Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

Bodies

Work that inguinal crease.

Wed, Apr 23, 2014, 14:35

   

If you read one thing today, make it this brilliant, insightful, and slightly terrifying article on male actors, and building bigger action heroes. The teeny tiny body fat percentages, the inguinal creases, the hormone treatment, the personal trainers, it’s all there. Thanks to Conor Behan for sharing that on Twitter.

It’s become pretty obvious anytime you watch a film that isn’t from the last twenty years the physicality of men in leading roles has completely changed. Sean Connery in his prime wouldn’t get within a martini shake of a James Bond role in 2014, not without a waxed bigger than a Bond girl’s.

Obviously, it’s catching. Vice had this article recently, rather ungenerously titled ‘How Sad Young Douchebags Took Over Modern Britain’. Gay men complain constantly about the body fascists on dating apps who identify themselves by chest and abs alone. Or as Gawker put it: “There is only one thing that keeps gay men in shape: fear.”

Men on reality TV are increasingly more bulked up and sculpted, visions of gruelling workout regimes and body narcissism. In fact, many strands of reality TV specifically focus on the bulked up demographic from Jersey Shore to Essex. When footballers take off their shirts at the end of the match, their stomach muscles ripple. Sure, training methods have become more sophisticated, but what part of that is about being athletic, and what part is about looking good? How come the male physique has changed so quickly? These days, there seems to be growing scope in TV especially for more “normal” or “average” women’s bodies, but less scope for the “normal” or “average” bloke’s body.

Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden was definitely a tipping point for male body obsession, but much in the same way women’s bodies and beauty regimes have mimicked pornography, a lot of the contemporary male physique echoes a stripper aesthetic. From the shirtless Abercrombie models to the bros in vests at festivals, from the cast of 300 to the lads of The Valleys, our culture seems to be creating a Chippendale army of ab-skimming plunging necklines, impossibly tanned bodies, and waxed… everything. The irony of course, is that all this butchness is totally homoerotic and hyper-sexualised, aka The 300 Body, and shelves and shelves of men’s health magazines screaming about how to achieve impossible abs and muscles I’ve never even heard of.

At the same time, you have an increase in men suffering from eating disorders and a reluctance to discuss body image issues. Whatever about losing weight, it takes a hell of a lot more work – obsession even – to create the kind of body type that young men are being bombarded with day in day out. It does feel that “amazing” bodies used to pop up rarely, a Calvin Klein model maybe, a D’Angelo video, or a particularly gigantic rugby player. Now it’s everywhere. And according to recent enough research body image concerns men more than women. Why don’t we talk about this more?

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