The Unrealistic Male Body Standard
By Ben Spaeth
Photo: InStyle – Source
This past month, Channing Tatum opened up on the Kelly Clarkson Show about his Magic Mike physique. Saying that the routine was an unhealthy one and that the only way to achieve his on screen body was through starving himself. He said that “working out is not enough, to be in that type of shape is not natural.” What Tatum is discussing is a problem that is very present in the film industry. Male actors are often pushed to be leaner and more muscular. Especially now, when every single actor playing a superhero is told they need the superhero body.
Simply put, these bodies are unnatural. Many actors don’t just diet and exercise. There is a sizable group of actors out there that use steroids in order to stay in peak physical shape for filming. What’s worse is nowadays male actors often feel forced into doing steroids in order to book more gigs. On top of this, because steroid use is generally looked down upon by the general public, many actors have a hard time admitting to even using them in the first place. To be clear, steroid use does not make you a bad person by any means. Public perception of PED’s has been warped by decades of athletes being blacklisted because they took steroids. Actors using steroids is totally different from baseball players doing steroids. While yes actors are in a sense competing against each other for roles, their physical capabilities aren’t being measured in the same way as a professional athlete. For actors, the use of steroids is primarily cosmetic. However, because of the negative perception surrounding steroid use, many famous actors who use PED’s likely will never share their stories about the negative effects of their use. Steroid use, while great for developing muscles quickly, can have a plethora of negative long term effects on the body.
Another harmful expectation for male actors that has often led to body dysmorphia is the assumption that male actors will lose significant amounts of weight for a role. Sebastian Stan recently opened up about this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Saying that he still feels he should’ve lost more weight for his role in Pam & Tommy as Tommy Lee. Stan said that he would fast for 16-18 hours a day while walking at least 20,000 steps. Stan would go on to say “Once you're going into a peak, the best look possible, which by the way, I don't care what they say, unless there's like, magic formulas out there — which there are but some of us are not in that pocket — your body can only be at peak 100 percent for like maybe a week or something. At least, how I've experienced it; and I mean diet and exercise and tanning and water and lighting and everything. And then you spend the rest of the time going, 'I'm not what I used to be.'”
For many actors, it seems the experience of getting into top physical shape has only led them to become more ashamed of their own bodies. And often the process of them getting into the required shape is a grueling and at times torturous experience. What’s even worse is that a fair amount of actors will post advertisements for diet programs and supplements that they either don’t actually use or didn’t use to get the body they have. Often leaving their young impressionable audience with the idea that if they just grind hard enough that one day they will look like what they see on screen. In reality though, no amount of grinding on your own will give you the superhero physique. Not even bodybuilders achieve their look through solely exercising and eating healthy. In fact most bodybuilders openly admit to using steroids.
We need to stop acting like the only male bodies worth showing on screen are the uber muscular hyper masculine ones. To be honest I can’t think of a single time I watched a movie and thought “hey why doesn’t that guy have a six pack?” Ultimately, being super muscular is not that necessary to most characters. Being toned is all that is really needed for roles that require an in shape actor.