Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lobbyists, Obama, Gender politics, and Blue Penis

"Full of country goodness and green pea-ness."
--"Orson Welles", on Fox's The Critic

Great, if short post here on The American Prospect (h/t to Matthew Yglesias) on the -gasp- full blueal penis of Dr. Manhattan in the new movie, The Watchmen. (Which is getting consistent "mehs" it seems, somewhat disappointing to this comic book fan, but it was directed by the godforsaken director of 300, for god's sake.) In the post, Phoebe Connely does a brilliant job quickly summing up the double standards of today's gender politics, where female nudity is a matter of course, but some consistent Quantum Guy Junk warrants mentioning by every reviewer everywhere, apparently. It reminds of hearing of people complaining about Brokeback Mountain (which I still haven't seen, sadly) and "too much gay sex" when, from what I understand, there was more and more explicit straight sex. Apparently, it's always "too much" when it's not targeted towards your team, so to speak.

There's a lot to unpack there (heh... package), but I really don't feel like it, so discuss amongst yourselves: Dr. Manhattan's full frontal nudity was neither full nor frontal nor nudity: Discuss.

In other news, Matthew Yglesias makes a compelling argument that Obama's "no lobbyist on staff" policy does more harm than good, because
well-qualified individuals who registered as lobbyists while working for progressive non-profits find themselves shut out of jobs, and the administration finds itself understaffed.

The problem here has always been that the lobbyist/non-lobbyist distinction doesn’t track any meaningful goals. Goldman Sachs’ lawyer, for example, is not a lobbyist, and therefore not banned from office. A “lobbyist” is just someone who talks to members of congress about legislation. You can be a corrupt special interest and not be a lobbyist, and you can be a lobbyist who only works for good causes.

But dumb as the pledge was, it’s dumber still to stick with it. Flip-flopping will look bad, but nobody will care in 2012 about an old flip-flop. By contrast, lots of people will care by 2012 if we’re in the midst of a prolonged depression...

I'm loathe to agree that lobbyists aren't inherently bad, but that's because I think of lobbyists as inherently being for private interests. And I don't suppose he could just ban all lobbyists for private interests? Of course what's worse is that Obama made exceptions for this at first (and apparently every Democrat he has ever known has freaking tax problems) but, as far as I know, is holding to it now, despite the problems outlined by Yglesias. But I haven't been closely following the news recently; maybe I'm wrong? (Except: D'oh.)


(postscript: even this seemingly insightful review equates Watchmen's director's missteps in screen translation with not properly dressing Big Blue; I don't know that a codpiece really represents the artistic problems of the film, but that may just be me -- and that I haven't seen the film)


Becky T said...

Hmm, I'm not sure if no one would have mentioned a completely nude woman who's actually completely nude for large portions of the movie, rather than just the sex scenes. There's something different about just standing around being naked for many, many scenes vs. being briefly naked for one or two short scenes. So, that's probably why people keep mentioning the great, blue junk. More in line with your point would be how much talk the very brief and (presumably) real full-frontal nudity in 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall' got, considering you see more, and longer scenes of, female nudity in movies all the time. Then again, sometimes female frontal exposure is much-talked about, e.g., if the woman in question is particularly famous and hasn't exposed her chest before (on screen). But, your point is taken. Watchmen wasn't as bad as they say, but I never read the comic book, so who am I to say?

On lobbyists: Shouldn't there be some distinction between public interest lobbyists (e.g., NRDC, ACLU) and private-interest ones? Maybe based on whether their clients are non-profit or for-profit entities?

J said...

In re: Nakedness, quite so, you've got a good point about a nude woman just wondering around for much of a movie. It would be commented on -- I never saw it, but I suppose one could think of Angelina Jolie in Beowulf. But while a full-frontal nude woman would draw comments, I bet you they would be less of the "put it away," variety. I'm sure there'd be some, and some guys would perhaps call it distracting even if they also found it, um, "gratifying", and call for the equivalent of "put it away." But of course, I really do think there's a gendered aspect that, like you mention with FSM, is different with naked men than women. (I mean, you have to have had experiences like me, where you're watching or talking about movies, and some guy says he liked it, or would've it watched it, but for the sight of male genitalia. One time when I was part of such a conversation, a woman even pointed out how hard it would be to watch a lot of movies if they had that same standard.)

And you're right about celebrity chests, but that's the thing -- the talk was quite qualitatively different. I didn't hear anyone go, "oooo, billy crudup!" (I'm sure someone did, but I didn't hear it.) The comments really had less to do with seeing someone naked famous than with the fact that OH MY GOD there's a naked man.

Beyond that, it's all the more interesting that it's decried in the Jolly Blue Giant's case, because it is just him wandering around for much of it. It's not sexual - it's this weird American thing that says naked = sexual. Just as you rarely get male nudity, you rarely get nudity period outside of sexual circumstances in US movies. So it seems all the weirder -- it's just a penis, guys. You see one every day. Chill. Try looking at his eyes, I guess -- "I'm up here, buddy."

And yeah, you'd think there should be a difference on lobbyists, but I think that would break down immediately, because you would get nonprofits like, I don't know, the Association for Accurate Health Information that is "public interest," even if last week they were the Association High Fructose Corn Syrup Producers and Tobacco Plantationists or some such, and it may as well be a private-interest lobby again. I don't know that you could design a distinction narrow enough to separate "real" public interests from private/industrial interests because the line can be obscured and is rather subjective anyway; I think the only satisfactory way to do it would be basically a list of causes that, for example, you/I/we felt were "real" public interest, which of course would be unfair and subjective, but alas I think that would be the only way to separate out astroturf public interest groups.