Maybe the World Wasn’t Ready for the Talking Penis From “Pam & Tommy”

The new Hulu series features an extensive conversation between Tommy Lee and his talking penis

Tommy Lee (played by Sebastian Stan) gazes down upon his talking penis in this screenshot from Hulu's "Pam & Tommy"
Tommy Lee gazes down upon his talking penis.

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re currently in a bit of a golden age of full-frontal male nudity, whether we asked for one or not. Netflix’s Sex/Life set the tone back in July, when a lingering glance at a particularly well-endowed penis made the show’s now-infamous shower scene one of the most talked-about TV moments of the summer. At the time, I praised Sex/Life‘s big penis moment for shifting the male gaze to the male body for a change, providing what then seemed like a refreshing, even rare display of full-frontal male nudity in mainstream entertainment.

Since then, however, naked penises have popped up in seemingly every major it-series of the moment, flopping out unannounced for a thwarted bathroom floor blow job or pissing all over a foyer in front of the children it sired. From the Sex and the City reboot to Euphoria, bare-ass (though usually prosthetic) penises won’t let me watch TV in peace.

Now, of course, Hulu’s Pam & Tommy has delivered the TV penis to trump all TV penises, the latest in prosthetic, on-screen penis technology: a talking penis. The buzzy new series — which chronicles (and arguably re-exploits) the infamous leak of Pamela Anderson’s sex tape — features an extended conversation between Tommy Lee and … his naked penis. And when I say conversation, I mean conversation. This is no brief monologue where the Mötley Crüe star gives his little man a pep talk or something; this is a nearly three-minute stretch of dialogue in which Tommy Lee, played by Sebastian Stan, tells his penis that he’s in love with Pamela Anderson, and the penis tries to talk him out of it.

That’s right, the penis talks back, and yes, it even has its own voice actor, one Jason Mantzoukas. Not only do we hear the penis — and of course see it in all its naked glory — but thanks to a complex system of puppeteers and animatronics, we also see the penis move when it talks. The penis pricks up its head and makes full-body gestures as it tries to warn its owner of the dangers of monogamy. “Fuck. We’ve been down this road before, and it never ends well!” the penis warns, gesticulating vehemently. It is, truly, like nothing we have ever seen on mainstream television before. “I think it might be a first, it might possibly be,” executive producer Rob Siegel told Variety.

However, it may be a first for which the world was simply not ready. While the creative minds behind the talking penis scene say it was inspired by Lee’s own use of his penis as a speaking character in his 2004 memoir Tommyland, it seems reading about a talking penis and seeing one on your own TV screen are two very different experiences. Many a discomfited viewer has taken to Twitter since the series’ premiere to air their grievances about the talking penis, which some have likened to the stuff of nightmares.

I will admit, with some regret, that I, too, did not enjoy the talking penis. While usually I try to champion boundary-busting displays of sexual expression in mainstream media, Pam & Tommy‘s talking penis scene was three minutes of straight cringe, and this goofy foray into fantasy felt like a bit of a tonal departure from the rest of the series. Still, as someone who is actively opposed to censorship, I respect Pam & Tommy‘s right to unleash a talking penis upon the world, even if I personally found it pretty disturbing.

It’s the dawn of a new era in TV nudity, and the plethora of penises that have graced our TV screens in recent months signals, if nothing else, some promising forward movement towards freedom of sexual expression in mainstream media. Sometimes, however, I’ll admit that part of me does yearn for the days when I could simply watch TV in peace without a giant prosthetic penis popping out at me like a jump-scare, or worse yet, talking to me.

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