“2021 was the year of the penis.”
Autonomous F/X special makeup effects designer Jason Collins recently spoke with Thrillist for their article How the Sausage Gets Made: Inside Hollywood’s Prosthetic Penis Craze.
While casual male nudity in film and TV is nothing new, more prominent appearances of bare penises are experiencing an upturn of late. “I do think that the culture and the zeitgeist are changing with regards to what’s taboo and what’s not taboo anymore. Frankly, it’s about time for all that,” says Collins.
Productions such as Pam and Tommy, Euphoria, And Just Like That, The White Lotus, The Righteous Gemstones, P-Valley, Watchmen, The Boys in the Band, and Normal People all presented proudly naked phalluses with varying degrees of stage presence and frequency. And as evidence of this surging demand, Collins’ most recent makeup effects work on Pam and Tommy is only one of 15 separate groin appendages that he and his team created in the last 12 months.
In this arena where more male organs are suddenly attaining more onscreen exposure, prosthetics are king. When the option is available, more filmmakers and actors are choosing to build the perfect penis rather than provide their natural equipment. Collins says, “Any more tools you can give an actor to play with—no pun intended—is an asset to what their performance brings.” Prosthetics help achieve the exact look and desired effect, while also providing a sense comfort to those actors who do not wish to expose themselves, or consider the item part of the character; merely a costume piece.
But adept custom penis designers are hard to come by. That’s where Collins steps in to fill the void—and size is not all that matters. The Autonomous F/X team explores many technical aspects and considerations with cast and crew before undertaking any build. There are degrees of realism or absurdity, length and dimension, firmness or flaccidity, actor body type and personal body image, skin tone, hairy testicles or not hairy (yep), even on-demand urinary functionality and other “animated” capabilities. Each to be discussed and planned. Each requiring a hands-on approach and skillful application. Plus, a tacit professionalism all in the pursuit of presenting the perfect onscreen penis.