The Passion of the Wannabe Superhero
(May 24, 2016)
Today I wish to discuss a subject that is consuming the hearts of – well, nobody but a few internet writers, really, but it’s too juicy to ignore.
The subject is the “new” disease of “bigorexia”. If you search for this term using Google, it will get you somewhat upwards of 100,000 hits, which is more than "zombie beanie baby" but not quite so many as "orange crush".
Now, you may not have even heard of this disorder if you have better internet surfing habits than I do. But someday you might need to know about it, like if ... well, you never know what may become an Issue anymore. So now if someone brings it up you will be able to nod knowingly, serene in the knowledge that you are prepared for any further discussion. Or you will be once you have finished today’s newsletter, anyway.
The Internet is a wondrous thing. It has made possible instantaneous and widespread reporting of abuses that once would have remained completely unknown. Local tragedies and injustices can be shared with millions, surely a step in the right direction. Sadly, it also means that the lie that at one time would have made it only halfway around the world while the truth was still putting on its shoes now can get a good deal farther. And it has made possible wide dissemination of something that at one time would have remained only a local shame – the Moronic Column.
The Moronic Column is a particular genre of internet article. It is an essay penned by a writer (usually -- although not always -- a particularly youthful one) so desperate for a fresh topic, or to meet a deadline, that he will choose one about which he knows nothing. My nomination for Moronic Column of the Month, and the inspiration for today’s essay, is “The real costs of a 'Marvel body': How the pressure to look like Thor and Captain America is hurting men”.
The writer, Pico Lang (who identifies himself as a “Meryl Streep enthusiast”, which is unnerving in itself) bemoans the fate of Chris Hemsworth’s body double. (Ha! As though Chris Hemsworth could even HAVE a body double.) What is this man’s tragic fate, you ask? In order to maintain the necessary level of buffness, this poor man is condemned -- to eat 35 meals a day.
But that's not all. At least he gets paid to do this. According to Mr. Lang, there are many, many other young men, in fact approximately 10% of the male gymnasium-frequenters in the U.K., who feel the need to work out umpteen times per week and consume enough protein to feed half the Third World in order to look like a movie superhero. Mr. Lang finds this to be a tragedy of the first water.
Now, any form of body dysmorphia (which, of course, is what this would be – an obsession that a perfectly normal body or body part is somehow hideous and the extreme and irrational measures taken to "correct" it) is a sad thing. But if Mr. Lang is going to play this up as a major health issue, he needs to understand a couple of things.
For one, men trying to look like the Hulk minus the chlorophyll is not a new thing, although he seems to think so. Ads selling techniques for the 97-pound weakling to bulk up were in all the comic books when I was still a girl. And a quick glance through the sculptures of history will show that Charles Atlas was not the originator of this particular obsession.
Additionally, I don’t like Mr. Lang's implication that men looking like movie superheroes is a bad thing. How can anyone allege that the world wouldn't be a better place if all men looked like Captain America?
But what really, really frosts me about this bit of writing is that Mr. Lang doesn't even give a token nod to the glaringly obvious fact that Hollywood Beauty is, and always has been, much harder on women than it has been on men. Because the latest superhero fad for women ... is the 80:20 Superhero diet. That's 80% fruit and 20%... what does it matter what the other 20% is? You're still going to feel rotten. And look it, too.
Think it’s tough eating 35 meals a day, Pico? Try living on celery and spring water. Or maybe too many biceps curls have messed up your elbows? How about a broken hip from the osteoporosis resulting from a lifetime of starving yourself?
Women have spent the last umpteen thousand years rubbing mercury on their skin to lighten it and then covering said skin with lead powders, deforming their spines (and sometimes their fetuses) with corsets, swallowing tapeworms, and removing their little toes to better fit their Manolo Blahniks. Doesn't that deserve just a couple of balloons at the pity party that we're throwing for the victims of this probably-nonexistent disorder, bigorexia?
If any of you boys out there really want to look like you're about to audition for Spartacus, don't let Pico Lang stop you -- just use some sense on your journey there. And ladies, the same for us. Tripping too blithely down our own superhero path to the current beauty standard will cost us our health. And in the end, health is what it is all about. Not imitating the art of comic books.
--dr. diane holmes
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