Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay

posted by Nell Minow
B-
Lowest Recommended Age:Adult
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language and drug use.
Profanity:Extremely strong, graphic, and crude language
Nudity/Sex:Very explicit male and female nudity, heterosexual, homosexual, consensual and predatory sexual references and situations including prostitutes
Alcohol/Drugs:Frequent drug use, positively portrayed
Violence/Scariness:Comic peril and violence including guns, character murdered
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:April 25, 2008

harold%20and%20kumar.jpgLike the effects of the marijuana laced with cocaine smoked by a world leader near the end of this movie, the sequel to Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle combines a literally dopey stoner comedy buzz with an electric sting of sharp satire. The first film was surprisingly popular with audiences and even more surprisingly popular with critics, who found that making the main characters minorities in an otherwise unambitious druggie comedy gave the interactions as the two stoned college students stumbled toward the fabled little square burgers a new freshness, even an edgy, satiric quality.

Plus, it had Neil Patrick Harris in a deliciously demonic role as “himself,” a ‘shroomed-out former child star.

Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn) depart for Amsterdam, where Harold hopes to see the girl of his dreams (even though he does not know her last name or where she is staying) and Kumar hopes to enjoy legal marijuana. But on the plane, Kumar lights up, using a smokeless bong he invented for the occasion, and a passenger assumes he is a terrorist. “Bong” sounds like “bomb” and he has brown skin. Before you can say “I just wanted to join the other mile high club,” they are cuffed by air marshals and carted off to face a racist, power-mad, pea-brained US government official (Rob Corddry), who orders them put into orange jump suits and shipped to the prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay. This ain’t “Law and Order.” No right to a phone call, no lawyer, no passing Go and no collecting $200.

After some ugly encounters with real terrorists in the adjacent cell and sexually predatory guards, Harold and Kumar escape, get back to the US, and take off for Texas, where they hope to get help from a classmate who is conveniently both connected to the top levels of the Department of Defense and about to marry Kumar’s former girlfriend, the one he still loves.

The racial and political barbs are even more pointed this time as just about everyone’s bigotry is exposed. In one of the highlights, Harold and Kumar are taken in by a redneck who looks like an extra from “Deliverance.” He brings them to his broken-down shack and they go inside to find it decorated like a Manhattan co-op apartment, the redneck’s elegant wife at the computer complaining that the DSL line is not working properly. Just as they readjust their expectations, there is another twist. They also have a run-in with the KKK, who think they are Mexicans. No one seems to know or care what their ethnic backgrounds really are. The government interrogator insists on speaking Chinese to Harold’s parents — and insists that they are speaking some strange dialect he cannot understand, despite the fact that they are (1) Korean, (2) are speaking English, and (3) have lived in New Jersey for 40 years.

Cheerfully offensive, cheekily raunchy, happily outrageous, and often just plain disgusting, the movie avoids the usual sophomore slump by ramping up the political jabs while keeping it all unpretentious and moving quickly. We get a bit of a glimpse of Kumar’s backstory — his first girlfriend and his first joint. It is not for everyone; some audiences will consider it so morally bankrupt that they will not be able to enjoy it. But for its audience what makes this one appealing is that like its heroes, this series is growing up.



  • David Barnes

    He wasn’t speaking Chinese he was speaking Korean to Harold’s parents.

  • Tim1974

    How did I miss this ???? A movie that actually had some frontal nudity equality! How refreshing, though far and few bewteen. If the directors, writers, and producers realized that equal amounts of frontal nudity will not alienate part of their audience, then they will see their profits increase. However, adding a good plot and some good characters would also help !

  • Valerie

    I am so tired of directors (typically male directors) using female nudity to attract immature males; this includes adults. It is nothing more than female objectification! When will the world understand the magnitude of the effect this has on young minds, specifically young female minds?

  • Nell Minow

    A very good point, Valerie, though pretty much everything in this movie is done to attract immature males! I agree with your implication that the use of nudity is not usually equivalent; female nudity is more often used to objectify and exploit in a sexual context (as in this film, with a lot of anonymous girls with great bodies) while male nudity is most often used for shock and comedy value, as in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Walk Hard,” and “Step Brothers.”

  • Tim1974

    Valerie and Nell,
    Other than this movie, where is all the female frontal nudity that has been used to attract males ???? There isn’ any !! Breasts are not equivalent to the penis. I think when female frontal nudity is shown as often as male frontal nudity then maybe your point will have some substance. Also, am I then to believe that “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” “Walk Hard.” and “Step Brothers” is for immature females who just want to see male frontal nudity ? Sure seems like a double standard to me. It appears many females want to shrug off the fact that male nudity is for fun and female nudity is not. Sorry, but I’m not laughing. Again, however, I will state that a lot of this uncomfortable feeling about many shows would not exisit if there was an equal amount of male and female nudity. Why don’t these directors, writers, and producers get it ?

  • Nell Minow

    Tim, as I said to you before, I appreciate your willingness to explain your perspective. I believe it is tempting to simplify an extremely complex set of issues that really transcend notions of fairness and taste and to reflect and influence our deepest notions of culture, myth, gender, sexuality, and iconography. We could debate endlessly which female body parts are equivalent to which male body parts in terms of impact — erotic, political, artistic, comedic. Certainly, scholars in many categories, film, literature, gender studies, anthropology, and more have done extensive research and analysis. And of course courts have looked into this as well. The Supreme Court regularly rules on what constitutes art (and protected speech under the First Amendment) vs. pornography, and those rulings evolve as changing tastes are reflected in the media. It is fair to say, however, that in the movies you name, the male nudity is intended for comic and not erotic purposes. Certainly it appears in all three films you name in a comic and not an erotic context. And the specific portrayal of female nudity in this film was, as Valerie said, objectifying, almost entirely women whose only purpose in the movie was to be nude.
    Will Ferrell has said that the very brief and partially obscured shot in “Step Brothers” was a prosthetic, by the way.
    I recognize the relevance of this issue, but I believe it can only be examined in a broader context. A few years ago, the idea of male genitals being exposed in an R-rated movie would have been unthinkable. A few decades ago, the idea of breasts being exposed in a movie would have been unthinkable. Both the old and the new ideas on that have had their critics as will be true of whatever is considered acceptable in another 10 or 20 years. But I do not think it is useful to claim “double standard” about an issue that is more complicated than that approach will allow.

  • Tim1974

    Nell,
    Thank you for taking the time to provide such a thorough response. However, I have an opposing perspective. To me it is very basic. When you continuosly show one gender’s genitals and not the others, then it is a double standard. And in today’s society, there is a double standard bias against men who are constantly being degraded and exposed in numerous movies, plays, and seemingly every new HBO series. I apologize if I am redundant, but it is an injustice and I will not remain silent on the issue.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks for explaining your position, Tim. We will have to agree to disagree because I believe the issue is more complex than one of a “double standard.” I appreciate your good spirits in sharing your views.

  • Sweet Veee

    So what Nell is saying here, is that it is degrading for women to be sexually objectified by displaying nude female bodies in movies, but it is not degrading for men to be ridiculed and laughed at by displaying nude male bodies in movies. She sees the purpose of female exploitation different then male exploitation.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I am sorry that you misunderstood my point, Sweet Veee. Did you see the movie? The purpose of the male and female nudity was quite different as I noted in my comment. It was the movie that treated the nudity differently; all I did was comment on it.

  • Dave

    Sorry Nell, but I’m going to disagree with you on this one, and agree with Tim and Sweet Veee.
    It did appear to me that you were suggesting that showing male nudity in a comedic way is a lot less exploitative than showing female nudity in an objectifying way. This is false. It is exploitation in both regards. Males will be exploited through the use of comedy while females will be exploited through the use of sex. One is not less extreme than the other, because if you are male, then showing male genitals in a comedic way will be considered worse, and if you are female, then showing female genitals in an objectifying way will be considered worse. The point is males and females will be exploited differently, but that doesn’t mean one is not as bad as the other.
    I find it quite ironic that women always slam a movie if it shows female genitals (as this one did), yet don’t seem to slam a movie when females are shown topless only, or if males are shown full frontal. I believe that society, not just American society, but societies all over the world have long viewed the female genitals as disgusting, repulsive, dirty, etc. – as very taboo. Male genitals on the other hand, have been viewed as superior, powerful, spectacular. Even artists of the past seemed to view male genitals as superior while female genitals as inferior. Michelangelo’s David was done fully nude, while the female equivalent, the Venus Di Milo, was done topless only. I believe society’s negative view of the female genitalia have caused a lot of women in society to view their own genitals as taboo, dirty and disgusting, which may help explain why it is women always complain about movies that show female genitals, but don’t complain about movies that show only female breasts.
    Take Valerie’s comment above. That same statement has been echoed by numerous women regarding this movie. On the other hand, did the first Harold and Kumar movie receive the same feedback from women? Not that I know of. What was the difference between the females being portrayed in these movies? The first showed topless female nudity only. This one showed bottomless female nudity.
    I won’t deny that this movie objectified and exploited women with the nudity (and the fact that the so-called male nudity turned out to be a prosthetic, as mentioned in the audio commentary on the DVD). However, women seem to always complain about their genitals being shown in a movie regardless of context.
    Some women complained about the full frontal female nudity shown in the recent movie “My Bloody Valentine 3D” even though it wasn’t exploitative. Complaints were also seen from women in other movies like this, for example, in “Broken Flowers” which showed a young female fully nude. There are even more movies that show women fully nude in a non-sexual way, yet women still complain. No such complaints from women when only female toplessness is shown.
    Now when you move on to male nudity, women never complain that full frontal male nudity exploits males. I, as a heterosexual male, am admitting that both Harold and Kumar movies exploit females, yet no female has stated that the “Sex and the City” movie exploits males. Instead, you Nell, in the comments section of Sex and the City movie review stated that you liked the movie and was going to see it again with your friends and your hope is that the movie will be a blockbuster. Yet if I invite my male friends over to watch this Harold and Kumar movie on DVD, we are considered “immature males”, as you mention above. This is quite a sexist comment to make, essentially saying that females can handle seeing male genitalia maturely, but males cannot handle seeing female genitalia maturely.
    Not only is this a sexist comment, it goes to show how insecure women have become regarding their own genitals. It seems that women want to compare female breasts to male genitals more and more these days, which of course is not the same. Female genitals should be compared to male genitals. By comparing female breasts to male genitals, this female genital insecurity will continue to live on and be passed from the current generation of women to the next.
    This is not right, and I have had personal experience with females being insecure about their own genitals. One woman I know has told me that men should never, under any circumstances, look at female genitals – female breasts are ok to look at. Another woman I know told me that she hopes there is such a thing as reincarnation so that in her next life, she can be a boy and have boy parts because girl parts are not worth having.
    This is even apparent in Hollywood movies. Take the movie “Knocked Up”. The lead actress of the movie was supposed to have been Anne Hathaway. Upon reading the movie script, she decided not to take the part, citing the fact that female genitals were going to be shown during the birth scene. This is the same Anne Hathaway that went topless herself (no body doubles) in a couple of her movies, yet the showing of female genitals in Knocked Up (even though weren’t hers) in a non-sexual, birth scene made her think twice about taking the role. This same movie showed a couple female strippers topless, but it was the depiction of female genitals that made her decide not to take the role.
    A couple female actresses left the movie set of the latest “Friday the 13th” movie citing the sex scenes as reason for leaving – the movie showed (some) full frontal female nudity.
    Natalie Portman filmed a full frontal nude scene in one of her movies called “Closer” then later had second thoughts and asked that they be removed, stating she is ok with going topless but not full frontal.
    A female fan of the movie “My Bloody Valentine 3D” actually contacted the actress that went full frontal in the movie and called her a … well let’s just say not very lady-like names. Her problem was that the actress should not have gone full frontal.
    There are several songs in recent years where women sing about how things would be different (and better) if they were boys.
    Why are females doing this and coming up with this kind of stuff? I’m sure it ain’t easy being a girl, but my guess is the fact that female genitals have long been viewed as taboo, as I mentioned above, in addition to the fact that most movies that show female nudity, show topless female nudity only. The bottom half is almost always conveniently covered. Now that male nudity has gone full frontal, and men are more open to discussing their genitals, women are viewing female genitalia as even more inferior (why else are female genitals covered up most of the time, yet male genitals are being shown/talked about at will), and that any depiction of female genitalia in a movie is considered an insult to women everywhere, which results in complaints from women.
    I don’t want women to be stripped down and paraded fully nude. I prefer women be shown fully nude in a non-objectifying, non-sexual way, not because I am a male, but because I want women to feel more comfortable with their anatomy, rather than fear it. But it shouldn’t be males that call for this. It should be females. Women should stand up and start comparing their genitals, not breasts, to male genitals. Female genitals should never be viewed as inferior, but EQUAL to male genitals. Tim, above, is right. He is not saying that male genitals should be removed completely from movies. He is saying that female genitals should be shown equally. Rather than agreeing and embracing this view, women start to compare female breasts to male genitals and claim that they are equal. Quite ironic since not long ago, women complained that female nudity was shown frontally, but men were only shown nude from the rear. The complaint was that male rear is not comparable to female frontal. Once male frontal was shown in movies, women now are comparing female breasts to male genitals, even though they are not equal either. (Just as a thought, will sex education teachers stop saying “males have a penis while females have a vagina” and start saying “males have a penis while females have breasts”?)
    It’s time for women to stand up against this negative logic and start equating their genitals with male genitals. This is 2009, 21st century. There shouldn’t be any reason why women should view their genitals as being inferior to male genitals in this day and age. Women are the ones that should take a stand, but unfortunately they don’t seem to want to overcome this genital insecurity that many (though not all) of them have.
    I’m curious as to your thoughts on this.

  • Nell Minow

    I appreciate the time and thought that you put into this comment, Dave, but we are going to have to agree to disagree and discontinue this line of debate. It is you who used the word “immature,” not me. As I said above, this issue goes far beyond the simplistic template of a “double standard,” encompassing centuries of culture and history and it goes far beyond what can be discussed within the limits of comment boxes on Beliefnet. I wish you the best but ask that you stop posting on this issue. I welcome your thoughts on other aspects of movies, media, and popular culture any time.

  • Dave

    “A very good point, Valerie, though pretty much everything in this movie is done to attract immature males!”
    Nell, that was your comment above in response to Valerie. You specifically stated that this movie is for immature males, yet you are accusing me of of using the word “immature”. My complaint was that this is a sexist comment because, as I stated above, it conveys the message that men cannot maturely view fully nude women, but women can maturely view fully nude men. I don’t doubt that you are a fair person, and a non-sexist person, but I felt this comment you made was sexist. If you liked the “Sex and the City” movie, great. I wouldn’t say that men can handle seeing this Harold and Kumar movie, while the Sex and the City movie is used to attract immature females, without it looking sexist, right?
    While you did say not to post on this issue anymore (actually, the above was my very first time posting on this issue), I felt that perhaps you misunderstood/misinterpreted what I said. Allow me to clarify if I may. I did state that I agree with what Tim said above, but only in regards to how female breasts should not be compared with male genitals. He does go on to talk about “double standards” but nowhere in my comment did I mention this. Frankly, I have seen full frontal female nudity much more often than male nudity. The female nudity is usually a lot longer in time as well. Why would I suggest “double standard”? I’m not sure where you would disagree with me.
    You commented above: “And the specific portrayal of female nudity in this film was, as Valerie said, objectifying, almost entirely women whose only purpose in the movie was to be nude” yet I completely agreed with you. I said that women were objectified and I didn’t appreciate the way women were portrayed in this movie. My statement is that women seem to complain about ANY full frontal female nudity in movies, done in ANY context, even when it isn’t objectifying and degrading, but rather empowering.
    My theory is that the female genitals have long been viewed as very taboo by societies throughout the world that many women have insecurities about their anatomy. My comment above stated that if Hollywood is going to give us full frontal female nudity in movies, then we need to show this in more female empowering movies, and less in the Harold and Kumar type movies, which can help women view their anatomy as being normal, not taboo. Is this something you would disagree with me on? Every woman that I have spoken with regarding this has wholeheartedly embraced what I have said. My statement all along has been that female genitals should never be looked at as inferior, but equal to male genitals. This is a very PRO-female position that I take. Tim, on the other hand, seems to use the “double standard” phrase for his own behalf, wanting to see female genitals for his own behalf. I am commenting on this issue in a completely opposite direction – on behalf of women.
    There is nothing on the female anatomy that I haven’t seen before, and there are many movies that I have either seen or own that show full frontal female nudity, so there is no reason for me take on this issue on behalf of myself.
    My concern was the fact that many women seem to despise their own anatomy to the point that they would view the female form as something negative, even resenting the fact that they were born female. This is not something I have read about or heard about. This is real life experience that I am speaking about. Even as a male, I find it quite offensive that women would feel the way I mentioned above. The more I hear about women complaining about full frontal female nudity in movies, even when it is empowering and not objectifying, the more I realize that women are still viewing their anatomy as something dirty and taboo, rather than as something natural and beautiful. This, I feel, is wrong. That was the point I tried to make all along.
    I apologize if I gave you the wrong impression about my earlier comment, and I apologize ahead of time for writing about this issue again, even though you told me not to. I felt I had to clarify my thoughts since you must have misinterpreted what I said if you disagreed with me.
    Thank you for your time, and thank you for your response to my earlier comment.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    I appreciate your clarification of your position, Dave, and I apologize for getting you confused with other commenters on this issue. You cannot separate nudity from its narrative context — we seem to agree on that. The crude humor of the Harold & Kumar movies is directed at immature males or the immature side of mature males; that’s not a criticism. A lot of humor is intended to appeal to our immature selves. There will always be media for that audience and some of it will be pretty good. I liked this movie, as my review showed. But I think your comparisons are superficial, over-generalized, and overly narrow. Nudity has to be viewed in not just the context of the story but the context of history, culture, and politics.
    As I said, I think we have thoroughly covered the issue of male vs. female nudity in movies in the comments on the site, or as thoroughly as is appropriate for this forum, and I do not expect to continue to engage in it.

  • Lex

    Sorry, male nudity has become THE in vogue thing and I have seen graphic, very graphic, male frontal nudity. You never see the same of women and the fact is that Nell, far from being pleased as punch, you should be wondering why in a post-feminist world we are still allowing paternalism to dictate that female nudity=objectification/victimization. There are about 10 films off the top of my head where male genitals were shown, IF female genitals are shown 9/10 times it is pubic hair which many would argue is the “anatomical equivalent” BUT that is false, how many women the ages of the women shown do not shave their pubic region these days? Fact is that even as a woman I find the double-standard repugnant and the only “objectification” has become what I call symbolic emasculation. Male nudity is portrayed for humor and to seemingly demean and humiliate men just as females were for decades victims of symbolic annihilation. It is time we stop the warped sense of reality and realistically look at films, tv shows and even language (where use of male genital slang is commonplace on network tv). There has been a monumental shift in reality but a steadfast perpetuation of outdated theories and opinions on sexism. Sexism can now happen in both directions and more often than not is happening now to males. As a feminist and a woman I am repulsed that other women who have fought for equality can stand by and smugly ignore this as if it were well-deserved payback–it is not grown men that are affected, it is boys!

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thank you for your comments, Lex. I do not know what created the impression that I am pleased as punch about any of this; however, that does not mean that I agree with all of your points. We do agree that objectification of either gender is not good for anyone.

  • Lex

    Point being Nell, people like yourself who regularly do these types of blogs/reviews (including men) seem to be singing from a rehearsed book and seem to believe that, despite massive evidence to the contrary, it remains women who are objectified and sexualized. I think we both agree it is wrong for either gender BUT I will say as a woman, feminist and someone who fought symbolic annihilation, for the life of me I wonder where the protests, cries, outcries and outrage is when you have graphic, demeaning and consistent displays of male genitals in movies, tv, and generally the media today? If it were a vagina shown in the same fashion that half of these shots of male genitals have been protests would be abound. I always believed I was fighting for equality, not for special treatment or the right to turn the tables plus some.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Lex, I can see that you have not read very much of what I write if you have to resort to a “people like yourself” statement. I am a feminist who has been concerned with these issues, including “symbolic annihilation” as a lawyer, a cultural critic, a mother, a teacher, and from several other perspectives as well. But that does not mean that I agree that any portrayal of nudity, even graphic, is per se objectifying or annihilating. Everything depends on context (general culture and specific). One factor in context is who has the power. Another is the purpose of the portrayal. In this film, the nude female characters are unnamed and generically beautiful and appear purely for the purpose of objectification. The male nudity is personal and comic. My view on equality is a bit less formulaic than yours, but I appreciate your comments and hope you will continue to engage on these issues.

  • Lex

    Well to again come back to the “people like yourself” it was firstly meant to denote people who did comment on these issues on blogs and what have you. To further that though, and unfortunately you stepped into this, laughing at someone does NOT put them in a position of power. Whether nudity is sexual/beauty objectification or comedy which is demeaning both to me are not acceptable. If you want to talk about context I am completely open to nudity in proper contexts as seen on Schindlers List or Amistad. I do NOT believe gratuitous nudity of either gender is appropriate and I no longer believe the “position of power” argument is relevant in this day and age. There is NOT one instance of male nudity in recent films which empowers men or shows them in a natural context. They are either being laughed at, made to look like idiots, their genitals are objectified as objects of humor, or as in The Reader, they are put in positions of subservience. The latter example was grotesque in that, even in the context of the film, denoting a 16 year old naked female being scrubbed naked by a male more than twice her age would have produced outrage, but The Reader was seen as “artsy”. I believe that to attain equality we need to respect each other and treat like as like, not create two sets of rules based on a historical perception of gender and power.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Lex, suggesting that I “stepped into something” is a strange way to put a response to a discussion, as though you think only in terms of “gotchas.” I think we will have to leave it that we both agree that context is determinative though we may not always agree on what those standards are. I am impressed, however, with your thoughtful analysis and engagement on these issues and hope you will return to let me know what you think about the movies you see.

  • Lex

    It was not meant as a “gotcha” but I did feel very “accused” by the incinuation that “people like yourself” was derrogatory and utilized that in turn in the sense that you did “step into” what I see as a trap that far too many feminists and laypeople alike seem to step into with regard to the debate. I do obviously think that there is a massive societal shift which I am not sure your age but perhaps it is not as obvious depending on what you lived through. I am relatively young still and never had to be on the frontline of feminism and grew up in a different world and in turn believe even today the world has changed much from what I grew up in just slightly more that a decade ago. In that I know that the real gauge is what do teens, not adults, think. I say this because the views and their perceptions of the media in turn shapes how they behave toward each other and in turn how society acts. I would presume you are at least of the age of most MPAA “raters” are as they are chosen from across the country as parents and as such I think their perception, like yours, is female=victim male=perpetrator/position of power. This perception is a good 20 years old now and is alive only due to the perpetuation of the perception not the reality any longer. I would assume, as I pointed out in many examples but most specifically the last with The Reader, most of them would have vetoed anything but an NC17 on most of these films if the scene contained female rather than male genitals in the same exact contexts. Perhaps this is a damage we have to go through but being a young mother myself I fear that seeing the statistics on how poorly boys are doing in all aspects of education as of late and life in general this is going to do the same damage to a generation of boys that symbolic annihilation did to a couple of generations of women. I have even dubbed this “symbolic emasculation”.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    Thanks, Lex. My point about “people like yourself” was that it was dismissive and not in any way substantive. You were throwing me into some vaguely defined category rather than taking the time to read through my writing and respond to the specifics of my views. There’s really no way for me to respond to your point that “the real gauge is what do teens, not adults, think” except to say that the reason I do what I do is to help parents, teens, and children think carefully about exactly these kinds of issues. And I would be very careful about jumping to conclusions about anyone’s perspective or experience based on age.
    “The Reader” is based on an autobiographical novel. The nudity is, in my opinion, appropriate for the story and not exploitative. The film is intended for mature audiences and it deals frankly with the devastating impact that the affair with a much older woman had on the main character.
    Parents of both boys and girls have thoroughly documented challenges in managing the onslaught of media, and that is why I do what I do here. Every generation has its challenges in managing the evolving messages from the surrounding culture. But I can assure you that no media can be as powerful as the messages children get from the behavior and values of their parents and teachers.

  • Your Name

    Jumping into this discussion, Nell, I do agree with you when you say context is most important, rather than just body parts. I couldn’t agree with you more on this statement. However, it seems that to a lot of women in our society, when it comes to female nudity, they are more concerned with body parts rather than context. This Harold and Kumar movie is a perfect example. Every movie review that I’ve read about this movie from a female who didn’t particularly like the film made specific mention of the bottomless pool party scene and how they didn’t like female crotches being shown on the big screen. While there were female crotches shown, including some closeups, it was still done in a non-sexual, non-erotic way. The girls were just standing around, mingling, or just walking around casually. No sex acts, no fondling, nothing. Later on in the movie, we are shown a topless brothel scene, where 2 women are paid to make out with each other. They were shown kissing each other and touching each other, with their breasts brushing up against one another. This was a highly sexualized scene. Yet, no female movie critic made any mention of this scene, and instead, made only mention of the bottomless pool party scene. In fact, had I not seen this movie, I would not have known there was a topless brothel scene at all. If context is more important than body parts, then shouldn’t women have been more offended with the topless make out session as opposed to the bottomless non-sexual pool party scene? I even read somewhere about how couples went together to watch this movie, and when the bottomless pool party scene came up, women covered their husband’s/boyfriend’s eyes so they wouldn’t see this scene, while allowing them to fully watch the topless brothel scene. Why is that, if context is more important than body parts?
    This reminds me of 2 movies I saw this year: My Bloody Valentine 3D and Friday the 13th. In the Valentine movie, an actress goes full frontal in a non-sexual, emotional, breakup scene. She finds out that her lover is married (after he puts his wedding ring on) and also finds out he videotaped his sexual encounter with her. She stands up out of bed, fully nude, chases him in the parking lot as he is leaving, yelling obscenities at him for using her and calling her a “hooker”. By contrast, in Friday the 13th, there were a couple topless scenes, in particular, there was a topless sex scene where a woman’s breasts were shown in closeup while she was on top of a man, thrusting him. Her breasts were shown bouncing up and down, jiggling in all directions, for a long time, in closeup, taking up most of the screen. The man even grabs her breasts and talks about how perfect they look. Highly sexualized scene. Now guess which movie received the biggest complaints from women who saw both movies, and which movie didn’t receive any complaints. Yes, the full frontal, non-sexual scene in the Valentine movie got lots of complaints from women (though there were women who thought the nudity was done well), but no complaints from women on the topless jiggle-fest in Friday the 13th. Again, taking context into account, shouldn’t the sexual, objectifying scene in Friday the 13th get more complaints from women than the full frontal, non-sexual scene in the Valentine movie?
    I purchased a movie recently at a local Target store called “Cashback”. I heard the movie had a lot of controversy surrounding it, specifically with the nude scenes. Now the movie does in fact show full frontal female nudity, including some VERY closeup, graphic shots of female genitalia. However, it was done in an artistic manner – the main character envisions being able to freeze time and draw the women in his supermaket while they are nude. The scene wasn’t sexual at all (the main character talks about how fascinated he is with the female form, and you can hear Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata playing in the background as he sketches the women). Very well done and artistic, showcasing the beauty that is womanhood. I found it completely non-sexual. The movie has won several awards. Yet it drew some harsh criticism from women, including some calling it pornographic and calling on feminists to get together and urge the movie be banned completely for showing closeup shots of female genitalia. I read that one woman was absolutely embarrassed and uncomfortable watching this movie in a theater and seeing the closeup shots of vulvas, knowing there were men in the theater seeing that as well. Why is it embarrassing to women, especially when taking into account the context of the film, rather than just the body parts? I bet the same wouldn’t have been said if they showed closeups of female breasts only or male genitals. I was wondering what your take is on this film, Nell, if you’ve seen it?
    I think there is a problem within our society. The vulva is looked upon as being very pornographic no matter how you show it, no matter the context. Nell, again, I agree with you completely when you say context is more important than body parts. But it is too obvious that in our society, any depiction of female genitalia, regardless of context, will receive complaints from women and be referred to as pornographic, even when it is obviously not. The same isn’t said about female breasts and male genitals. That’s the most frustrating part about all this, is that we ARE taking into account the context, yet women STILL complain about any depiction of female genitalia. Why do so many women view female genitalia as pornographic, even when taking into account the context of a film? Why would women want the vulva, something natural and beautiful, the bearer of life, always relegated to pornography? I just don’t get it.

  • Umm…

    Does anyone else feel like there are trolls masking under different identities to support themselves? I’m sure some other people thought of it, but didn’t want to bring it up.

  • Umm… (Sam Allen)

    Hi Nell,
    I agree with your statements with regards to the following:
    “As I said above, this issue goes far beyond the simplistic template of a “double standard,” encompassing centuries of culture and history and it goes far beyond what can be discussed within the limits of comment boxes on Beliefnet. I wish you the best but ask that you stop posting on this issue. I welcome your thoughts on other aspects of movies, media, and popular culture any time.
    But I think your comparisons are superficial, over-generalized, and overly narrow. Nudity has to be viewed in not just the context of the story but the context of history, culture, and politics.”
    I was reading through Dave’s comments and eventually grew tired of reading them, primarily due to the fact that I have deeply involved myself in countless theses, essays, and literature reviews of published journal articles by scholars and professors in sociology and related fields during the course of my university studies. Of course, people have their own opinions regarding these issues, but it’s because of debates such as these that I am thankful of the vast knowledge that research has provided us, along with our vast capabilities of accessing this knowledge. Analyzing and truly comprehending an issue like this is challenging and requires strenuous effort, as with many other issues. I would certainly consider it a fulfilling experience to point out and discuss the omissions and misconsiderations in Dave’s arguments and those similar to his, but don’t feel like this is the appropriate place, or is at all, necessary.
    However, I would encourage others to gain further insight into any issue, by considering reliable, scholarly sources before delving into an argument and insisting that his/her’s is indeed correct.

  • http://blog.beliefnet.com/moviemom/ Nell Minow

    An excellent point, Sam, thanks!

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