Fully Frontally Nude
Posted by Neal on August 2, 2007
We went to see The Simpsons Movie (shouldn’t it be The The Simpsons Movie) last week. Of course, since it was a PG-13 movie, we checked the parent-oriented reviews. It seemed like the main thing that bumped it from PG to PG-13 scene was some full frontal nudity, so I figured it was OK. The author of the review had an annoying habit of referring to the relevant scene as the “full-frontal scene.” Is nudity the only thing that can be fully frontal? What about assaults, lobotomies, and snogging?
One spoiler follows.
As it happens, the part with the nudity was the funniest part of the movie. I was laughing out loud during Bart’s entire naked skateboard ride. At first I was laughing because of the way the movie made fun of the cinematic cliche of having one thing or another appear in just the right place to cover the naughty bits. It was funny at the end of the first Austin Powers movie, but funnier here. Then I was laughing because the movie completely deflated the convention (in typical Simpsons fashion) by putting Bart’s genitalia in plain sight. I laughed for the same reason when I watched all those puppies being born in the “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” episode. As each one appeared, the family counted it. “…twenty-three, twenty-four…” and then they cut to a sped-up clock indicating the passage of time, cutting back to the family just in time to hear them shout, “Twenty-five!” I laughed for the same reason I laughed when Homer needed money to feed Stampy the elephant. His thinking was interrupted by kids begging to take a ride on Stampy. “We’ll pay!” they said. “Wait a minute,” Homer muses. “This gives me an idea.” The next scene shows him hammering a “Keep away!” sign into the ground.
After the movie, we were talking about our favorite scenes, and I told Doug and Adam why I liked the nudity gag, and Doug added, “Yeah, and it was really funny that when they finally did show his privates, that’s ALL they showed!”
He was right. What happened was that Bart skated behind a hedge, which was trimmed at the bottom, so that as he skated, the only part of him you saw between the hedge and the ground was his pelvic area, from the front. As I remembered the scene, I realized the significance of this detail:
That was not full frontal nudity! Granted, Bart was fully frontally (and dorsally) nude, but it only counts if you show it. What we saw through the hedge was partial frontal nudity.
Of course, there’d be a lot of misunderstandings if the ratings and reviews were accurate and mentioned only “partial frontal nudity”, but still, does the word full mean nothing? Well, no, I could say that this full is a homonym for the more common word full; this full is an adjective that can modify only one nominal, namely frontal nudity, and means “of the pelvic region.”
The problem, I think, is the assumption that the phrase full frontal nudity was created to convey the idea, “They even show the genitalia,” with the presupposition that if genitalia is shown, everything else is, too. If you throw away the even and the accompanying presupposition, all you’re left with is, “They show the genitalia,” which is clearly the usage with regard to movies and the like.
BTW, I also suspect that there’s been widespread reanalysis of the structure of full frontal nudity. If I were to ask you, “What kind of nudity was in the skateboard-and-hedge scene?” which of these answers would you give?
- fully/partially frontal
- full/partial frontal
If you answered 1, you’re parsing the phrase as it was originally constructed, with the adjective full modifying frontal nudity:
[full [frontal nudity]]
…and when you isolate frontal, you change full to its adverbial form. If you answered 2, you have the reanalyzed parse, with full either acting as an adverb without its usual -ly adverbial ending, or forming an adjective-adjective compound with frontal:
[[full frontal] nudity]
…and no alteration is needed when you get the complex adjective by itself.