Red pill theory focuses much of its attention on the need for men to work out and gain muscle mass…improving health, upping one’s confidence and ultimately giving a boost to a man’s sexual prowess. Their is no doubt whatsoever that fitness and weight training are incredibly positive actions with a multitude of benefits. Sometimes, however, the positive actions of certain habits tend to lend way to darker issues. Time magazine recently published an article that explores the dark side of weight training addiction as it relates to the constant effort of men to attain that perfect physique. In much the same way that women suffer from body image related illnesses, Time makes the case that men too can suffer from a false perception of what the male body is, and the unrealistic effort required to maintain the perfect hollywood body.
Much has been made of the decreased effect of gravity on female movie stars in recent decades, and how this sets an impossible standard for girls, leading to body image issues. But a similar effect has taken place with men, with the scale moving in the opposite direction.
This reverse direction that may afflict men’s body perception, is now being traced to our mass consumption of media and film that constantly sets the “look ripped” bar higher and higher…
Charlton Heston spent most of the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes shirtless, but such a torso would never suffice for today’s action hero. That’s why the 2001 reboot had former underwear model Mark Wahlberg as the lead. The James Bond body stayed pretty static across multiple actors, until the perfectly ripped Daniel Craig added 007 to his tagline. When Casino Royale premiered hearts went aflutter when his license to thrill physique sauntered out of the ocean blue. There has been a shift in what gets seen while shirtless on the silver screen, and men have noticed. Schwarzenegger was one of the first, followed quickly by Jean Claude Van Damme, as guys who fit the description of, “Well, they can’t act, and their English isn’t so good, but damn, they look pretty from the neck down, so … roll camera!” But such hyper-muscled warriors were anomalies in the 80s. Christopher Reeve may have looked good as Superman, but he was positively puny compared to Henry Cavill’s 2013 version of the man of steel.
It is true that today’s movie stars are certainly bigger in frame than eras past. This does not take away from Sean Connery’s sexual and social value. He was red pill through and through, and today still stands as the best James Bond of the bunch, even besting the more ripped Daniel Craig. The same argument can be made for Charlton Heston or Christopher Reeve.
While their reboot equivalents were significantly more built, the original movie stars of these film created character icons and are shining examples of masculine greatness. Of course today’s media is a huge multi billion dollar business machine and an entire industry has sprung up around the desire to achieve the ultimate male movie star physique. The reality (in relation to work effort, time and monetary investment), to achieve that physique may be more difficult than it looks on screen.
Stories of regular actors being transformed for specific roles have permeated the media and lead to training tales a-plenty in magazines sporting the word “muscle” in the title. In the year following the 2006 film 300, Google Trends shows a 300% increase in searches for the term “six pack abs.” Many magazines promise to relay the secrets of the “Superman workout” or the “Thor workout” or the “300 workout” or the “Insert-name-of-pumped-up-movie-hero-here workout.” What is often left out is the explanation of how these physical transformations become tightly controlled labor camps for the actors, and how the muscle gains and rippling midsections are fleeting.
It is this very media pressure to reach movie star heights that muscle dysmorphia or “bigorexia” take over. A man’s quest to get bigger can become an obsession based on believing you are not muscular enough. Bigorexia is indeed listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and logically enough it strikes primarily men who are already lean and muscular, pushing them to attain even more muscle mass and ever lower levels of body fat. Bigorexia can lead to
…compulsive exercise regimens that decrease quality of life, as well as disordered eating. Sometimes, anabolic steroids are sought out to quench one’s desire to be huge. The supplement industry sure has cashed in on all of this. It’s worth noting that many of those muscle mags are owned by supplement companies and used as vehicles to hawk their mass gaining wares.
All men who enjoy weight training and have a clear understanding of the awesome benefits a muscular body provides need to always keep themselves in check so as not to go overboard and miss out on life itself. What good is a great body if you forget to go out and get those females touches of the guns.
Likewise, while its great watching ripped Spartans in 300 crush monster like enemies, a logical man knows that in the end it is hollywood and fantasy, and the very actors pitted to portray these god like men have tons of resources, time and money afforded to them to achieve the ultimate body transformation. Remember De Niro packed on the weight to play a bloated Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, it was his job as an actor to fit the part regardless of the health risk. Hugh Jackman conveys a similar tale to Time…
Recently I interviewed Hugh Jackman about his Wolverine transformation, and instead of dwelling on the details of his workout, I asked him about the extremes taken to prepare him for shirtless scenes. “… everything changes the month before, and I’m timed down to the day,” Jackman told me. “There is water dehydration for 36 hours before. It’s quite a scientific process to looking your best.” He also told me of how his motivation to train so hard comes from knowing he’s going to be on a big screen in 3-D, and that he doesn’t keep that shape for long.
I also interviewed the stars of 300: Rise of an Empire and learned about how training and diet takes over the actors’ lives. And in a recent interview with actor and Old Spice pitchman Terry Crews he told me about taking diuretics to lean out for shirtless scenes.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.