Monday, June 9, 2014

3 Short Paragraphs (no pun intended): Unhung Hero

2013, d. Brian Spitz

Patrick Moote, actor and stand-up comedian, became internet famous in one of the most embarrassing and devastating ways. He proposed to his then-girlfriend in a very public setting, on a kiss-cam at a UCLA basketball game, and was shot down. I can't really even bring myself to watch the video, which has over 5 million hits on youtube (at least from where I pulled the one below, and many more hits elsewhere around the site and internet). But this film isn't about that devastating moment, it's about the fallout in Moote's life after that upsetting and very public failure. The reason he was rejected was (he tells us, second-hand) was due almost entirely to his small penis size... something that has mentally crippled him, occupying far too much of his time and attention. This film follows three threads: the first being Moote's emotional journey, the second his first-hand experimentation with penis enhancers, and third a look at the history of global culture and the penis.

The hardest part of the film to take is Moote's "character story", which sees him visiting family and friends, shanghaiing ex-girlfriends and talking about his penis size in a way that doesn't always seem genuine. Particularly there's a "meet-cute" element to the film which seems somewhat put-on. The conversations seem to be reflective, rather than reactive, as if revisiting a conversation and pretending it's the first time it's been had. It's clear Moote's been dealing with this issue for some time (rather than just starting to deal with it after the failed engagement). But these awkward elements certainly reveal some truths in Moote's outlook on life, and one's empathy can certainly see the pain in his eyes, particularly a desire to change his situation. Moote winds up investigating "size enhancers" (pills, pumps, injections, surgeries, "exercises") Morgan Spurlock-style only to either chicken out or learn that they're not what they're sold to be (and in some cases may be counterproductive). This is a rather fascinating, first-hand examination backed up with some therapist and medical opinions, really dispelling the myths of the most infamous products and casting a wary eye at some of the others. The journey through penile culture in history and other civilizations (the Korean penis park was something else) was equally fascinating, though not directly illuminating on the whole "size" issue. I think a deeper look into the heterosexual female and gay male perspective on penis size would be fascinating, as the broad range of opinions weren't collected into any coherent data. In the film's most daring and ultimately shocking sequence, Moote even visits a dojo where they practice the martial art (?!) of lifting weights with your penis.

This film will prove an uneasy journey for most men, and perhaps somewhat frustrating to many women. For men, this kind of frank talk about our frank and beans isn't something that's generally dealt with, certainly not with any honesty. Nobody ever wants to admit they are below-average in size, and almost every guy would probably like to be bigger than they are. A meeting with the current record holder for largest penis says that having something that big isn't all it's cut out to be either (though his complaints and insecurities seem to be far less). As pundit (and sex columnist) Dan Savage comments in the film, it's a product of the porn culture which has penetrated society incrementally for the past forty years, putting some of the societal pressure of "measuring up" on men that women have been facing in "beauty standards" by advertising and popular culture for even longer. For women, it may prove genuinely interesting as insight into the male psyche and how much stock we put into our penis size (it's called our "manhood"), but for some women it may kick in a schadenfreude reflex, or at least reduced sympathy given how much focus and attention they're pressured to pay to every part of themselves. Some women may just not see what all the fuss is about.