T NATION | The Testosterone Principles: Becoming Thor, Captain America, Khal Drogo
If the average Taiwanese man found a magic lamp and the genie therein – no doubt a ringer for either Buddha, Confucius, or maybe Yao Ming – gave the lucky lamp finder a choice between putting on 10 pounds of muscle and a pair of used, fish-sauce stained chopsticks, he'd probably pick the chopsticks.
Muscle, it seems, doesn't have that much appeal in Taiwan or, for that matter, much of mainland China. They have access to over-the-counter steroids at their drugstores and apothecaries, but they're about as popular an item as Clairol's Summer Blond hair lightener.
For the Chinese, masculinity is a blend of wen – literacy and cultural attainment – and wu, which pertains to martial or militaristic might. Muscle itself is just a tiny dumpling in their Dim Sum of masculine ideals.
At least that's what Harvard psychiatry professor Harrison Pope Jr. discovered when he was there conducting research. Of course, the Chinese word for muscle sounds an awful lot like the Chinese word for chicken, so the people in the gyms he interviewed might have just thought he was asking if they wanted some takeout.
Of course, if Pope needs additional evidence, all he needs to do is count the number of Asians in pro bodybuilding, pro wrestling, the NFL, or in strongman competitions.
Hint: You don't need an abacus to tally the number.
This disinterest in muscle, of course, is not the case in North America, where a lot of Caucasian men, if offered the same choice by a magic genie – no doubt a ringer for Oprah Winfrey or maybe Elvis – would, instead of taking the 10 pounds, insist on 20 and hold a knife to the genie's throat in case he reneged on the deal.
I will cut you, put you back in that lamp, take a dump in it, super glue the cork on and pitch it into the Marianas trench, magic mother****er, unless you pack on the meat in the time it takes me to hum the Jeopardy song!
That's Why Tobey McGuire is Going to Play Captain America
It seems this thirst for muscle is always a subject of deep interest to mostly female journalists or sociologists. They can't figure out why exactly you want muscle, but that doesn't stop them from postulating and pontificating.
These woman are like urban Dian Fosse's who, instead of lurking behind a bush in the African highlands, assiduously taking notes on their hairy, hulking gorilla subjects, are lurking behind a drinking fountain in gyms, assiduously taking notes on their only-slightly less hairy and hulking human subjects.
Back in 2008, writer Amy Fine Collins, in an article in Vanity Fair, wrote that muscle was purely an affectation of fashion. She believed that, "the android-y aesthetic of the pumped-up he-man with washboard abs percolated into mainstream conspicuousness from gay and black subcultures."
I'm not even sure what the hell that means. Sure, gays are often drawn to muscle and seem to spend time in the gyms and a lot of muscular black guys appear in rap videos wearing wife-beaters, but suggesting it's the reason the rest of us want to build muscle is a little far-fetched and more than a little insulting.
Ah, who am I kidding? It's not that insulting. It's not insulting because I don't give a steroid-injected Sprague Dawley rat's ass if Amy thinks our choice in physiotypes is as fleeting and capricious as the length of hemlines or the width of neckties.
Since I try to find at least a grain of truth in every observation, I'll accept the notion that there are probably some losers with no self esteem who started doing crunches every morning after they saw an LL Cool J video and went to bed with dreams of ripped sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads; who started working their core when they caught what they thought was a flash of strobe-enhanced abdominal muscle on one of Lady Gaga's charming background dancers.
But that shouldn't be happening if what Amy Fine thought were true. She believed that since fashion was then extolling the virtues of the size-zero male, society would soon fall in line.
Sure, that's why those boy-licious skinny jeans are still all the rage; that's why Tobey McGuire is doing a double-starring stint as both Thor and Captain America. That's why Russell Brand played the 7-foot tall Khal Drogo on HBO's Game of Thrones.
Okay, Hollywood didn't have the temerity or the insanity to have those muscular roles played by ectomorphic Tobey or Russell, but the former did end up playing Spiderman. Regardless, that role didn't sit well with those of us who appreciate muscle (or the sanctity of comic-book esthetics), but we forgave them because Peter Parker, was after all supposed to be a mere teenager, a still-developing slip of a youth, which you could probably stomach if you blurred your eyes and guzzled Mylanta straight from the bottle.
More recently, LA Times reporter Rebecca Keegan noted that the actors playing the aforementioned Thor, Captain America, and Khal Drogo (who's also playing Conan this summer in the remake), along with a rebuff-ified Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who's got a starring role in Fast Five, are " a shift from seasons past" (since they're not played by Tobey McGuire types).
She marvels at Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo and Conan), who had to eat 56 chicken breasts a week and do "pull-ups, squats, and burpees" to add 30 pounds to his 6'4", 205-pound frame. She's seemingly stunned that Chris Hemsworth gained so much bulk that his Thor costume didn't fit. She's amazed that Dwayne Johnson took multivitamins and glutamine – "a supplement that aids muscle in recovery after workouts" – to build his "23-inch" biceps.
Then there's Chris Evans, star of the upcoming Captain America, who "did push-ups in between takes to pump up the broad new chest he'd built for the role."
I don't know if these actors all agreed ahead of time to bullshit the press about how they prepared for their roles, but all vehemently denied using any "illicit" products. (By the way, Dwayne, go easy on that bullshit. The reporters might buy it, but we don't – glutamine and 23-inch biceps. Riigghhht.)
Logan Hood, one of the seemingly dozens of guys who takes credit for getting the Spartan army in shape for the 300 movie says that steroid use still occurs in Hollywood.
"I hear about that," he says. "That is insanity to consider that sort of option."
Sure, insanity. Never mind that they give Academy awards to Christian Bale whose astounding diet-provoked body transformations, bouncing back and forth between the emaciated Trevor Reznik in The Machinist to Batman, back to Dicky Eklund in The Fighter back to Batman are, if you ask me, a lot more drastic and potentially damaging to one's health than using a small cycle of steroids to add a few pounds.
We Like Our Heroes to Look the Part
Anyhow, reporter Keegan, along with Emily Fox-Kales, a clinical instructor in psychiatry at Harvard and the author of "Body Shots: Hollywood and the Culture of Eating Disorders," don't think these bulked up bodies are an "affectation of fashion." No they think these actors have bulked up because they cut your hours at the Piggly Wiggly Grocery.
That's right, Biff, your psyche is ailin' because of the recession. All your self-esteem and women-attractin' power was tied up in your grocery bagging and now that you don't have that anymore, you have to prove your manhood somehow and you might as well lift weights.
"As men have lost more economic power, more social power, they've wanted to look more pumped up," explained Fox-Kales. "Muscles have become an accessory, like pickup trucks."
These urban anthropologist wannabes think that Hollywood recognizes your pain, senses your loss of self-esteem, sees your dick dragging, so instead of casting the four main male characters from The Big Bang theory as Conan, Thor, Captain America, and the hulking lawman in Fast Five, they used muscular guys because they'll play on your bad-economy-fueled insecurities.
It's simple! Authenticity and being true to the roles have nothing to do with making movies!
Sure, that's why Hollywood wouldn't think twice about casting Steve Buscemi as Helen of Troy, "the face that launched a thousand ships." So what if he's male and has a face that looks like it was composed of equal parts sea flounder and Mr. Potato Head?
That's why they were going to cast Gabourey Sidibe from "Precious" in the lead role of Black Swan before that bitchy little Natalie Portman muscled her out.
At the end of her article, Keegan sagely concludes that while "most American men would do well to exercise more and improve their diets," she sadly notes that becoming more muscular didn't help Momoa (Drogo/Conan) feel more manly. His wife, actress Lisa Bonet, still tells him to do the dishes and take out the trash and he does it.
She tells us that despite the muscularity of these men on the screen, despite their dominance, confidence, and independence, putting on some muscle won't help you feel better about yourself, won't make you feel more manly, and won't make you regain any economic or social power.
I know this isn't a very sophisticated feeling, but ladies, I'd like to pull an Anthony Wiener and drop my drawers and shake my heavy schlong at the bunch of you; sort of a primal, more earthy tsk-tsk.
Listen, I've lifted when times were good, and I've lifted when times were bad. I've lifted when muscle was in fashion, and I've lifted when it wasn't. I've lifted when skinny guys played action heroes and I'm lifting now, when muscular guys play them.
If you want to study people like us, talk to us. Ask us some questions. Unlike Dian Fosse's gorillas, we can answer.
We'll likely tell you that our appreciation of muscles is hard-wired. We'll tell you that most studies show that a muscular form is the cultural ideal, China notwithstanding. We'll tell you that men have a love for the heroic, and muscles have always rode in close tandem to the heroic.
Moreover, this heroic thing is eternal. It's not subject to fashion or economics or the musings of a few misguided women who can no sooner fully comprehend maleness and its inherent desire to defend and avenge than we can fully comprehend the female desire to nurture.
So if popular culture casts muscular guys as superheroes, ladies, it's not really that hard to figure out. It's not essential, but we like our heroes to look the part. Besides, defending and avenging is a whole lot harder if you don't have the muscle to unscrew a pickle jar, let alone trounce a bad guy.
Views 426 Comments 3
|07-06-2011, 09:31 AM||#2|
is scrutinising your form
Strongman & Trainer
Nice work lol. I know the true author.
|07-06-2011, 10:37 AM||#3|
is after a Masters WR
Bearded Beast of Duloc
|07-06-2011, 10:39 AM||#4|
is scrutinising your form
Strongman & Trainer
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