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As an actor, I know that onscreen nudity, whether it’s sexual or not, as well as any simulated sex acts, have to be negotiated and agreed upon down to the shadow of a nipple before a single scene is even shot. If one is auditioning for a role, nudity and sex scenes are indicated in the character breakdown so that actors at least have a vague idea of what they might be getting into, and can choose not to even audition for a project if that’s not their thing.
For Movie Stars, the game is different, of course, and many celebrity actors have a nudity clause that follows them from project to project, whether it involves the extremely common use of a body double, or the completely improbable partially-clothed sex scenes we watched Carrie Bradshaw have for six seasons and two movies.
Gender inequality further complicates the issue, or rather, it oversimplifies it if you’re a man in Hollywood, because while women’s bodies are subject to contractual vivisection and legal dissection in painstaking detail ad infinitum, men are either clothed, shirtless, or the very rare bucky bare naked full monty, every example of which makes headlines for its shocking rarity.
We know why: beyond traditional pageantry of women’s bodies on display in movies made by men, these are also men who are happy to display men’s nudity and sexuality in the context of buffoonery because their deeply ingrained homophobia won’t let them look at a genuinely handsome man as a sincerely sexual being, even with a woman.
Moviegoers who are thirsty for cock, gender equality, or just some sort of integrity that puts storytelling above the traditional Protection of the Penis have been waging this war for decades, and I would be a fool to sincerely undertake that debate by mentioning “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” or to have gone to the movie for feminist theory or a treatise on gender roles at all.
But c’mon. In the most basic sense, what is the deal with these movies continuing to tease us with Zac Efron’s unsheathed torso, highlighting every intricate peak and valley of his muscles, and his muscles’ muscles, that perfectly cultivated amount of chest hair, for which a focus group was no doubt organized to determine the most attractive length and cropping, down to the millimeter, and nothing else?
I’m not saying I want to see Zac Efron’s dick. But if he’s gonna be so repeatedly objectified, can we maybe objectify him a little more creatively than just the chest, please? I have never met Mr. Efron, and by all accounts he is a genuinely good guy, he’s clearly talented, and I am not someone who thinks that feminism means treating men as despicably as historically patriarchal systems treat women, so I don’t wish to dehumanize him down to his bathing suit areas.
However, if ever there were a male movie star who could drop trou in service of the greater good, is it not him? In a movie where full-frontal nudity from a woman is casually presented in service of a joke, is it too much to ask that Mr. Efron’s character drop some dick off in someone or something at some point too?
I went to see “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” as a spur-of-the-moment decision, literally walking by a movie theater near my apartment and looking up to see the marquis and the timing that worked out perfectly as a counterpoint to a melancholy mood that I could feel settling into my brain and was determined to not let take hold.
I was having a rough day at the end of a miserable week of mourning brothers I would never know who were murdered at the hands of white police officers, crying myself to sleep at the tragic deaths in Dallas and how many responses to that loss were doubling down on the racism at the root of these deaths in the first place.
I had a full evening planned for myself, and I’m not the most spontaneous of folks out there, but I needed a fucking giggle as I walked by that movie theater, and so I went in.
The movie delivered on laughs, for sure. I’m not a critic, though they’ve mostly been unkind, but as a viewer I forgave the one-note moments or the bits that dragged because of the sharpness of the better moments and the fact that it actually made me laugh out loud, which is no easy feat for a mainstream comedy.
The opening sequence is deceptively smart, appearing at first to be your usual, run-of-the-mill “raunchy guys having good times” establishing montage, hackneyed but still enjoyable, before being flipped on its head in very funny ways. Marc Maron also appears in the film early on, which was worth my price of admission.
And then there is the beauty of Zac Efron. In the new age of social justice, some people are just discovering what we’ve always known to be true; that’s it’s disgusting to treat a human being like just a collection of body parts, no matter how much you as the observer enjoy those body parts or would like to see more of them.
Still, it turns out that film is still a visual medium and it favors the beautiful. I’ve not seen the entirety of Mr. Efron’s filmography, but at least in the significant amount of it that I have seen, his characters are meant to look the way he does, and those good looks are noticed, which is great. Hollywood’s habit of casting strikingly beautiful people and then never mentioning their looks is irksome, because although most movies are not meant to represent real life, I personally appreciate when the preternatural beauty of many who achieve stardom is reflected in their casting and storylines as opposed to just accepting it as a given that this is what people look like.
Zac Efron is actually talented, which is his main allure and professional function as an actor, and I will now use that fact to justify my tangential obsession with his smile and his abs and his eyes that contain bright cyan and deep cerulean and every blue in between. I’ve been similarly rapt in watching Gugu Mbatha-Raw, aware of calming my primal urges and borderline deviant desires to focus on her great performances.
With Zac, mine is a true appreciation of his beauty, not a desire to meet him or bang him or anything. It’s important to distinguish visual appreciation from desire to know or be intimate with someone, like the time I tweeted about Matt Bomer’s flawless face and dozens of people for whom I assume 2+2=jellybeans felt the need to reply that I had “no chance” because he’s gay.
I’m not trying to have “a chance” with Zac Efron, I just lament that such a firm line is drawn in the sand when it comes to how much of him we see and that we don’t see him pumping or thrusting in any fashion, when that torso is dangled in front of our faces so. It’s not like he and filmmakers are intentionally not capitalizing on his looks and body, so I very selfishly request MOAR ZAC.
The plot of “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” is right there in the title, taken from a true story no less, and I was hoping that said searching might include bedding a few lasses, even in montage form, as I’ve come to expect from that brand of dudebro commedia. But nah.
It DID, however, feature a massage scene in which a male masseur completely disrobes and oils himself up, unbeknownst to his female client, at the request of a friend to get her to orgasm, and then mounts her in a series of fully nude multi-position edits that I can only assume everyone thought was OK because he says the words “no penetration.” It was pretty awful to have an otherwise enjoyable movie comedically present what is empirically non-consensual sexual activity, taking a sharp left turn to fall short of my already low expectations.
I hear there was an allegedly “raunchy and wild” sex scene between Zac Efron and Chloë Grace Moretz left on the cutting room floor of “Neighbors 2,” though I didn’t see that film after barely making it through the first one. Ms. Moretz is another young performer who has grown into both her significant talents and stunning good looks, and maybe it's because I don't watch porn and rely on hard-R-rated "raunchy comedies" for such imagery that I WANT TO SEE THIS SCENE.
Regarding movie nudity, Mr. Efron recently said he’s “not opposed to anything. But if you're gonna pull your dick out, it'd better be for an Academy Award-winning movie.” Here’s hoping he’s taking a meeting for some Oscar bait film right now.