Years ago, it was predominantly girls and young women that had negative body images due, in part, to the onslaught of trashy magazines and a soap opera culture of high cheekbones, flat stomachs and salon-perfect locks. Men were happy to simply sloth about on their couches, perfectly content to live vicariously through the fit muscular athletes that adorned their big-screen TVs while resting a 7th beer on their sweaty, pendulous bellies. We were fine, somehow deluding ourselves into believing that, despite our slovenly appearance, we were desirable men: snarling, testosterone-fueled beasts ready to fight or fornicate at a moments notice.
The paradigm has shifted, Gents. They got to us finally, and they knew the medium through which to spread their propaganda: film and television. Get to us when we’re sitting and rested, our bellies full and satisfied with food. Well played, you slimy fuckers.
I’m talking of course about the barrage of impossibly handsome, muscular men in popular culture that the women want to be with and us men aspire to be.
Have a look at this seasons blockbuster movies, for example: Man of Steel and The Wolverine are destined to do huge business at the box office. Henry Cavill’s Superman and Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine will bring the crowds in en masse, from pimply, squeaky-voiced teens to menopausal mothers the world over. Zack Synder’s Superman reboot has just raked in over $600 Million so far at the box office globally, and it’s still going strong. The boys and men will struggle at gyms to be them, keeping in mind that men never truly grow up, we just get taller and fatter and shed hair on our heads while sprouting it in every other nook and cranny on our disgusting, lumpy bodies. Women, on the other hand, will get positively foggy in their nether regions at the sight of these Gods up on the big screen, their chiseled jaws and six-pack abs helping them forget about their overweight, depressed husbands at home for at least two hours. Transportative experiences for everyone! This is the magic of cinema at its best: we want – no, we demand – a respite from our dreary lives for those 100 minutes plus previews.
Magic Mike, the semi-autobiographical tale of star Channing Tatum’s experiences as a stripper in his youth, made almost $170 Million worldwide! How interesting can a film about people who take off their clothes for a living actually be?! I saw Showgirls.
They’re invading our frail psyches at home too, Gents. Don’t think for a second that you’re immune within your four walls and on your plush sofas. For every Louis CK, ie. your prototypical overweight, balding slob helping average Joes such as myself feel okay about ourselves, there are a million men that look like they’ve been crafted from granite in a factory somewhere. You only need to check out an episode of HBO’s True Blood to see what I mean. Joe Manganiello and Alexander Skarsgard have raised the bar for us, and the desire in our wives. They not only won the genetic lottery, they have personal trainers, nutritionists and any other gladhanders at their disposal to shed that last percentage point of annoying body fat. Boo! Not fair!
All of these modern male templates gracing our screens, of course, has presented a huge problem for your everyday man and woman. Women now want – no, expect – an Eric the Viking of their very own. They demand a shirtless, hulking mass of hair and sinewy muscle, a la Wolverine.
And when my lovely wife “playfully” suggests that I join the local gym, or maybe cut down on my beer intake, I tell her that she should be thankful that I’m not Eric the Viking or Wolverine. If I were, she might have some competition for me, in the form of mirrors and shopfront windows.