"Just like Abraham did it.
— Dr. Gregory House
Want to make a Very Special Episode
that no one has done before
? Simple! Have a character angst about being uncircumcised. Naturally, this is Always Male
, and is mostly restricted to Eagleland
(but not exclusively). In Eagleland, characters who angst about this are typically (though not always) of backgrounds which are typically uncircumcised. Because circumcision is most common in African, Jewish and Muslim cultures and in the USA (and American cultural satellites such as South Korea and the Philippines), this trope is a prime cause of Values Dissonance
In the typical circumcision angst story, a male character either sees his buddies in the locker room and wonders why he's different, or thinks that his difficulty in the bedroom is because of it. He may be circumcised by the end without any medical necessity, resulting in a Broken Aesop
. Not that this hasn't been inverted
This trope has been in decline
in recent years, likely as American circumcision rates are also in decline. If anything, an inverse trope is starting to appear, where men from cultures that do circumcise suddenly find themselves in cultures that don't, and receive the requisite stares from their peers. Sort of the Spear Counterpart
to A-Cup Angst
, though the much more common counterpart is penis size angst.
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Anime and Manga
- Subverted in Y Tu Mamá También. Julio just responds the way some insecure men in Real Life do: He insults Tenoch's sexuality and tells him to blow up the balloon. The fact that the two boys have different penises is actually a political commentary.
- Rare British (Islamic) example: on East is East, when George finds out his 9 year old son was never circumcised (it's a big family and he's constantly overlooked) it's decided that he needs to get it done. His older brothers and sister show all the sympathy and understanding that you would expect in the circumstances. Contrary to how the trope usually works, he's understandably dead against it himself.
- A variation occurred during the filming of Monty Python's Life of Brian when Graham Chapman opens the shutters nude in front of a crowd of Tunisians, who audibly gasped (and in many cases, ran away) when he came out. This prompted Terry Jones to pull him aside and tell him that they could tell he wasn't Jewish, which prompted Graham to nonchalantly call for props to... er, hide it.
- Occurs as a throwaway gag in Robin Hood: Men in Tights: Rabbi Tuckman (Mel Brooks) offers the procedure to the Merry Men, claiming that it will make them more popular with the ladies. When they find out that his method takes away much more than just the foreskin (and employs a miniature guillotine) they quickly decline.
- Inverted once more in the film Liberty Heights, where the boys at a predominately Jewish school are nervous about showering after gym class with the newly integrated Black kid because of a another embarrassing stereotype associated with Black men. One of the kids suggests that circumcision somehow affects size.
Religion and Mythology
- Maccabees insisted on a more radical circumcision to prevent Hellenized Jews from regrowing their foreskins.
- Played with in The Bible. At first, all Jews were required to be circumcised, possibly causing some of the first real life (albeit short) cases of this trope in non-Hebrew converts. But once Christianity comes around, it averts the trope by saying that circumcision isn't required anymore to resolve disputes between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.
- At least once it was exploited. When two of Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi were angry that a Stalker with a Crush prince had raped their sister and demanded her as his bride, they agreed to it only if all the men in the city agreed to be circumcised. They did, and for the next three days all the men were helpless, making them easy to defeat. This abuse of circumsision got Simeon and Levi a serious What the Hell, Hero? dressing-down from their father.
- And of course, Saul's infamous challenge to David. What was he even going to use them for?
- Subverted in Something*Positive: Branwen is the one upset about her boyfriend Davan's circumcision, as she worries it means he gets less enjoyment from sex. Davan himself is dismissive. "Just because I don't have an extra flap of skin on my dick doesn't mean I don't like sex."
- On The Venture Bros., they've dealt with this twice. In fact, the boys die frequently and are replaced by clones, so Hank has been circumcised at least twice.
- One episode had Dean rejected by English twins when they learned he wasn't snipped, since they'd spent most of their lives in the jungle, with a bunch of mostly-naked savages running around for whom the procedure was part of the passage into manhood. Their reaction is as much "Oh god he's just a boy!" as it is "eeewwww."
- On South Park, Kyle angsts about Ike's upcoming circumcision. Due to some miscommunication between the kids and adults, they get the impression that it means they'll chop off his wee-wee. When told that he had the procedure, Kyle denies it fiercely before it's explained that they're not going to cut it off, they're just going to snip it "so that it looks bigger". The boys decide that that's okay, and that they want to be circumcised too.
- On Futurama, they did the Freud Was Right version: Bender's antenna has to be snipped so they can get satellite. The entire apartment complex can't get satellite. By the end of the episode, Bender's antenna was reattached, and they moved back in to good old Robot Arms, with Fry still in the closet.
- Which came first: Circumcision or Circumcision Angst?
- Freud's entire castration anxiety theory is based on Jewish men angsting about being circumcised.
- There's some controversy about the long term effects of circumcision. Medical studies have proven and disproven all sorts of drawbacks and benefits (which you can probably find elsewhere on the internet — this is not the place to discuss them), and it doesn't look like there's ever going to be a consensus either way. Needless to say, given we're talking about surgery often performed on babies and closely tied to religion, both sides have some very... passionate supporters.
- The Greeks, and later Romans, were horrified at the custom, as they saw the human body as a work of art and cherished its integrity, and thought that long foreskins were pretty. The Greeks would not allow circumcised men into the Gymnasium, which meant that they could not become Greek citizens, and several Roman emperors outlawed the practice. Naturally, they are remembered in Jewish historical narratives as horrible persecutors of Jews, even if the Romans themselves saw them as pinnacles of leadership.