Grim dramas about the intersection between HIV/AIDS, greed, poverty, money and blood. In a prologue and three unconnected parts set in China, Canada and Africa; the prologue is a flashforward to the middle of the third part. (There is a version in which the three parts are intercut together.)
In the prologue, Bongile (Siv Mbelu) is one of a group of Xhosa initiates in coastal South Africa (near a spectacular waterfall) who are ritually circumcised as part of their rite of passage to manhood. The actual circumcisions are heard but not shown. We see the youths coat each other's bodies in mud, and lined up, the circumcisor (Mbutuma Gubo) raises the knife, chops, and says "Now you are a man" to which they respond "Now I am a man" as a blanket is put over them. There are quick shots of the bloody knife and the pile of foreskins. The voice-over (Olympia Dukakis) says how washing the mud off afterward makes them feel as if they have grown a new skin.
In the third part, a novice nun (Choloe Sevigny) says of a man who has raped a small child in the belief that having sex with a virgin will cure him of AIDS, "I think he should be circumcised below the belly button." There is a suggestion that poverty caused one of the intitiates, Bongile's brother Huku (Anele Solwandle), to delay his initiation until after he was old enough to have had sex, and so his blood infected the others.
Circumcision is shown as the cause, not a prevention of HIV infection.
28 Days US, 2000
A comedy with a theme about the jargon and uplifting twaddle of rehabilitation.
A young woman (Sandra Bullock) is spending 28 days in a rehabilitation centre. While eating, a woman finds an eyelash she lost and says
everyone must make a wish.
Roshanda (Marianne Jean-Baptiste): Custody of my children. Gerhardt (Alan Tudyk): Sobriety. Roshanda: Oh come on, baby, we all want that. Gerhardt: My foreskin back. No one asked before they took it; they just took it. They had no right to take it.
The others snicker.
Oliver (Mike O'Malley): Way to share, Gerhardt, way to share.
The others laugh.
Gerhardt is a figure of fun. He is gay, self-absorbed and confused. Earlier, at a therapy session he launched into a monologue about a fork in the road and trailed off into talking about ladles. Later, told he can look for a partner when he can keep a plant alive, he talks to the plant, sketches it - everything except water it - then blames the seller when it dies. The underlying message is that only such a hopeless person could mind being circumcised. Coming right after "We all want that" the line's message is that Gerhard has picked something nobody (in his right mind) could possibly want.
American History X US, 1998
Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) and his kid brother, Danny (Edward Furlong), racist skinheads of Venice Beach, vandalise a grocery story that has been taken over by Latinos and Koreans. They terrorize the Latino employees, calling one "You fucking doggy dick!"
American Pie 5/Presents: The Naked Mile US, 2006
Just before the characters run the mile of the title (a college tradition
after exams), Dwight Stifler (Steve Talley) gives a speech to
three other characters to encourage them. In the background,
Jackson (uncredited): Stifler! You uncircumcised twat!
Stifler: Jackson, you little-dicked motherfucker.
Clearly "uncircumcised" is meant as an insult. Since the literal meaning of "twat" is vulva, the expression is doubly insulting, but literally meaningless.
An American Werewolf in London UK, 1981
Two American students backpacking
across Europe, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne), are attacked by a werewolf on the Welsh moors. Jack is killed (but since this is about werewolves, that's not the end of him) while David is wounded
and taken to a hospital in London. Nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) is looking in on David when
fellow nurse Susan Gallagher (Anne-Marie Davies) enters.
Susan: Is he all right?
Alex: Yes, I should think. He called out just now.
Susan: He's American, you know. Doctor Hirsch is gonna fetch one of them embassy fellas to see him.
Alex: His chart says he's from New York.
Susan: Oh, I think he's a Jew.
Alex: What makes you say that?
Susan: I've had a look.
Alex (chuckling): Really, Susan, that wasn't very proper. Besides, it's common practice now.
Dr. Hirsch (John Woodvine) (entering): Nurse Gallagher, Nurse Price is quite right.
Nurse Price is not quite right. Her "now" and Hirsch's agreement implicitly endorse circumcision by implying it is "modern" - when in fact it became common more than 75 years earlier, and had been largely abandoned in the UK, as any real doctor in London would know.
Antwone Fisher US, 2002
(based on Fisher's autobiography, "Finding
As a boy, Antwone lived with foster parents (called Tate in the film) and was abused physically, emotionally and sexually. As an adult, Antwone (Derek Luke) and his girlfriend Cheryl (Joy Bryant) look at his birth and adoption records in an unsuccessful attempt to find his real parents. The scene lasts just a few seconds but by freeze-framing, it is possible to read:
Mrs. Tate [states?] that child and brother
like to urinate in wash baskets, [?] and
bottles during the day. She added that
bedwetting was no longer a problem.
I had Antwone take a physical and it
was recommended circumcision on
elective admission basis. He was admitted
to University Hospital on [8/6/84?]
and operated on [8/8/84?] and discharged
He was well-prepared for this surgery,
This appears to be an instance of punitive circumcision.
Antwone reads this poem in the film:
Who will cry for the little boy, lost and all alone?
Who will cry for the little boy, abandoned without his own?
Who will cry for the little boy? He cried himself to sleep.
Who will cry for the little boy? He never had for keeps.
Who will cry for the little boy? He walked the burning sand.
Who will cry for the little boy? The boy inside the man.
Who will cry for the little boy? Who knows well hurt and pain.
Who will cry for the little boy? He died and died again.
Who will cry for the little boy? A good boy he tried to be.
Who will cry for the little boy, who cries inside of me?
In the film, Antwone was born in 1976, making him about eight years old in 1984. (In real life, he was born in 1959.)
Comedy about the problematic relationship between a Muslim and his pregnant Jewish girlfriend
There are several references to circumcision, all meant to be funny.
A male-bonding episode between Ismaël (Roschdy Zem, who co-authored and directed), his Jewish partner Milou (Pascal Elbé, another co-author), and their non-denominational French friend has some banter about doing it when he was 3½ ("It was fun; I had a party") compared to eight days ("How cruel, you can't even remember it"). The inconsequential milquetoast pipes in "We don't do it!" but he is ignored.
The idea that any boy finds his circumcision "fun" is grotesque.
Because I Said So USA, 2007
Comedy about Daphne (Diane Keaton) trying to find a boyfriend for the youngest of her three daughters, Milly (Mandy Moore).
Milly is at her new boyfriend's house. While he is in bed in the
next room, she surruptitiously telephones her mother and sisters Mae (Piper Perabo) and Maggie (Lauren Graham). Daphne puts her on speaker phone.
Daphne: So, how's it going?
Milly: It's good, it's good... the only thing is, I think he may have a
hotdog with a bun.
Daphne: Are you having a picnic?
Mae: No! Uncircumcised is back IN.
Maggie: You know, that guy I dated before Derrick, he had a - hmm - and I preferred it, because it was so much more dramatic when it finally made its appearance. You were like, WOW! (runs her
hands down the sides of her head, like a foreskin sliding back to
reveal the glans)
Daphne: Honey, just remember, he's accomplished, he's considerate, and don't forget, you have one breast smaller than the other.
The family is portrayed as not mincing words and
speaking frankly about sexuality (Milly, in one scene, describing an orgasm
to her mother) yet
Milly is not certain about his status.
Maggie doesn't know, or won't use, the word "foreskin".
Daphne (ignoring Maggie's preference) implies she thinks a foreskin
needs to be compensated for, and
is a disfigurement
The film has had sharply mixed reviews.
Beyond Honor USA, 2003
Mohammed Abdel-Karim (Wadie Andrawis) is an Islamic patriarch in Southern California, Sahira (Ruth Osuna) his medical student daugher. "Variety" (Jan 18, 2004) describes the climax, involving female genital mutilation, as "blood-curdling".
Blades of Glory USA, 2007
Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) is an orphan adopted by a famous figure-skating coach who is raising him to be a champion, while Katie Von Waldenburg (Jenna Fischer) is the untalented younger sister of a brother-sister figure skating team. They set her up to spy on Jimmy and his skating partner but Jimmy and Katie become romantically involved, so Katie admits she's been spying, and they are soon telling each other the horrors of growing up in such a competitive sport. Jimmy says his foster-father insisted he be circumcised "to reduce wind resistence."
This might, and should, elicit horror, but also might be taken as light relief, circumcision being "trivial" and the reason given so ludicrous.
Blind Fury USA, 1989
Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer), a blinded Vietnam vet, uses his samurai fighting skills and concealed sword to rescue his old Army buddy, Frank Devereaux.
Nick: Where is Frank Devereaux?
Cobb (Charles Cooper): F.O. Errol Flynn! You know what that means? Fuck off!
(Nick swings his sword and shaves off Cobb's bushy eyebrows. Cobb looks shocked.)
Nick: I also do circumcision.
Makes circumcision trivial (with an underlying castration threat: "Next time it won't just be your eyebrows"), but also implies it is a delicate task.
Brokeback Mountain USA, 2005
Story of love between two sheep-herders in Wyoming, starring Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar and Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist (with Peter McRobbie as John Twist), Directed by Ang Lee ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon").
The short story by Annie Proulx includes a scene where Ennis remembers Jack telling him how his father punished him for uninating on the toilet seat by urinating on him, and how Jack learnt at that moment that he was circumcised, because his father was not, shattering any possibility of a relationship. The scene is not in the film.
But I'm a Cheerleader USA, 1999
Comedy about a schoolgirl (Natasha Lyonne) sent to a "cure" camp after she is suspected of being a lesbian.
In one class, Mary J. Brown (Cathy Moriarty) requires the inmates to say what is the "root" of their homosexuality:
Dolph (Dante Basco): Too many locker-room showers with the ? team.
Jimmy Bosely (Bernie Mac) must get past an Irish guard. He asserts that he too is Irish, despite being black. To prove it, he argues that his family is Irish because they too have gone through "terrible shit" - potato famine, unemployment...and ... circumcision. The guard, puzzled, and with guarded sympathy asks: "Circumcision?"
Bernie later tells of twin boys in his family being born and how they were to be circumcised.
(More detail needed. Circumcision is very rare in Ireland.)
The mentally-ill mother (Angelica Huston) of Victor (Sam Rockwell), a sex-addicted historical village employee, stole him as a baby, but her seeming nurse Paige (Kelly Macdonald) convinces him that his mother fled Italy because she had stolen the foreskin of Christ and used cells from it to impregnate herself, so that he is the Second Coming.
Foreskin cells have no power to impregnate after 2000 years, but with holy relics, all bets are off.
"The story of a Hasidic comedian who has converted three times."
What's striking is that the words of the title are almost never uttered, compared to "Circumcise him".
Circumcision / La Circoncision / Tiyabu Biru Senegal, 1978
Directed by Moussa Bathily, in the Sarakhole language
As an agrarian village prepares for their traditional circumcision ceremony, the village elders realize that they can no longer afford the sacrificial cattle, an integral part of the festivities. Eavesdropping, a group of young boys find out about the dire situation and decide to steal the cattle so the ritual can continue. "Visually poetic, with an inspired documentary ambience, Moussa Bathily’s lone feature film is nostalgic and penetrating."
Tyrone Wilson as Walter Little
"I want a cision..." (based on actual events):
Refreshingly different: man is not circumcised, and resisting it is a token for thinking for oneself.
Coffee, Desserts, Light Fare
Two white South Beach, Florida, gay men find they are involved with the same man. One complains of "too many uncuts", describing them as "disgusting". The other agrees.
In a film made almost entirely by people with Spanish names, this may be to illustrate the men's shallowness.
The Commissar USSR, 1967
(US release 1987)
In a scene filmed through the wheels of a moving cannon carriage, three naked Jewish boys take an outdoor bath in a Ukranian shtetl sometime in the early 1920s. The two older boys appear to be circumcised, while the youngest one, born after the Revolution, is not.
There is no suggestion that the third boy is any less Jewish for being intact.
The Core US, 2003
No direct reference, but two reviewers independently comment:
A vessel in the shape of an uncircumcised phallus penetrates Mother Earth and inseminates her core with nuclear-tipped casings which explode in coordinated waves, thus returning equilibrium to the planet.
The team jumps into their cigar-shaped ship, appropriately titled the U.S.S. Massive Uncircumcised Cock, and so begin their journey to the center of Mother Earth, where they will penetrate her egg-like core to deposit a payload of nuclear-warhead sperm, which will rock her body with coordinated waves of post-coital delight and get her molten juices flowing again, thus saving the planet from a particularly bad case of sexual frustration.
(Both reviewers pan the movie, Ramsey calling it "astonishingly disastrous" and Batz "so bad it hurts".)
Cours Toujours Dad on the Run France, 2000
Jonas's father-in-law tells him that in their North African tradition, Jonas (Clément Sibony) must bury his son's foreskin after the bris. Jonas loses the handkerchief containing the foreskin, and in the rest of the movie he and his best friend search for it around Paris. In the last scene, after the foreskin has been found and buried, Jonas asks his friend where his father buried his foreskin. The friend replies, "C'mon, not all Jewish families circumcise. My family, for example, doesn't bother."
Crash Canada/UK, 1996
Dir: David Cronenberg from the novel by J G Ballard (not the 2004 film of the same title, dir: Paul Haggis)
About people who are sexually turned on by car crashes and the dangers involving them. In an early scene, James Ballard (James Spader) and his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) are having normal sex and talking about Vaughan (Elias Koteas) who has been disfigured in a car accident. Both are attracted to him and talking about him while having sex arouses them. Catherine casually asks "Is he circumcised?" along with other sexual questions about Vaughan.
Ballard is English, Cronenberg Canadian, and he set the film in Canada, so the question need not imply a preference on her part, and the answer is not open-and-shut. One implication is that James has seen Vaughan naked, suggesting a degree of intimacy between them.
Deconstructing Harry US, 1997
Writer Harry Block (Woody Allen) confuses his life with his writing. On one of his rare visits to his son Hilly (Eric Lloyd), at a parents-at-school day, Hilly asks him, "Dad, why doesn't my penis look like yours?" (It is not clear when he might have seen it to notice.) Harry explains, "because your mother and I never had you circumcised," but then embarasses an overhearing mother (Mariel Hemingway) by expanding the topic to the naming of penises. Hilly says he's going to name his penis "Dillinger", which Harry says is "perfect".
In one of his stories, a psychotherapist (Demi Moore) who has had a son by Epstein, a former patient (Stanley Tucci),
Harry (voice over): "as if she had experienced a divine revelation, suddenly became what Epstein referred to, angrily, as 'Jewish with a vengeance'." Helen: I just rue the day that I listened to you and didn't have him circumcised. Epstein: What are you, nuts? Helen: We could still do it. Epstein: No, no! He's too old. Helen: Now he's too old. Epstein: My God, you're like a born-again Christian, except you're a Jew.
She becomes so devout, she says a blessing before giving him oral sex. Soon after, she has an affair with an Orthodox patient.
On the basis of his stories, Harry's sister and brother-in-law accuse him (with some truth) of being self-hating and anti-Semitic.
Circumcision is only a springboard off which characters' attitude to Judaism is bounced - implicitly reinforcing the myth that only Jews circumcise.
Desert Flower US, 1997
Docu-drama about the life of anti-FGC advocate Waris Diri, played by Ethiopian model Liya Kebede.
"... German writer-director Sherry Hormann includes a horrifying, graphic re-enactment of Dirie's genital mutilation as a child, seen in a flashback. ... A love interest (Anthony Mackie) appears briefly, but potential complications, given Dirie's traumatic history, are alluded to but not explored ... rather than examine what might have become of her if she hadn't been so beautiful, the film opts for uplift ..."
It's not a smooth ride to the top of the modeling world, however. One of the most poignant moments occurs when Dirie, not yet comfortable with English, goes to the hospital for an infection arising from her long-ago operation. A British doctor asks a Somali male nurse to translate his instructions to her, but by subtitles we see that the nurse berates her instead "for bringing shame on our people."
Desert Flower is an entertaining film which manages to be more than just a tale of empowerment. It's the story of one woman's triumph over adversity, yes; but it's also a learning experience. One incredible fact: Although the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation has been condemned by the World Health Organzation and the United Nations, it's still commonly performed on as many as 6,000 girls per day.
The Devil's Advocate US, 1997
A lawyer, Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves), defends a man who has slaughtenered a goat
in his apartment. He says other blood sacrifices are acceptable, such as circumcision.
Cross-examining a woman who claims to have had a relationship with a man:
Lomax: Is he circumcised?
Witness: (pause) Uhh..
Lomax: Is he cut or not?
Lomax (forcefully): Do you understand the question?
Lomax: So which is it?
Witness: (silence. Cries)
Her hesitation convinces Lomax that she is lying about having slept with the man. The questioning assumes she is familiar enough with both kinds to be able to tell the difference - by no means likely in the US.
Deuce Bigelow: European Gigolo USA, 2005
(Raunchy comedy, widely panned)
Deuce (Rob Schneider) and his love interest, Eva, (Hanna Verboom) are at
an aquarium, Deuce leaves her alone and a man who
was taunting Deuce earlier makes lewd remarks to
Eva to gross her out, telling her kinky things he wants to do
to her. After some sharp retorts and glares from Eva, he says
"My penis is uncircumcised."
This makes no sense in England and Europe where the film is set and where almost every man is intact: it would be like saying "I have ten toes." To US audiences, however, it is intended as another gross remark. Message: "Intact penises are inherently disgusting."
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels US, 1988
A comedy set in Southern France.
In a museum, Freddy Benson (Steve Martin) takes a quick peek at a nude male statue. He goes "Eeew!" presumably because the statue's penis is intact.
He would go "Eeew!" a great deal in Italy, Greece or Scandinavia.
Drift Germany/ Canada, 2000
Written and directed by Quentin Lee, not to be confused with Drift (Holland, 2001) directed by Michiel van Jaarsveld.
Ryan (Reggie T. Lee) is on the phone with his recent ex, Joel (Greyson Dayne). when he is paged by Leo (Jonathon Roessler), a 20-year-old they'd recently met at a party. He ends the call with Joel and phones Leo.
Leo: Hey. What's up?
Ryan: What are you doing?
Leo: Oh, I was just masturbating.
Ryan: Do you want me to call you back?
Leo: No, I just came.
Leo: I don't know. I was just incredibly horny today.
Ryan: So, how do you masturbate?
Leo: Nothing kinky. You know- Just my hand.
Ryan: Do you use lubricant?
Leo: No, I'm not circumcised. How 'bout you?
Leo (laughing): Umm....This is an incredibly weird conversation.
Ryan: You started it.
Leo: I was just telling you what I was doing.
Ryan (laughing): I was just curious.
A boy called "Smut" carries out little rituals with road kills, indicating his troubled state of mind. He is told by a neighbourhood girl that circumcision is desirable. He asks his father Madgett what it looks like. Madgett, in bed, pulls back the bedclothes and says "see, nothing special" (or words to that effect). (In a generation, circumcision has gone from commonplace to rare.) Smut circumcises himself, further indicating his morbid state of mind.
(Director Peter Greenaway has a particular interest in morbid states of mind.)
East is East UK, 1999
George Khan, a strict Muslim Pakistani (Om Puri) is married to an Englishwoman, Ella (Linda Bassett), in Salford, Manchester. It is 1971. Their six sons and daughter, taking part in a Catholic procession, take a detour to prevent him from seeing them. His eldest son - who proves to be gay - flees from an arranged wedding. His youngest son, Sajid (Jordan Routledge), who always wears a parka with a concealing hood (like Kenny in South Park), easily wins a pissing contest behind the mosque, but his competitors see his intact penis and call a Mullah, who inspects him and complains to his father. George takes him home in shame:
Ella: What the bloody 'ell's 'e done now? George: Done? I tell you what he bloody done, missus. 'E makes a bloody show of me. All the bloody family always makes a bloody show of me. I go to that mosque long time. Now how I looking Mullah in the bloody face? 'Cause your son got bloody tickle-tackle. Ella: What y' goin' on about, y' big daft git, what bleedin' tickle-tackle? George: Mullah sees. All the bloody children in the mosque seeing. Ella: Well they must be seein' things, George, because they were all done, all six of them.
Auntie Annie (Leslie Nicol): She's right, George. George: You're not believe me? You're bloody looking! Ella: Sajid, come 'ere. Sajid (backing away): Get stoofed! Ella: Ay ay, language! I'll stuff you in a minute, you cheeky little bleeder, now get 'ere an get 'em off!
(Sajid whimpers.) Annie: Come on Saj, let me 'ave a look. I've wiped your shitty arse before now. (She looks). Oo, 'e's right, y'know Ella, it's still there!
[An English mother mistaken about her nine-year-old son strains credulity.] George: You sees, is all you bloody fault! Annie: 's nowt to worry about, George, you can still get 'im done. Ella: I know who I should've got done. (Annie snickers) George: No bloody funny, you sees. It's got be fixed! This thing has to be cutting!
(Sajid runs away) Ey! Come 'ere you bastard!
... Saleem: (secretly an art student, drawing an intact penis to show his brothers and sister) We draw 'em all the time at college. ... protects the end of the penis.
... Maneer (the religious one): Foreskins are dirty. Saleem: They wouldn't be there if they were dirty. Meenah: Why do they cut it off? Tariq: It lessens the feeling in y' knob. Maneer: No it doesn't. Tariq: 'Ow would you know? You've 'aven't used yours yet. Maneer: Yes I 'ave.
.... George (calling through a hole in the outside toilet door to Sajid): You can't 'ave this thing, my son. It no belong to you. Not our religion, see. No worry about it. (Cajoling) I buy you nice watch. Ella: Oh why bother with all this now at 'is age, George? George: Your son goin' bloody 'ell with this thing. But we fixes. Ella: 'E's not goin' to 'ell. George: I tell you, missus, it's my 'ouse, an I bloody control it. (They argue.)
... Ella (through the hole): Oh, come on Saj. 'S only a little operation. It won't hurt ...
(The word "hurt" echos as the black hole expands to fill the screen. It contracts as we pull back from Sajid's hood to reveal Sajid in his jacket on a hospital trolley, being wheeled away screaming. Cut to a closeup of Sajid's fly being zipped up. Sajid, now on a hospital bed, groans.)
... George: Is everything all right? Tickle-tackle all gone? Doctor: The circumcision was absolutely fine. [No question about the medical ethics of performing unnecessary surgery on a non-consenting patient.] George: You Indian? Doctor: I'm sorry? Ella (whispers): George! George: Bastard Indian! ... Sajid (producing a watch) This is very special watch. It tells the time in ... Arabic. (Sajid turns away.)
(Sajid has been brought home.) Annie: How's little one doing? Ella: 'S all right. Just a bit sore. Annie: Where's old Bothered-Balls? 'E 'appy now? Ella: Yeah. 'E bought him a new dressing gown, and a watch. Annie: Hmph. Not much of a swap, but it's better than nowt, I suppose. Ella: Annie, do you think I'm a good mother? Annie: No, I think you're a friggin' awful mother. Ella: Would you've put one of your lads through all this at 'is age? Annie: Well you 'ad no choice, love. Ella: I did. I could've put me foot down and said "No." Annie: And given yourself a load of bleedin' grief. It's 'is religion, Ella. And its theirs, you know that. You knew that when you got married.
In the climactic fight between George and his family, Sajid's hood gets torn off. That symbolic circumcision is more of a coming of age than his literal one.
The overall impression is that circumcision is an evil, but only one among many examples of George's self-centredness and cruelty.
Europa, Europa [Hitlerjunge Salomon] France/ Germany, 1990
"The true story of Solomon Perel."
The film opens with the Bris of a German baby, shown in some detail. The baby, Solomon, cries weakly when he is cut. In voiceover, he (Marco Hoffschneider - intact in real life, he wore a circumcised prosthesis for the nude scene) says he can remember his own circumcision. On the eve of his Bar Mitzvah, his family flee the Nazis and emigrate to Poland.
Separated from them, he becomes an unwilling Russian and Polish interpreter for the German army, as Josef "Jupp" Peters. He has to conceal his circumcision from the soldiers of his unit. When he sees hanged Jews, he asks himself, "How could they be so kind to me and treat the Jews so horribly? What set us apart? A simple foreskin?" A friend makes a pass at him while he is off-guard in a bath and discovers his secret, but tells him not all Germans are the same and is killed soon after.
He is sent to a Hitler Youth boarding school deep within the Reich. On the train, a woman has sex with him, but before she exposes him an officer orders her to put the lights out. At the school he checks the locks on the toilet doors and is relieved to learn they wear trunks when showering.
He falls in love with a German girl and, inspired by her poloneck sweater, attempts to restore his foreskin with string, but develops a painful infection. Sex with her would expose him, and she turns to a rival. He has a nightmare in which his family rejects him and he is told Hitler is Jewish too: "That's why he covers it with his hands."
After many close shaves he is saved from the Russians when he is recognised by a Jewish friend in a concentration camp they are liberating. They urinate together in the rain as he embraces his Jewish identity. He emigrates to Palestine and in voiceover says when he had sons, he "barely hesitated" to circumcise them. (The real Solomon Perel appears in the last scene.)
The film strongly reinforces the theme that all and only Jewish males are cicumcised.
Everything Relative US, 1996
Seven women, six of them lesbian, gather for a reunion following the bris of the son of two of them, Victoria (Monica Bell) and Katie (Stacy Nelkin). The mohel (Harvey Fierstein) jokes "Shall we take a bit off the top?" All the women gather round to watch and the scene fades. (Baby is circumcised. He seems unaffected afterwards. He also seems well over eight days old.) Though conventional family structures are challenged, circumcision is not.
Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) leaves her 9-year-old son, Walter, at home. When she returns he is gone. Months later, the LA Police Department - riddled with corruption, cronyism and violence - try to foist off another boy on her as Walter. They make a big thing of it, with newspaper headlines, pictures of the returning boy, etc. She spots the switch immediately, but they insist she take him home on a trial basis.
(Christine comes into the hall and stops in front of the bathroom door. Knocks.)
CHRISTINE: I found you a pair of pajamas. I
bought them for Walter but he didn't like the fabric, so -
(She hears him fall and pushes the door open. Inside the bathroom, she helps "Walter" stand, discreetly turned away from us.
CHRISTINE: Are you all right?
"WALTER": I fell. Stupid tub.
CHRISTINE: Did you hurt yourself? Let me see -
(She looks down, stops suddenly, reacting to something we don't see.
Looks slowly looks up to his face.)
You're circumcised.... Get out. (She takes his hand and marches him out of the bathroom.)
CHRISTINE (to police officer):
He's four inches shorter than Walter. Boys his age don't shrink. If anything, he should be taller.
Maybe your measurements are off. Look, I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation for -
He's circumcised. Walter wasn't.
(Jones glances back, uncomfortable about discussing circumcision
with a woman in public view. He lowers his voice.)
JONES: Mrs. Collins...your son was missing
for four months. For at least part of that in the company of an as-yet
unidentified drifter. Who knows what such a disturbed individual
might have done? He could have had him ... circumcised ... might have -
CHRISTINE: Made him smaller? Captain, please -
They send a doctor over to examine the boy.
CHRISTINE: What about the circumcision?
DR. TARR: Very likely his abductor thought it appropriate. After all, circumcision is hygienically sound. Must have been quite traumatic at the time. No wonder he's submerged the memory.
These two scenes, with their two contradictory reasons for circumcising, are apparently there to indicate how desparate the authorities are to explain away the anomaly; but they are rather like the contradictory reasons given for circumcising babies today. (As the doctor indicates, non-religious circumcision was on its way into fashion in Los Angeles in 1928.)
Fargo US, 1996
Two hookers in Minnesota are asked to describe the two wanted men they had sex with.
Detective (Frances McDormand): I want you tell me what these fellas looked like. Hooker (Larissa Kokernot): Well, the little guy [Steve Buscemi as "Carl Showalter"], he was kinda funny-lookin'. Detective: In what way?
[Showalter has buck teeth, slicked-back hair and a pencil moustache.] Hooker: I dunno. Just funny-lookin'. Detective: Can you be any more specific? Hooker: I can't really say. (inspiration:) He wasn't circumcised. Detective: Was he funny-lookin' apart from that? Hooker: Ya. [Much is made of the Minnesotan "Ya".] Detective: So. You were havin' sex with the little fella then? Hooker: Anh-huh. Detective: Is there anything else you can tell me about 'im? Hooker: Nah. Like I say, he was funny-looking. More than most people even.
This sets up a later scene:
Officer Olsen (Cliff Rakerd): Well, what'd this guy look like, anyways? Mr Mohra (Bain Boehlke): Ohh, he's a little guy, kinda funny-lookin'. Olsen: Aha. In what way? Mohra: Ohh, just a general kinda way.
...where the joke is on us for expecting Mohra to know or say anything about Showalter's circumcision status.
On the positive side, we are invited to consider the hookers ignorant for thinking intactness is "funny-lookin'". The underlying message is that circumcision is too trivial for intelligent people to consider.
Chip (Jason Bateman) is paraplegic - or in some versions, pretending to be. Tom (Zach Braff) married Chip's former girlfriend, but thinks Chip is trying to steal her back. When Chip wheels into a locker room naked, Tom stares and looks shocked. Chip says it's okay to stare - "He likes it."
Later, a woman who works with both tells Tom that Chip is great in bed. Chip and Tom argue and Tom accuses Chip of wanting to "bang my wife with that giant uncircumcised anteater!"
Clearly for Tom, "uncircumcised" is a term of abuse (and a grudge he has been holding against Chip). This undefined "wrongness" of intactness is part of the way the circumcision meme is transmitted.
Flirting with Disaster US, 1996
Comedy about Mel Coplin (Ben Stiller), his wife Nancy (Patricia Arquette) and their incompetent caseworker (Téa Leoni) searching for Mel's birth-parents so they can name their four-month-old son. Along the way they meet Paul (Josh Brolin) who is trying to convince his partner to adopt a child.
Since Paul is gay, the question could arise, "Which father?" The film touches on many issues, apparently to seem trendy, but doesn't engage with any of them.
The Golden Compass US/UK, 2007
Fantasy drama based on "Northern Lights", the first of Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.
In a parallel universe, everyone has a daemon (soul, in the form of an animal). To separate a human from their daemon causes acute pain. Lyra Belacqua (Dakota Blue Richards) is taken to Bolvangar in the Arctic, where the evil and powerful Magisterium performs "intercision" on children, cutting them apart from their daemons and devastating their personalities. In the ultimate operating theatre, cold and sterile, the child and their daemon are put in a cage, a mesh wall is lowered between them, then a sheet of white light slowly comes down the wall. The Magisterium is still perfecting the process of intercision, but the evil Marisa Coulter (Nicole Kidman) says "It's just a little cut". Lyra is saved at the last second from being intercised.
From the screenwriter/director's commentary:
As in the book, there's something quite off about the way that people act at Bolvangar. They're not quite aware of the fact that they're doing something terrible. In fact they're quite proud of themselves and proud of their station, and they're also condescending towards chldren. ... And here comes a hateful lie from the male nurse: "But this is the way that you grow up" and the idea here is that this intercision process that they're inflicting on children is something that they see as good for them, and if only they could perfect the process they would be saving the children from something terrible, which is the infection of Dust [Original Sin].
Austin Powers (Mike Myers) laments that his father (Michael Caine) has never been present at key moments of his life, such as his ordination as Man of Mystery in front of his school.
When I was first baptized,
When I was criticized,
When I was ostracized,
When I was Jazzercised -
Steak 'n' kidney pies -
When I was modernized,
When I was circumcised,
Daddy wasn't there.
This makes little more sense sense in context, but the impression is of a list of unpleasant experiences.
Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces
Tunisia/France/ Italy, 1990
A coming-of-age film set in Tunisia.
Noura (Selim Boughedir), 12 years old, is lying on his bed while his little brother, aged about three, is being circumcised. The sequence jumps from one boy to the other. The little boy is crying as he is put on a table and circumcised. His older brother lies clutching his crotch in agony as he hears his brother's screams.
In Lithuania, in 1944, a Nazi soldier, Vladis Grutas (Rhys Ifans) and his men have captured a peasant.
Vladis: Are you a gypsy?
Peasant : No, sir.
Vladis (Sniffing him as a dog would): Are you a Jew?
Peasant: No, sir.
Vladis: Why don't you show us your dick? (Vladis and his men laugh loudly, but they are distracted by a loud explosion)
In Lithuania in 1944, none but a Jew would be circumcised, but the point of the scene is to show Vladis' contempt.
Harry and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo US, 2008
The girlfriend of one of the boys is off in Amsterdam and the other taunts him that she is "probably having it off with some European guys" and that "she probably has a couple of uncircumcised dicks in front of her face right now".
Though of Korean and Indian origin, their thought-patterns are thoroughly U.S. They do not, however, suggest that the girlfriend finds foreskins disgusting.
Harry and Max US, 2004
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: Harry (BRYCE JOHNSON of WB’s "Popular" & MTV’s "Undressed"), aged 23, is a former boy band idol who is watching his younger brother Max (COLE WILLIAMS of ABC’s "8 Simple Rules…For Dating My Teenage Daughter"), aged 16, follow in his footsteps. Harry escorts Max on a long-promised camping adventure to the San Gabriel mountains above Los Angeles but things quickly turn serious as the boys discuss Harry’s contradictory relationship with their family. Max’s longing to connect with Harry both physically and emotionally grows even more, wanting to bring stability to Harry’s life. In an effort to create a type of alternative family for his brother, Max goads Harry to rekindle his affections for his former girlfriend, Nikki (RAIN PHOENIX of "O" and "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"). Back from the weekend, Max realizes that he must redefine his relationship with his brother, and that only by setting boundaries can the boys grow into adulthood together.
On the camping trip, Harry complains bitterly of having been circumcised at birth. Max sympathizes completely, but the way the issue is brought up ("I don't know why Mom and Dad had this done to me") suggests that at some time in the seven years between the sons' births, the parents saw the
light, and Max is intact. Max also seems to conduct his life with more ease and honesty, and this is written into the film as consistent with his being more comfortable with his whole body.
A remarkable departure from the usual US pattern.
Hello Goodbye France/Italy/Israel, 2008
Gisèle (Fanny Ardant) converted to Judaism when she married Alain (Gerard Depardieu), a secular Jew.
"She decides that only a trip to Israel will inject meaning and renewal into their bourgeois lives. After a holiday there, ... they pack up their apartment and move. ... Gisele takes to their new home ... and falls for a young rabbi ... But by the time Alain submits himself, at his wife's behest, to the mohel's knife -- yes, that would be for a circumcision -- all one can say is "oy."
...As he was never circumcised, the first step is to be circumcised. He is horrified but eventually acquiesces. The doctor pronounces that in 35 years he is the first adult on whom he has removed the foreskin. [In Israel, with many immigrants from communist regines, that is very unlikely.]
This is mildly anti-circumcision, if his willingness to undergo it is an indication of his weakness.
Horrible Bosses US, 2011
Comedy about three friends who conspire to murder their awful bosses
Dale Arbus, a dental assistant (Charlie Day) is sexuallly harassed by his boss Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston). While they're working on an unconscious patient, she purposely sprays the crotch of Dale's scrubs with a dental water squirter. Dale jumps up from his stool in shock and dismay.
Dr. Harris: Oooh, I think we can make out the outline of our little friend there. Shabbat shalom, somebody's circumcised.
This implies "Circumcision is Jewish", and "Shabbat shalom" is a Sabbath greeting, not for working hours - but such a person may be careless with facts.
Hostel US, 2005
Two American students, Paxton (Jay Hernandez) and Josh (Derek Richardson), and an Icelandic friend, Oli (Eythor Gudjonsson), are backpacking across Europe in search of women. Soon after they arrive at a hostel, the three go to a sauna, where there are two topless women. They whisper hellos, then there is a lull. Oli breaks the silence:
Oli (jumps up): I'm so happy I shaved my balls. (laughter) What? I have the smoothest balls in Iceland. (takes off his towel, stands up and shakes his genitals in Josh's face) Do you want to see?
Josh: No, no,... You're not... no... I'm good, I'm good. Put your anteater away. It's totally creepy.
Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova, to Josh): You're not from Iceland, no?
Josh: No, f no, American. Yeah, unlike him I had my foreskin removed at birth. Hygiene and - am I talking? Ummhuh, I'm Josh.... (Natalya looks at him in disbelief throughout.)
Apparently just another gratuitous swipe at intactness, though Natalya's line makes it clear she is familiar with Icelandic foreskins, and has no problem with Oli's.
Calling a foreskin an "anteater/elephant's trunk/Shar-pei" is just a way of trying to make one's own discomfort seem objective. And that discomfort ultimately derives from fear of facing one's own loss. If a body part looks (a little) like some other natural object, what of it?
House Calls US, 1978
Comedy about a romance between a doctor in a run-down hospital and his patient.
Ann Atkinson (Glenda Jackson) lists the operations from which Dr. Charley Nichols (Walter Mattahu) makes money. One is circumcison. Charley says, "Only for boys."
In 1978, it could be considered funny to refer to female genital cutting because it was so obscure as to be unthinkable.
Jennifer's Body US, 2009
High school horror comedy: an ambitious band sell their soul to the devil by sacrificing a virgin, but their plans go awry because Jennifer (Megan Fox) is not a virgin and she comes back as a demon-possessed killer.
Best friends Jennifer and Needy (Amanda Seyfried) go to a local
bar. There Ahmet (Aman Johal) is sitting alone.
Needy: Hey, there's Ahmet, the exchange student from India.
Jennifer: I wonder if he's circumcised. I've always wanted to try a sea
A sea-cucumber Perhaps the left end looks something like an intact penis (covered with warts), but equally the right end looks like a circumcised penis.
Even though she's "always wanted to try" one, "sea cucumber" suggests the rarity of, and the disdain usually reserved for, the intact penis in the US, but Ahmet is a Muslim name, so he is almost certainly circumcised. It's not clear whether Jennifer would know this.
Message: "The foreskin is disgusting"
Jungle2Jungle US, 1997
There is mention of circumcision of the native people of the Amazon. (They do not practise it.)
Just Married US, 2000
Tom Leezak (Ashton Kutcher) is in the bath when Father Robert (George Gaynes) walks in.
The priest sits on the edge of the bath, looks at Tom and asks "You're
not Catholic, are you?" Tom explains later that he's half Jewish,
the reason he is circumcised.
This reinforces the myth that "Only Jews circumcise." In fact many boys have been circumcised "because he's Catholic".
Keeping The Faith US, 2000
In the opening sequence, narrated by priest Brian Finn (Edward Norton), he and his friend Rabbi Jacob Schram (Ben Stiller) have parallel problems "coming to grips with the practical aspects of our jobs".
His robe catches fire and he strikes a parishioner in the head with his incense burner, and has to put himself out by sitting in the font, while Jake faints during a Bris. The two scenes are intercut, but after the establishing longshot we see Jake's reaction, the baby's trusting face and the mohel's hands reaching for glittering instruments. We see Jake start to fall and hear a single "snip" sound and the baby crying. The following long shots show all but the mohel run to attend Jake.
The focus is entirely on the man - though his reaction speaks volumes about the reality of the unseen circumcision. That the scene is played for laughs is somewhat sick. Imagine if the baby were a girl....
The Killer Who Never Kills Taiwan, 2011
Comedy/thriller about a compassionate trainee assassin who fakes his victims' deaths for them.
"Wan & Lee only rarely gets their audience to laugh. For example, one of Ouyang's targets is a creepy surgeon who specializes in circumcision. Not only does Ouyang discover that the guy keeps all the removed foreskins in a gallery of test tubes, but our hero actually concedes to part company with his own in the name of undercover surveillance. This sequence has the potential for comedy gold, especially considering how events play out, but in Wan & Lee's hands it barely raises more than a smile."
It's progress that the surgeon is "creepy", but as usual, the loss is trivialised.
Kinsey US 2004
Biopic about the famous mid-20th century sex researcher, played by Liam Neeson.
Early in his career, Kinsey gives a talk about sex to married and senior students at the University of Indiana, illustrated with pictures of an erect penis that is clearly circumcised, even though Kinsey himself was, and most of his students would have been, intact at the time, before 1940.
Late in the film, his wife Mac (née Clara Macmillan, played by Laura Linney) finds him sitting on the edge of the bath reading letters from people with unhappy sexual histories. Drops of blood are on the floor between his feet.
Mac: What's that blood? Kinsey: I punctured my foreskin. Mac: Why? Kinsey: People do all sorts of things to themselves and I wanted to see what they were experiencing. I did not find it particularly pleasurable.
This apparently follows "Sex, the Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. Kinsey" (1998) by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy.
But in "Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life" (1997), James H. Jones puts it differently: "On one occasion when his inner demons plunged him to new depths of despair, Kinsey climbed into a bathtub, unfolded the blade of his pocketknife, and circumcised himself without the benefit of anesthesia."
Knocked Up US 2007
Romantic comedy about chalk-and-cheese Ben Stone (Seth Rogan) and Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) falling in love during Alison's pregnancy after a one-night stand.
While awaiting the birth, Allison's sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) asks her husband about Ben's long-bearded friend, Martin (Martin Starr).
Debbie: "Is he Ben's rabbi? Is he the one that cuts the penis?"
Implying she mistakenly believes
If Ben is Jewish, the baby is Jewish;
the rabbi does it
soon after birth; and
(implicitly) only Jews circumcise
- all common enough mistakes.
Krippendorf's Tribe US 1998
Anthropologist James Krippendorf (Richard Dreyfuss) has misused grant money, so he needs to fake some anthropology. He uses his three kids, Shelley, Mickey, and Edmund, to help him mock up a documentary on the "Shelmickedmu" tribe. They slap together several tapes, by splicing actual footage of a tribe with images of the four of them mucking about their backyard with makeup and tribal-type clothing. In one scene the eldest son "circumcises" the younger son with an axe. (One reviewer on the Internet Movie Data Base calls this "the only thing worth seeing in the movie." Another loved "all the social commentary allusions to our own tribal way of living.")
The moral seems to be that circumcision is primitive and funny when other people do it.
Laughter on the 23rd Floor US (TV), 2000
A group of TV comedy writers is joking about Catholicism, the Pope, communion.A Catholic Writer: Take communion. It beats circumcision. A Jewish Writer: What would you know about circumcision? [To the others:] Have you ever seen this guy in the bathroom? He pees straight up.Since he has the last laugh, he - and circumcision - wins the exchange, but cutting a boy's genitals in case he "pees straight up" comes close to being the silliest circumstition yet.
Let It Be Io Sono Con Te
Story of Jesus from a woman's perspective, filmed in Tunisia.
Includes close-up of a (probably simulated) circumcision (omitting the tearing of the foreskin from the glans), at 2:47 in this clip. (NSFW)
The Life of David Gale US, 2003
David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is a philosophy professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who knows a lot of trivia. Berlin (Rhona Mitra) a failing graduate student, propositions him, saying she'll "do anything for the grade." He leads her on a little, then says, "The one thing you can do for the grade is - study."
Later, at a party, Berlin, who has been expelled, accosts David:
Berlin: "Has anyone ever told you that after you were circumcised
they threw away the wrong part? David: Shmuck. Berlin: Excuse me? David: Schmuck. That's what they call what is left over from circumcision, schmuck.
David shows off his knowledge of minutiae - wrongly: schmuck is Yiddish for penis (from the German for ornament). If Berlin were British like the actress who plays her, she would not assume that Gale was circumcised. [This dialogue is slightly different in Wikiquote]
The Lost Embrace El Abrazo Partido
Argentina / France / Italy / Spain, 2004
Drama about Ariel Makaroff (Daniel Hendler), a young Jewish man in Argentina whose father left him and his mother to fight in Israel.
He views a video, transferred from film, showing his own circumcision in some detail, and comments "I look like I'm smiling, but I'm really crying." [Audience members are inclined to laugh nervously at this.]
In the synagogue, his rabbi shows him his parents' get (bill of divorcement) and he sees it has been slashed.
Ariel: Is that intentional?
Rabbi: It's a symbol of the marriage. It means no one can ever use it again.
Ariel: Ah! Like circumcision.
The rabbi does not reply.
The date of the divorce was earlier than Ariel's birth, and when his father returns (with an arm missing), Ariel exclaims, "You cut the wee-wee of a newborn knowing that you cannot stay?!"