You may have heard that earlier this week, ethereal/minimalist Icelandic rock stars Sigur Rós have released a video clip for their simply haunting new track “Fjögur Píanó.” The 8-minute short was written and directed by award-winning documentarian (and creator of several campaign ads for Barack Obama in 2008) Alma Har’el.
The extraordinarily haunting result explores the intersections of abuse and addiction as they play out between a male/female couple on the verge of mutual devastation. The stars are dancer Denna Thomson and, surprise, Shia LaBeouf (who is probably best known for his role in the celluloid masterpiece that is Michael Bay's life-changing meditation on the human condition, the "Transformers" trilogy). The Sigur Rós video supplies a tremendous barrage of emotion and careful storytelling, using both interpretative dance as well as traditional narrative formats.
But, of course, all anybody really wants to talk about is Shia LaBeouf’s penis, which you can see in profile for a few seconds in one scene.
Pretty much all of the big media coverage of this clip so far focuses on LaBoeuf’s little beefer, as it were: E Online’s headline says, “Shia LaBoeuf gets naked, goes full-frontal in new music video.” (Note: It’s not “full frontal,” in fact.) The LA Times cautions, “Naked & boring: Shia LaBeouf is nude in aimless Sigur Rós clip.” Even the Associated Press highlights the nakedness: “Shia LaBoeuf in the buff for Sigur Ros video.”
Part of the fascination, no doubt, can be pinned down to the fact that this is not just ANY old random penis off the street, but is the penis of a real live Famous Person. Obviously there is an interest -- if not an creepy entitlement -- in seeing the junk of famous people, to the extent that there are whole websites devoted to blurry screenshots and edited movie clips capturing topless actresses and bottomless actors.
The penis is fairly rare to see, however, and compared to the frequency with which we see nude women in popular culture, clear penile visuals are often fudged or at best very carefully lit. Why is this? Is the penis so sacrosant that to capture it on film is to disrespect it?
Or is it simply a matter of dudes not wanting to feel judged?
Given the reaction to this particular example, this isn’t an unreasonable idea. Women who know their work will include the removal of a shirt now and then might get surgical assistance to create a breastocological ideal to please their audience. However, dudes are pretty limited in their ability to embellish whatever equipment their biological destiny has left them with. Add to this the incredible eagerness that many women love to apply to penis evaluation -- not all of it constructive or complimentary either -- and it’s hard to blame a guy for feeling reluctant to put his goods on display for all the see. Especially if he’s a guy who is also somewhat famous already.
And so the penis retains its air of mystery, only poking its head out for a quick glimpse now and then, and receiving a reaction -- as in the case of the Sigur Ros clip above -- that probably makes all the other penises in proxmity crawl back up inside their owners’ bodies, swearing never to show themselves again except in a context in which they might be penetrating someone in a pleasureable manner.
Somewhat ironically, this fleeting glimpse of Shia LaBoeuf's genitalia has come to tower over everything else that happens in this video. And it’s a shame. Because while I would not call the Sigur Ros video brilliant, exactly -- speaking for myself, there are a lot of art-film conventions that shatter my suspension of disbelief -- but it is definitely evocative and thought-provoking and by far Shia LaBeouf’s penis is the least interesting thing about it.
But maybe you should decide for yourself. (Be warned, though: there is lots of nudity, both male and female, so it’s NSFW for anyone whose employer frowns upon such things.)