Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

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.

7 Responses to “Fully Frontally Nude”

  1. Graeme said

    I thought that the lack of visual context during the “hedge scene” not only made the whole thing funnier, but also should have been what kept the rating from being bumped up to PG-13. It seems that the movie rating folks completely missed the point here, and in the end became part of the joke in the USA.

    Apparently cartoon nudity isn’t that big a deal in Canada, where the rating is PG – G in Quebec, at least according to IMDB.

  2. The Tensor said

    “Is nudity the only thing that can be fully frontal? What about assaults, lobotomies, and snogging?”

    I’ll bet you came up with those by googling, because when I ran snowclone.pll on “full frontal X”, those very examples were near the top of the list of commonly occurring fillers. Some others include feminism, nerdity, genomes, liberty, and honesty.

  3. Neal said

    That’s how I got lobotomy, since I only knew about (unspecified) frontal lobotomies and the icepick-variety prefrontal ones. I figured there must be some other kind, but I didn’t know what it was or what it was called until my Google search. Full frontal assault I’d already encountered in the language, and full frontal snogging I got by seeing the actual book on display in the juvenile fiction section of the library one time. I liked some of the other instantiations of this snowclone that I found during the search, though; I think ~ nerdity was my favorite.

  4. Blar said

    They did non-simultaneously show all of Bart’s nude front in that (hilarious) scene. Is that enough to qualify for literal fullness? If the camera panned over the front of a nude person’s body, so that only part of it was on screen at a time, I think that should count as literal full frontal nudity. So why should it be any different if the non-simultaneity comes from various obstructing objects rather than a moving camera? (I do agree that literal fullness isn’t necessary for people to use the term “full frontal” – the question here is just if there was literal fullness in this case.)

  5. Neal said

    Hmmm. Interesting question. Does anyone know of any movies with a scene of pelvic frontal nudity of an actor, but with at least one part of the actor’s front side that is never shown? Imagining such a movie, would it qualify as having full frontal nudity? Would The Simpsons Movie?

  6. Jen said

    Does “The Crying Game” count? This would be an example of Blar’s non-simultaneous full-frontal nudity. But, Neal, I’m a little confused as to what exactly you’re asking.

    “…with at least one part of the actor’s front side that is never shown?” Do you mean literally *never*, as in “the actor’s chest, abdomen, genitalia and thighs are shown, but you *never* see his face”? Or do you mean that one (or more) body part(s) is obscured (whether by prop or camera movement) at any given moment in the full-frontal scene?

    If the former, I can’t think of a movie that qualifies. If the latter, “The Crying Game” fits the bill nicely…and shockingly.

  7. Neal said

    Jen: Yes, I think The Crying Game would meet my criteria. As for what I meant by never, I guess I didn’t think it all the way through. I didn’t mean that there had to be some body part (on the front side of the body) that we never see through the entire movie; just that we don’t see it in that scene. The more I think about Blar’s comment, the more it seems that Bart’s scene counts as FF nudity after all. Now how about if an actor keeps their shirt on but goes naked from the waist down in a scene? Would that be full(y) frontal?

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