Golden Globes: Censors have no problem with penis jokes


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Golden Globes viewers didn’t hear a bleeped four-letter word that Meryl Streep let slip from the awards stage. But they had no trouble making out another off-color reference: the one to the male anatomy.

The evening featured at least four invocations of the most private of masculine parts. Ricky Gervais cited the size of his own, or lack thereof. Seth Rogen described his unit’s public engorgement at its proximity to Kate Beckinsale. Tina Fey and Jane Lynch high-fived to a joke about one.


And George Clooney conjured up an image of Michael Fassbender golfing in what was arguably the best of the frontally focused jokes. (The female anatomy got some, if not equal, time as Ricky Gervais made his Jodie Foster ‘Beaver’ joke.)

No censor came in to mute the presenters as they made these quips because, while profanity like s--- is considered verboten by the FCC, ‘penis’ and references thereto are not regarded as expletives. So the speakers made them with impunity.

Still, it was an odd spectacle, as though the all the presenters had gotten together and decided to make this the year of the male member. (They didn’t.)

Penis references didn’t begin with the Globes, of course. Once considered the last taboo for mainstream movies, the unspoken ban on male full-frontal was unzipped four years ago when Jason Segel flashed his package in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” Sacha Baron Cohen would soon up the ante, as it were, in “Bruno.” And this season, Fassbender’s prodigiousness was on full display in the admittedly NC-17-rated shame

Citing penises isn’t just a clever way to avoid broadcast-television censors--It’s a way to seem subversive without actually undermining any holy grail. Fey and Lynch almost seemed to acknowledge it when they made their joke, about Thomas Jane being hung in “Hung,” then exclaimed “penis joke” to each other and slapped hands.

All of that ensures the jokes will keep going. In the age of the Gervaised Globes and the restless media that covers them, you never know what kind of coverage to expect. But one thing is certain: There will always be exposure.



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--Steven Zeitchik