Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the Feb. 26 episode of HBO’s Girls
It’s never happened on television before, at least not in recent memory.
In one of the final scenes of last week’s Girls, a powerful stand-alone episode, Hannah (Lena Dunham) is presented with a quandary. The episode centers around the notion of power, climaxing with a question: When someone whom you just met pulls out his penis and places it ever-so-gently on your leg, what do you do?
Well, if you’re Hannah Horvath — the series’ oft-controversial lead character who has little regard for others’ feelings and is, to be fair, often a rather terrible person and friend — you … well, you grab it.
Let’s set the stage a bit more.
In the episode, Hannah heads to the apartment of Chuck Palmer (brilliantly played by The Americans star Matthew Rhys), a famed author who has invited her over after reading a scathing profile she wrote accusing him of being a sexual predator. He’s determined to offer his side of the story, hell-bent on convincing her he did nothing wrong by sleeping with his college student accusers. The two debate about a variety of topics, and eventually we see Hannah and Chuck kinda bond. They enjoy some of the same authors, and they’re both fucked-up people in their own little ways.
Rhys describes his character’s arc during the course of his conversation with Hannah as “He’s an asshole, then he’s not an asshole, then he’s an intelligent asshole, then no, he’s not an asshole, then no, he’s very much an asshole.”
Their bond is broken, though, when Chuck asks Hannah to lay down with him in bed, insisting it’s not a sexual thing. And it isn’t at first … until Chuck unzips, pulls out his penis, turns to face Hannah and gingerly sets his cock on her leg, nonchalantly. In that act, he has turned Hannah into one more of Chuck’s accusers.
The look of bewilderment on Hannah’s face is priceless. While she’s newly convinced this guy is the sexual predator she ID’d in her profile piece, she still finds herself in a rather awkward situation and needs to react. So she does what comes naturally, we suppose (to her and to most gay men if placed in a similar situation): she grabs his penis.
Just for a bit, though, until a wave of shame and rage engulfs her. Despite her best attempt to exit the situation quickly, she gets roped into listening to Chuck’s daughter’s flute recital — which happens to be a stirring rendition of Rihanna’s “Desperado” — before she can escape.
Sure, we’ve all seen penises in modern TV series, especially on HBO, the premium cable network that loves to include male appendages in its award-winning shows, to the delight of gay male viewers everywhere. But grabbing a penis? That’s rather subversive for television, even for this day and age.
Alas, while surely not affecting the potency of the scene, Rhys’ cock was a stunt penis — one that the actor was actually given the option of choosing himself but decided against.
“They kindly offered [to let me choose my fake penis], and I said, ‘No, thank you. You choose,'” Rhys tells Vulture.
The producers of the show reportedly had a hard time finding the right fake dong, too, eventually settling with a product from a medical company. In a separate interview, the episode’s director, Richard Shepard, told Vulture:
I have a picture of a box of penises! It’s actually very hard to find a not-fully-erect dildo because, usually, they’re fully erect. What we wanted was a three-quarters-erect penis. It’s actually much harder to find. We ended up getting it from a medical supply company for people who have surgery — gender-reassignment surgery or other surgeries — and they make these semi-erect penises. Our prop people came with a box of penises, and one day at lunch Lena and Jenni Konner and I got to pick Matthew Rhys’s penis for him. He, of course, had final penis approval. It looks pretty darn good, doesn’t it? It doesn’t look fake.
To be fair, it doesn’t appear fake at first, but after a couple watches (hey, don’t judge us!) we can kinda tell. Could you?
What did you think of last week’s episode of Girls and the penis-grab that is sure to go down in HBO history?
(Photos courtesy of HBO)