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Timothee Chalamet and Zendaya in Dune 2020

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All the scenes in Dune where people are secretly pooping

Everyone poops, even Muad’Dib

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

You may have heard that everyone in Dune poops their pants. While Denis Villenueve’s new film adaptation sidesteps mentioning this simple canonical fact, it doesn’t deny it either — so anyone who has read Frank Herbert’s original novel or seen David Lynch’s 1984 film version can whisper to their date about how that guy on the screen, Paul Dune, is totally Dune a big one in his pants right now.

Or at least, that’s what I wanted to do the minute I saw this film — a lavish and completely engrossing spectacle that, despite its length, I did not leave for a bathroom break once. In the future, where Dune Part Two is a reality and I am marathoning both in a theater, that may be more of a challenge. A stillsuit might help.

As you may know from reading Dune (or Polygon dot com’s handy Dune Guide), the Fremen, who are natives to the harsh desert planet of Arrakis, have developed what they call stillsuits to survive without fresh water. Stillsuits recycle nearly all of the body’s moisture, which Herbert’s novel notes includes urine and feces, which are processed in the stillsuit’s thigh pads.

Like I said, once you have this fact in your head firmly enough to recall it while watching Dune, you immediately want to figure out who’s pooping and when. So I did that.

[Ed. note: The rest of this post contains mild spoilers for Dune (2021).]

Pooping is definitely part of the Gom Jabbar ritual

Paul Atreides endures the Gom Jabbar ritual with a needle to his neck as he experiences great pain in Dune (2021). Image: Warner Bros./HBO Max

While this scene takes place before any of our heroes set foot on Arrakis and there isn’t a stillsuit in sight, there is absolutely no way someone does not undergo the Gom Jabbar ritual (the one with the pain box) without voiding absolutely everything. There is no shame in this — it’s an absolutely bananas way to treat a teenager, and Paul walks it off with incredible aplomb.

Duke Leto, an excellent pooper

Duke Leto Atreides greets Thurfir Hawat on Arrakis in Dune (2021) Image: Warner Bros./HBO Max

I’m speculating a bit here, mostly because i want to note the look of satisfaction on Duke Leto’s face when he arrives on Arrakis. As the newly arrived regent on Arrakis, I do not think Leto would allow himself to have a BM no matter how impressed he was by the stillsuit, as he spends most of Dune feeling trapped between worlds and still undecided as to how best to amass desert power. Instead, I imagine this is what Leto’s Number Two face looks like, because Duke Leto does everything the same way: Handsomely.

Stilgar, showing the utmost respect

Stilgar entering the Duke Leto’s council in Dune (2021) Image: Warner Bros./HBO Max

Dune isn’t exactly a comedy, but it does have a funny fish-out-of-water scene or two, like when Duke Leto’s council meets with the Fremen leader Stilgar for the first time. Stilgar doesn’t really have time for imperial decorum, but he does have a few customs of his own, like spitting on the Duke’s table as a sign of respect. The Fremen regard the body’s moisture as incredibly precious and, as Duncan Idaho tells the Duke, it means a lot when they are not preserving it. It only makes sense, then, that Stilgar would immediately get to work recycling some fresh moisture to make up for the loss.

Paul, I understand

Paul Atreides kneels at the base of a sand crawler in Dune (2021). Image: Warner Bros./HBO Max

This is young Paul’s first bad trip on spice, with many more to come. It is also his first close encounter with a sandworm. There’s really only one reasonable response to all of that.

Dune’s stealth pooper

The Fremen gather around Paul Atreides before a duel to the death in the desert in Dune (2021). Image: Warner Bros./HBO Max

At this point, you’re probably wondering if I’m merely calling out every scene where someone is wearing a stillsuit (and a few where they are not) in some cheap ploy to indulge in toilet humor at work. That would be false. This is a work of careful study and reflection, done by someone who has thought a lot about their gut and would absolutely enjoy the freedom of a stillsuit.

Take for example, this scene, where there are many Fremen squatting in anticipation of Dune’s climactic duel. It would be easy to say this is a communal evacuation, but that would be cheap and false. There’s only one person pooping here, and it’s the one trying hardest to look the most relaxed.

Inalan (Zendaya) stands in dim light against an outcropping of rocks in an image from Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 Dune Image: Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s Zendaya.