender know how to walk around naked and depressed.
April 2012: Jason Biggs, American Reunion
In the latest American Pie sequel, Jason Biggs shamelessly jumps on the trend by smushing a see-through pot lid against his exposed penis. (See it here!) Of its many sins — shamelessly coasting on past success; returning Chris Klein into our lives; reminding us of the inexorable passing of time — the one thing I can’t forgive American Reunion for is sinking full-frontal so soon after Fassbender had elevated it.
And, today, the full-frontal golden era ends for real, with the same people with which it began. As Stoller explains, the guys did shoot a full-frontal scene with Segel for The Five Year Engagement, but decided to cut it: “When I looked at the scene in the new movie, it did seem gratuitous. I was like, ‘This doesn’t work.’” But the real sign that full-frontal is going back into dormancy? Magic Mike, the epic male stripper naked dude showcase from Steven Soderbergh, will, against all odds, not be utilizing the technique. And so the wangolution goes flaccid. Maybe let's just call it a refractory period.