There must have been others before it, but the first famous penis I remember belonged to the lead singer of indie pop group Of Montreal. I was browsing Pitchfork’s news feed in my RSS reader, as any good sophomore at a liberal arts school does, when I saw this headline: “NSFW: Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes NAKED!” The body of the post described a 21+ show in Las Vegas at which the singer disrobed on stage: “These photos can be seen after the jump. WARNING: THEY ARE NOT SAFE FOR WORK.”
I remember wondering how the sash stayed on. Minutes later, Kevin, who lived down the hall at the time and who is also straight, walked into my dorm room.
“Did you see that Kevin Barnes thing?” he asked.
“Did you click through?”
“I don’t know what I was expecting.”
I’m one of eight people under 25 who actually watched Conan’s Tonight Show almost every night on broadcast television. During a painfully unfunny interview* with Jamie Foxx, Conan asked about a naked picture of the actor that was circulating on the web. Then they cut to a censored picture, then back to Foxx, who was grinning like an imbecile. I then realized how easy it had become for any celebrity to release a nude pic, make up some ridiculous excuse about people who “hang out on your internet and grab the picture,” and get a temporary boost in stature. And if it’s a guy, everyone basically applauds him and he suffers no backlash whatsoever. It’s like people can’t see how obviously they’re being manipulated.
*I guess people feel sympathy for Conan now, but mostly no one watched his show because it wasn’t very good.
This one makes me kind of sad. I heard all the jokes about the seven-foot NBA center’s proportionally gigantic penis, just like everyone else in America, and eventually I followed some link that took me to the shot, which he had taken for a girlfriend a year-and-a-half before it was released. Looking at someone so tall is interesting in its own right; his dimenions seem almost average until you notice the sink in the photo barely comes up to his knees.
But if Jamie Foxx embraced the attention his image received, Oden had the opposite reaction. His body already received public scrutiny for its tendency to break down during the NBA season, and Oden reportedly felt a great deal of shame about the picture. His (unnecessary) apology video is painful to watch, and it’s clear that Oden isn’t in on any of the jokes. According to Blazer’s Edge,
A media member asked Oden if perhaps he shouldn’t feel so unhappy about the pictures because ‘a lot of people are impressed.’ Oden tilted his head to the side, shrugged his shoulders and chose his words carefully but seemed slightly rattled by the question.
It says something unfortunate about the state of American sports that we won’t let a thoughtful athlete out of the frat-boy mentality that hangs over the culture. I’m still hearing Oden jokes today.
I’m slightly less disturbed by the Favre jokes. But I don’t think it’s his penis. Here’s why: Gawker media has no editorial standards.* They’ll publish anything as long as it has a hint of truth (see: the original reporting on the Favre/Sterger story) and they’ll lie through their teeth if it suits their interests (see: their explanation of how they procured a prototype iPhone 4). So why, in the video, when they show a grainy picture of a penis, do they use the caption “is this Brett Favre’s cock?” If they could actually prove, or even kinda prove, that it was his, they would definitely say “this is Brett Favre’s cock.” You’re not fooling me, Deadspin.
Does anyone even care about this? I looked at it for about two seconds, decided that it was in fact a penis, and closed the tab. But even people who are a priori interested in penises didn’t seem excited this time. It’s not even one of the top ten Kanye news stories this year.
So does this mean the show’s over? Are these sad few inches of shaft a dull coda to the underwhelming celebrity penis photo era? I doubt it. Somewhere in some hotel room, there’s a B-lister on the wane, with his pants down and cell phone out, waiting for the people who hang out on his internet to pay attention again.