(CNN)People are talking a lot about Chris Pine's new film "Outlaw King," in which he has apparently done some very decent acting, portraying Scottish king Robert the Bruce. But people are taking more note of his penis, which is fleetingly visible in the film, than his overall performance.
The other reasons you should care if Chris Pine gets naked
The movie -- which will arrive on Netflix on November 9 -- premiered at the Toronto Film Festival to mixed reviews. It currently boasts a 46% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, but a sturdy 95% "want to see" score. It's not hard to intuit what might have inspired such curiosity.
But Pine's reasonable irritation at the focus on his body rather than his work over the last week (familiar no doubt to every women ever), and the exaggerated furor around his stripping off ought to be read as a symptom of injustice for all genders in the movie industry.
The news of Pine's full frontal scene has sparked a Twitter storm, a media frenzy, and showers of praise. Pine himself has been good-humored -- if sometimes a little frustrated -- in his responses to the fuss. Asked on the BBC's "Graham Norton Show" whether he was keeping track of the comments, he replied: "Oh yeah, they're um, effin' brutal" (they really aren't).
After acknowledging that his nudity "got a lot of attention," Pine shifted focus toward actress Florence Pugh, who portrays Elizabeth de Burgh in the film. "She's a powerhouse, she's already done incredible work and I'm sure will do more...[she] bares everything in the film, and no one talks about it," he observed.
(He's right, they really haven't.)
He continued, asking a question with no easy answer: "So, does no one talk about the fact that she bares everything because it's expected of a woman to do that in film? Or that there's a sense of decorum that one wouldn't say that to a woman about having done that?... It's an interesting double standard that women are expected to do it and that's normal. Why is (it) not then for men?"
The answer to these questions is complicated, but some of it is obvious. For a start, Pine is absolutely right: There is a double standard. Female nudity is nearly three times as common as male in Hollywood films, according to an annual report on women and girls in California. For many female actors -- 26% in the top 100 grossing movies in 2014 -- nudity is all in a day's work. Yet male anatomy, which sees only a fraction of the screen time, seems to receive disproportionate attention.
When male actors take their clothes off it is a novelty, the topic of Internet giggles and interview quips. Richard Gere is often revered as the "king" of male full-frontal, his official coronation generally agreed to be his turn in 1980's "American Gigolo." Sharon Stone could lay reasonable claim as the most commented-on flasher ever for her famous interrogation scene in "Basic Instinct," which came out in 1992.
But by and large, naked women -- and especially exposed breasts -- are par for the course, and the limited noise they stir focuses on women's individual figures, rather than the fact of the nudity itself.
There is sometimes a media uproar when women take their clothes off in movies, if their nudity forms part of particularly explicit scenes. When "Blue is the Warmest Color," a French coming-of-age love story between a school girl (played by Adele Exarchopoulos) and a slightly older woman (Lea Seydoux) debuted at Cannes in 2013, it received rapturous reviews. In an unprecedented move, the jury for the prestigious Palme D'Or gave the award to both the lead actors and its director, Abdellatif Kechiche.
One of the most remarked-upon elements of the movie was the graphic sex scenes between the two women -- one of whom, Adele, was only 18 at the time of filming. After it was released, Lea Seydoux was quoted saying that working on the scenes, the longest of which was shot over 10 days, had been "humiliating," and that she had "felt like a prostitute."
Both actors were frank in their descriptions of Kechiche's apparently brutal directing style. He responded with outbursts in the press, exclaiming "how indecent to talk about pain when doing one of the best jobs in the world!'', and calling Seydoux "arrogant" and "spoilt." But for all his outrage latterly, he had enjoyed absolute control on set. Therein, it seems, lies some of the explanation to Chris Pine's questions.
The amount of nudity there is on screen, whose nudity that is and how it is portrayed -- after actors' personal caveats are (hopefully) accounted for -- is decided by the filmmakers. Last year, according to the organization Women and Hollywood, 92% of top-grossing films were directed by men. When women direct, they are much more likely to employ female writers and editors than men are. Without women on the creative side, it is considerably less likely that the female gaze will be taken into consideration.
"I used to hate nudity in films," actor, writer, producer and director Anna Biller told i-D magazine last year. "It seemed that having nudity in every movie was just a way to make the male hero a sexual conqueror and to cement the intended audience as male."
Biller, who wrote, produced, and directed 2016's "The Love Witch," and starred in 2007's "Viva" (which she also wrote, produced and directed), pointed out that women's roles are constrained by bad sexist writing, which she says relegates actresses to "either nagging wives or fantasy girlfriends, and the nudity made things that much worse."
It is notable that Chris Pine has also referred fondly to being "objectified for a day" during his role in last year's "Wonder Woman," which was directed by Patty Jenkins. In a gentle comic scene, the hero -- played fantastically by Gal Gadot -- walks in on Pine, who plays World War I soldier "Steve," bathing naked in a pool. They talk for a few minutes and before she leaves she, who has never met a man before, asks him whether he is a generally "typical" example of his sex. He replies a little bashfully that he is "above average". She is in charge, but his contribution is sweet, and in no way demeans either the character or actor.
Discussing the filming with ETOnline later, Chris Pine reflected: "This happens to women so, so much, it's about time. While it was fun, I think it's the most compassionate I've felt toward women on what they may feel being sidelined or made to feel less important."
The democratization of nudity on-screen would be hugely advanced by moves toward equality off-screen. More women on and off camera, and heightened respect for all actors who take their clothes off in the line of duty would doubtless go a long way to redressing the balance. So to speak.