In the promotional materials for this summer's Sex Tape, there's a whole lot of Jason Segel. The actor and his costar Cameron Diaz appear in various stages of undress, including altogether naked. Segel, of course, is no stranger to taking off his clothes for the camera. The former How I Met Your Mother star was famously nude multiple times in his breakout hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Many people found his nudity refreshing, given that it is usually women who are objectified sans wardrobe on the big screen, but Sarah Marshall costars Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis kept their clothes on. No matter how you slice it, though, Segel's seems to be another example of the double standard.
When an actor with an imperfect body like Segel or Robin Williams doffs their clothes for a scene, it's typically seen as funny. When Lena Dunham does it on HBO's Girls, it results in social media posts imploring the actress to keep her clothes on and questions at press conferences about whether all the nudity is necessary.
Seemingly, for an actress to play an acceptable nude scene it either needs to be completely required by the story — think Halle Berry in Monster's Ball or Jodie Foster in The Accused — or she has to look really, really good naked (as far as the vocal public is concerned). There isn't an apt comparison for a woman, but when an actor like Jonah Hill or Mark Wahlberg comes out and openly states that he used a prosthetic device to cover his anatomy for a nude scene, everyone just shrugs. An actress can get away with using a body double occasionally, but if she's going to do a nude scene the audience by and large expects to see the real deal… and if she wants to have surgery to enhance certain features then all the better.
Segel, and a lot of male stars, can get away with being naked without issue because our society views male and female sexuality differently. In much the same way, there's no question about whether Segel's character would really be with a former model such as Diaz, while Dunham was questioned about her character's "unrealistic" fling with the very handsome Patrick Wilson.
Segel learned his craft under the tutelage of Judd Apatow, who is also a producer on Dunham's show. Aptatow has long been a proponent of creative uses of nudity. When the writer/producer/director was confronted about the amount of time that Dunham spends nude on Girls by The Wrap's Tim Malloy, he defended the practice for both sexes: "There's male nudity in Walk Hard [helmed by Sex Tape director Jake Kasdan]. I have people naked when they're willing to do it," Apatow said. "Lena is confident enough to do it so we have the opportunity to talk about other issues because she is braver than other people. If Paul Rudd said to me, I'm willing to be completely naked in the movie, I would use it. If Seth [Rogen] said he was willing to be completely naked — he showed his butt in a post-sex scene in Knocked Up — I would use it because it's more honest.”
While it's commendable that Apatow thinks that we should look at nudity across the board, the truth is that many people just don't see it the same way. Most of society continues to have an unrealistic expectation of women, wanting them to fit by turns into both sexual and asexual standard: the age-old Madonna-whore complex. Questioning Dunham's right to have her character naked without questioning Segel's or Kasdan's decision making process is inherently sexist… there's just no getting around that.
Benjamin Franklin, himself a fan of nudity, once told his fellow Founding Fathers, "We must all hang together or we will most assuredly hang apart." Similarly, it's either all right for all actors and actresses to be nude — regardless of body type — or it needs to be criticized equally for both sexes.
Quite simply, naked freedom for one should mean naked freedom for all.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
Unfortunately saddled with one of those titles that leaves itself open to pun-filled reviews , there's not much truth to be found in The Truth About Emanuel, a film that's sadly unaware with how utterly ridiculous it comes across to the viewer.
The story follows Emanuel (Katia Scodelario), a surly teenager who's closing in on 18, but still feels pangs of guilt due to the fact that her mother died while giving birth to her. She takes out her anger on her new stepmom (Frances O'Connor), and her doting father (Alfred Molina) struggles to understand the fire burning inside his daughter. Emanuel begins to connect with her mysterious new neighbor Linda (Jessica Biel), who Emanuel agrees to babysit for.
The film's twist, which is revealed within the first act of the movie, is that Linda's daughter isn't a real baby, but a doll that Linda thinks is real and is using as a coping mechanism. Not wanting to break the spell that Linda has cast on herself, Emanuel goes along with Linda's psychosis, and what follows is a ridiculous game of "keep away" (or, better put, "pretend the baby is alive") like some twisted, direct-to-DVD sequel of Weekend at Bernie's. Emanuel bends over backwards to prevent anyone to get a glimpse at the plastic baby, and the last hour of the movie feels like a rejected C-plot of the worst mid-'80s sitcom never created.
The film's two protagonists are flip sides of the same grief stricken coin. Emanuel is a daughter riddled with the guilt over killing her mother, while Linda's very being is swallowed up by the loss of her child. The film wants to say some very poignant things about loss and grief, but even without the fake baby plotline flinging the story down into the bowels of unintentional farce, the film's writing is still too blunt and sloppy to express its ideas well. The characters ring false and the script clunks and clatters its whole way through with groan inducing lines. Adding the baby plotline on top of all that ensures that almost nothing in this film that comes off as "true."
There is a film in here somewhere that could have carried the story about the coping mechanisms we build to escape our grief, but The Truth About Emanuel just isn’t self aware enough to know how ridiculous it comes across, and the cast just isn't up to task to sell a dramatic story that could have just as easily worked as the main gag in a backburner SNL skit.
It made perfect sense during last night's episode of New Girl that Nick wanted to get a turtle, his spirit animal, as a pet. Not only do the two bear a striking physical resemblance, but both species move through life at a pace that best suits them and can hide under their shells when they feel threatened or scared. But even if you live with a turtle, or in the case of Schmidt, the elusive Nick Miller for a decade, if you're a sensitive person, their utter lack of care or returned love will eventually wear you down. That's exactly what happened during "Models," an episode that somehow found balance as it see-sawed between spot-on analysis of lifelong friendships and a truly unfortunate product placement scene. While Nick may have wanted a turtle, the last thing he wanted was a cookie. Or, at least, a cookie that was given to him by his best friend of 10 years because said best friend was just thinking about him. Now, I won't begin to pretend to understand the male psyche and how they can be so detached from their feelings, so having a character like Nick to watch is like getting an insightful and terrifying look inside. After Schmidt brings Nick a cookie just because, as friends do, the gesture knocked over the emotional dominoes between the three guys in the apartment. When Nick tells Schmidt he never thinks about him during his day, the admission understandably upsets Schmidt. (In a nice change of character pacing, Max Greenfield got to play a more down-to-Earth, vulnerable side of Schmidt.) Winston takes his side, knowing all too well what it's like trying to break into "The Cold-Hearted Republic of Nick Miller." Nick Miller who can't be bothered to say goodnight, Nick Miller who truly believes "nobody buys anybody a cookie for no reason," Nick Miller who gets upset by the fact that his best friend loves and cares for him too much. Left to the devices of any other actor, Nick would probably look like the biggest jerk on television, but thankfully it's done with understated brilliance by Jake Johnson. Whether you know someone like Nick (I'd venture to guess that New Girl creator Liz Meriwether has a Nick in her life), or you are a Nick, Johnson's performance manages to make a complex character that's both insightful and relatable. Not something that can often be said about a sitcom character. Johnson stole the show last night, both with his hilariously curmudgeon facial reactions to his completely sincere conversations with both Schmidt and Winston, but Jess as well. I'm a sucker for any Jess and Nick moments, flirtatious or otherwise, but their scene in last night's episode was one of my favorites. When the two find themselves in the midst of respective friend fights (more on Jess' in a bit) Nick asks her if she thinks they'd be friends with their old friends if they met them today. (In a flashback we see that a horrendously mustachioed Nick met a Ramen-eating Schmidt in college and against all logic, they became pals.) It's a question anyone with a lifelong friend asks themselves at some point, and Johnson hit all the right notes in the scene. The guys eventually patched things up (as unconventional a sitcom as New Girl may be at times, it's still a sitcom) and all of them had a good cry and a good hug about it. As infuriating as a friend like Nick can be, you can't stay mad at him for too long. After all, under that shell he's just a big ol' softie. Besides, how could you get made at a guy who mistakes eye shadow for shoe polish and says things like this: "The only time a man is allowed to think about another man is when that man is Jay Cutler." "I can't go around saying goodnight to everyone and buying cookies. I am not a titan of finance, sir." "They were out of turtles. I bought a tiny cowboy hat for nothing." "I've got two perfectly good forks at the end of my arms." "You're the only turtle I want." See? Impossible to stay mad at him for long. Jess, on the other hand — well, she can be even tougher to love at times. While the boys were having their own rift, so were Jess and Cece (Hannah Simone.) On Cece's birthday, Jess unwillingly joined her best friend and her admittedly god awful model friends (please, New Girl writers, I beg of you to get rid of the insufferable, unfunny, and indistinguishable Nadia character) for a night on the town. It all goes to hell in a designer handbag when a fed-up Jess airs her grievances about her best friend (namely, that modeling has made her dumber) all within earshot of Cece. This storyline walked the line of totally believable and relatable (best girlfriends absolutely hold onto childhood traditions like watching Clueless and can bounce back from just about any fight) to downright silly (boob fights aren't a thing.) While it packed one of the downright funniest moments ever on New Girl, when we discover that Jess actually resembles a monkey from a (fake, sadly) Russian cracker commercial, it also packed the single-most cringe-inducing. Now, I understand product placement is a thing that happens on TV. It happened on Friends with their massive Diet Coke campaign, it happened when Subway kept Chuck and Cougar Town on the air a little bit longer. But it still didn't make it any more fun to watch Deschanel have to do a demanding physical comedy routine while a veritable Ford commercial played over her. Still, I shouldn't judge. That's the very thing that found Jess in hot water when she judged Cece's life choices, from her diet to her career. But she, like anyone with a lifelong best friend, came to the realization that we don't love our friends in spite of these things that make them them, but because of them. That we often find someone who is different from us (Jess admits Cece is braver than she ever could be) to balance us out. That if we met them today, maybe we wouldn't be friends, but that's exactly why we met them when we did, so we could be friends as fate intended it. New Girl, let's be friends forever. Or at least a solid few more seasons. What did you think of last night's New Girl? Would you agree that Jake Johnson made the episode all his? Is Brian Austin Green your favorite rapper, too? Did you catch that little (500) Days of Summer nod when they played Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams"? Does it seem like the show is emphasizing Zooey Deschanel's sex appeal more and more each week? Share in the comments section, Gigglebangs Ricebowl.
[Photo credit: Greg Gayne/Fox]
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