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Glass, L. (2001). After the Phallus. Am. Imago, 58(2):545-566.

(2001). American Imago, 58(2):545-566

After the Phallus

Loren Glass

Most American filmgoers will remember the critically acclaimed “gross-out” comedy There's Something About Mary for the harrowing scene in which the awkward adolescent played by Ben Stiller painfully entangles his genitals in his fly. The image is memorable not only because of its gruesome detail, but because it provides a particularly hysterical instance of the American film industry's more general recent preoccupation with the penis. A new breed of young male directors has collectively assaulted the traditional protocols of how the male sexual organ is represented in mainstream film, thereby helping to inaugurate an entirely new sex/gender system in American public culture. Examples abound. American Pie, director Paul Weitz's affectionate send-up of contemporary teenage romance, opens with its male protagonist caught masturbating in front of the television by his parents; later in the same film, the same teen miraculously finds himself cavorting with a Swedish exchange student while his entire high school watches through a video-internet link-up: the young man ejaculates prematurely not once, but twice. Earlier in the same film, the same boy, after being told that “third base” feels like “warm apple pie,” is caught by his father with his mother's homemade pie impaled on his penis.

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