Darling of the internet that she is, Anna Kendrick rallied an interesting point at the outset of Game of Thrones Season 5, that HBO seemed obnoxiously reticent to feature Michiel Huisman’s Daario Naharis in full-frontal male nudity, even in intimate scenes opposite Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys Targaryen. The point was a familiar one, and I don’t know that I need to rehash the obvious imbalance of Game of Thrones’ nudity, but I’ll admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable with Kendrick’s words.

The sentiment is just, and calling out the imbalance publicly even moreso, though I’m a bit wary of “demanding” nudity of any actor, male or female. Kendrick clearly hadn’t intended  anything against anyone’s will, and the call would of course ultimately rest with Huisman himself, but HBO’s standards of male and female nudity have always been a bit frustratingly opaque.

Not to mention, Daenerys and Daario’s relationship thus far has offered an admirable balance of nudity and gender subversion, as in Season 3 Dany managed to turn Daario’s bathtime invasion into a fearless display of female form and strength. She even returned the favor in Season 4, keeping entirely clothed as she ordered Daario to strip down before taking him as a lover, and HBO has kept the two on a largely even keel ever since.

When male nudity is the explicit focus of a scene, Game of Thrones isn’t honoring the interests of effective storytelling.

Looking back on last night’s “High Sparrow,” however, led me to a much more uncomfortable realization about Game of Thrones nudity. The scene in question saw the High Septon of Kings’ Landing violating his faith with the service of seven prostitutes (barely) dressed as the realm’s seven gods, only to have the faithfully militant “Sparrows” interrupt the session, drag the Septon outside, and force him to walk the streets naked in shame. The internal logic all more or less checks out, between the prostitutes displaying themselves mostly nude behind closed doors, or the Septon being dragged outside in his own state of undress as a sign of corruption, but I had a serious question arrest me after that.

Why the hell didn’t we see that guy’s dick?

The entire point of exposing the High Septon in the streets lay in displaying his shame both literally and figuratively, something repeatedly emphasized when the Sparrows would whack the Septon’s hands of any attempt to cover his genitals. How in the world can it be, that Game of Thrones would only show the Septon’s nudity from behind, when the underlying intent was jar and humiliate? Not moments earlier, we had no less than seven actresses appearing  fully nude in the contextual setting of a brothel, but when a male actor’s exposed genitals are intrinsic to the overall point being made, that’s when HBO decides to be bashful?

Game of Thrones Male Nudity Penance Walk High Septon

I’m going to get into a bit of spoiler territory in this paragraph, book and otherwise, so you’re warned to look away from here on out, but another aspect of the scene last night lay in foreshadowing the Septon’s fate being inflicted on another (female) character later on this season. You likely caught a whiff of the story during Season 5 production, the Croatian church purportedly restricting any actual nude filming outside, thus making it somewhat difficult to ascertain if any logistical reasons prevented actor Paul Bentley from displaying full nudity in the streets.

Still, regardless of whether or not Game of Thrones was even allowed to film a nude man in public, it feels completely counter to the scene’s underlying message to have not found some way to visually emphasize the character’s physical vulnerability. We don’t yet know how HBO will handle the female version of the scene either, or the sure-to-follow thinkpiece storm, but Sunday’s imbalance doesn’t bode well for fair representation, to say the least.

Look, I’m in no pressing need to see a flabby older man’s business. And to reiterate my earlier point about Huisman, Paul Bentley should have final word on whether or not we see the High Septon’s nudity, and perhaps he did. It just seems an especially egregious missed opportunity that the character wasn’t presented with the full nudity required to convey the scene’s inherent shock value. Game of Thrones has an awful habit of treating female nudity as an afterthought, and (as much as I hate this word’s omnipresence of late) it’s “problematic” that when male nudity is the explicit focus of a scene, Game of Thrones isn’t honoring the interests of effective storytelling.

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