Thursday, April 30, 2009

Making fun of muscles

Damn, this annoys me.

In a review in Slate of the movie Wolverine, Dana Stevens smirks as follows: "The first time Jackman appeared shirtless, about 15 minutes into the movie, his absurdly pneumatic chest garnered one of the few laughs at the screening that I attended."

Pneumatic: "Having a well-proportioned feminine figure; especially: having a full bust."

That's the first part of the standard sneer at muscles - implying that they're somehow feminine, not really masculine at all.

The second part is the implication that a muscular male physique is inherently laughable and contemptible. Among a certain subset of the American population, this is a commonplace. For those people, the presence muscles is assumed to prove the absence of brains.

Jackman's developed chest is not absurd. First, it fits with the cartoon character he's playing. Second, to those of us who lift weights, it denotes the hours of hard work the actor underwent and his admirable self-discipline. What's absurd is Dana Stevens and her ilk. Perhaps she needs to spend a few hours in the gym.


Kristen said...

As much as I hate it when anyone decides to critique someone's physical appearance over his or her performance, I have to say it's interesting to see the critiquing of a male's body, for a change.

If it starts happening to men as frequently as it does (and always has) to women, there might be some quick changes in your more sexist male magazines (like, and even the general media (Kirsty Alley on Oprah talking about her weight; a four-page spread in US Magazine dedicated to the "real weight" of various female movie stars - etc.).

David said...

This particular denigration of a certain group of men has been around for decades. It's far from new.

Leonore said...

Well, you know what it really is, David, when a wimpy or flabby man mocks a fit, strong one, just as when an overweight woman mocks a slender, fit one, calling her "skinny" or "anorexic," when in fact she is just healthy. I find that unfit people of both sexes a)have no idea how much work and self-discipline it takes to get truly strong and fit, and b)have no idea how good that level of fitness feels. I sure miss my own long-ago top level of fitness, and greatly admire your own decades' long devotion to weight training. I also wish that more women knew of the strong and scary connection between overweight and breast cancer. I think there's a definite possibility that my own weight gain since the age of 40 was a factor in my getting breast cancer 11 years ago. To sum up: I hope we can all someday get to where we admire and strive for a good diet, good health and all-round fitness and strength vs. a certain body image.

David said...

I'm sure you're right about men mocking men and women mocking women. It must get a bit more psychologically complicated when a woman (the reviewer I linked to is a woman) mocks a man for being well developed. Fear? Distrust?

Leonore said...

She ought to admire him for his self-discipline and hard work. Also, the guy was playing a hugely muscular comic book character! He HAD to be buff for the role. Anyway, I just want to add that there is nothing stupid about eating well and working out. If more people did even a little more of both of those (plus did not smoke, of course), we would have far fewer health problems in this country.

TGirsch said...

Say what you will about the mocking of muscles, it's still better than the inevitable "he's gay" slur used by insecure men the world over when describing any other attractive/well-built man.

David said...

He's gay, he's narcissistic, he's bound to be violent, those are just gym muscles (i.e., he's not actually strong).

I could look like that, or even bigger, if I really wanted to, but I don't.


TGirsch said...

Sadly, by far and away my largest muscle is my "lunch muscle."

David said...

Mine is far bigger than it ought to be.

If only food didn't taste so good!

And beer.