OK. So I got your attention. The picture is at the bottom of the blog but I put it there because I want you to read this article. It’s by Rob Lazebnik, a writer for “The Simpsons”. Just by telling you that should also get your attention. The theme of the article is: “Why are so many leading men suddenly so buff? So beware the pernicious trickle down effect for the average guy.” I found this article highly amusing because now it’s the guys time to feel the pressure to look like Brad Pitt. How many times, girls, have you heard your man say, “Wow, isn’t Charlize Theron a knockout. She’s on my top ten list.” And then they proceed to tell you their entire list. Well, it’s payback time! You go Ryan, Hugh, Brad, Leonardo, Marky Mark, Matthew… Read more…
Hollywood’s New Arms Race (WSJ April 27, 2013)
In the 2011 movie “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” when Ryan Gosling takes off his shirt, Emma Stone looks at his ridiculously pumped up body and says, “Seriously? It’s like you’re Photoshopped.”
She shouldn’t have been so surprised. It’s no longer just bald action stars named after grades of fuel who are getting huge. Now it’s every actor. It’s song and dance man Hugh Jackman, appearing more cut than the victims of his Wolverine claws. It’s the carved, shirtless torso of Jamie Bell (little Billy Elliot!) when he plays a slave in “The Eagle”. It’s Liam Hemsworth in “The Hunger Games” looking like he signed on for “The Protein Shake Games.”
Yes, it’s official: If you’re going to shed your shirt on screen, even if it’s just to clean off a little zombie schmutz, you’d better have the narrow waist and huge guns of an animated Disney hunk (Gaston or better).
Rather than protest, our leading men have thrown themselves en masse into workout boot camps, enviously eyeing each other’s bulk: “Did you see Leonardo’s quads? That’s how he got for Gatsby!” At the star of “Captain America”, the film makers had to use digital effects to shrink Chris Evan’s massive physique rather than rely on some scrawny actor to be his double. I know why: They couldn’t find one.
It wasn’t always this way. The silent movie star Rudolph Valentino had the body of a philosophy grad student coming off a two week flu. Tarzan’s Johnny Weissmuller upped the ante in bulk, but while carrying Maureen O’Sullivan, his spindly legs seemed to be pleading, “Me Tarzan, you heavy.”
In the 1960’s, when Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck or Kirk Douglas popped off his top, we saw a man whose workout routine consisted of a few jumping jacks by the Beverly Hills Hotel pool, then walking to the gift shop for cigarettes. An average moviegoer could realistically look at their beefy physiques and think, “I’m Spartacus…or could be, in about three weeks.”
Even our comedians are falling prey to the arms race. Dave Chapelle, Dane Cook, Sacha Baron Cohen, even Kevin James in “Here Comes the Boom,” are built like the brick wall at the Improv. They seem to have forgotten that getting laughs at the fat kid’s revenge on the brawny bully, not becoming him. The movement is so prevalent that Will Ferrell now mines laughs simply from showing off his average guy body. We’ve reached the point where watching a slightly doughy man in the movies is hilarious because it’s so absurd-like seeing a burrito in a tuxedo.
It won’t be long before the muscle mania reaches Broadway and we get Willy Loman who yells at Biff while ripping through sets of overhead pull ups. Or a Tevye power lunging out of the shtetl, schlepping an elliptical machine in his cart.
We’ve already seen the trend take hold in politics. The real shock of the Anthony Weiner scandal wasn’t that he tweeted shots of his namesake-it was that he didn’t tweet more of his pecs, which were hard core. Last year’s presidential race showed off the two fittest candidates we’ve ever had. And when Mitt Romney was choosing a running mate, his key criterion was how quickly the potential VP could lateral hop across a gym-which is how Paul Ryan smoked Condi Rice for the job.
But the societal trickle down is even more pernicious. We guys now have to compare ourselves to impossible bodies, from the vampires who have gotten lean on an all “Tru Blood” diet to Schmidt’s adorable abs on “The New Girl.” It’s not fair. We’re stuck at desk jobs, poring over YouTube videos and crunching fantasy football numbers. Meanwhile, Hollywood actors fill their days with calorie burning activities like fighting Klingons, fornicating in King’s Landing brothels and having to act opposite Nicolas Cage.
It’s almost like we American men are experiencing the body image issues that have so long been the bane of American women. The indignity! Now our wives and girlfriends say things like, “Don’t worry, honey, Brad Pitt is nice to look at, but I’m sure he’s deadly dull in person.” We know that tack- it’s how we used to console them about Uma Thurman or Heather Graham, and we didn’t mean any of it!
This sorry state of affairs is creating two types of guys: those who, filled with insecurity, battle to whip their aging muscles into something resembling definition, and those who, in the face of an impossible task, just give up. We’ve become a nation of Laurel and Hardys-if Laurel looked like Taylor Lautner and Hardy weighed 100 pounds more than Hardy ever did.
There’s a legend about an ancient Greek wrestler named Milo, who trained by lifting a calf every morning, from its infancy until it was full grown. Now we American men are faced with a terrible daily choice: Do we follow our Hollywood guides and lift the calf, or do we eat it?