(Hat tip to Sociological Images.)
Below the cut, we have a fascinating video in which a man becomes both the “before” and the “after” body for a weight-loss, muscle-gain ad– within only a few hours. To get the after body, he lifts weights (to make his muscles more prominent), tans, sprays his body with PAM, takes the picture with good lighting, and flexes– not to mention using a little Photoshop. To get the before body, he relaxes on the couch for a few hours, consumes high-fat high-salt food and diet soda so he bloats, takes the picture with bad lighting, and pushes out his stomach.
Beyond the fascination of the transformations a body can go through in less than one day, why is this video relevant? As we talk about ad nauseam, women tend to have a Beauty Myth (“you can never be beautiful enough”) and men a Success Myth (“you can never be successful enough”). However, something I find fascinating is the way that both myths tend to bleed over into the “wrong” genders, often in particularly gendered ways. Women often face pressure to be Supermoms, with a successful corporate job, two well-adjusted intelligent children, a happy husband, and a clean house– and look good the whole time. And men are starting to experience a similar unrealistic beauty ideal, although with (as of yet) much less strength than the female ideal.
I think it’s because corporations, having already gotten rich off women feeling like shit about their bodies, have decided to explore the untapped gold mines of men feeling like shit about their bodies.
But, seriously, let’s nip the male beauty myth in the bud. Photos lie. Just as the skinny model with the C cup breasts is the beneficiary of genetics, plastic surgery, and unhealthy diet and exercise regimens, the zero-body-fat model with bulging triceps is the beneficary of genetics, steroids, and unhealthy diet and exercise regimens. While the male model may seem to be “healthy,” what’s really healthy is a well-balanced diet and sensible exercise plan– whether it leaves you with belly fat or six-pack abs. (Not to mention that people should feel no duty to be healthy if, in fact, doughnuts and bad TV are what will make them happier– but that’s a different point.)
It is even more ridiculous to feel like you have to live up to a beauty ideal that even the models don’t. Without clever tricks of photography and a little Photoshop, the man in the video looks like a normal, if very athletic, man; with them, he looks ready for the cover of Maxim. And, hell, I’ve met female models. You’d be surprised how ordinary they look without makeup and good lighting and Photoshop. There is no sense in feeling bad about how you look because you don’t look like an ideal no one does.
I have a before body. So do you, and so does the man in the video, and Hugh Jackman, and everyone else you’ve ever met. People with before bodies climb mountains, fall in love, save lives, raise pretty awesome children, create art, play sports, and generally live happy, meaningful lives. I am proud of my before body, and you should be too.