October 1, 2019

The Pectoral Problem

The sun beats down on a beautiful island. The cool sea air drifts off the surface of the waves as they gently fall on the white sand of a picture-perfect beach. A figure emerges from the water.

Such is the premise of many a tropical James Bond scene. It happens every few of movies, and is aimed at getting pulses racing as we watch beautifully bronzed flesh walking across the beach.

I had the pleasure to sit through the most recent of such scenes during a Secret Cinema performance of Casino Royale last week. As opposed to Halle Berry or Ursula Andreas’ characters, the film’s creators decided this time it would be Bond emerging in such a way.

Apparently he also grew wings for the role but the producers thought “it’s a bit much Dan”
Apparently he also grew wings for the role but the producers thought “it’s a bit much Dan”

Whistles and claps rang out in my cinema as his hulking figure, accompanied by those well-tight swimming shorts, was revealed.

I remember this movie well.

Daniel Craig’s Bond was grizzled, dark, and MASSIVE. This was a Bond that had clearly grown up with a Schwartznegger poster on his wall and spent his evenings slurping protein shakes while making undignified faces into the M16 gym mirrors.

I do want to shout out Craig’s expert use of his lips throughout the film. I assume the only way to make a man pout that much is have him grow a goatee and then attempt to kiss a long line of people without bristling them. I’m going to attempt it one day.

I commissioned an artist to illustrate how this might look… The Harry Potter additions are my own.
I commissioned an artist to illustrate how this might look… The Harry Potter additions are my own.

The decision to bulk him up so much was a conscious one by the filmmakers. Have him be a relatively normal looking man, or make him a bleached Bruce Banner? They chose the latter; this screwed me up.

It set up a little light bulb in my shy, lacking-in-confidence brain that lit up later in my adolescence (still on-going), when confidence hit an all-time low.

This said: as a man, the way to make up for any personalities flaws you feel you have is to work on your body until it does the talking for you.

Big=strong. Big=in control.

But the truth of it is that in my experience, “going to the gym” has accentuated many of my issues regarding physique and my self-worth. Rather than quench my thirst for external and internal love, as soon as I hit what I would have considered a finger-lickin’ body a few months prior, I was now pushed to further hit a new target. If I fell off the proverbial gym wagon, the self-attacks would start and continue until I got back on it.

There’s a word I’m thinking of here that might define what this is. It starts with A and ends with N, and no it’s not Antman, Superhero fans. The Avengers ended and they all died. Get over it.

(Disclaimer: didn’t see the movie)

I was, and am, an addict. It’s silly isn’t it, because if you looked at me in the street you wouldn’t be like “woah! Body dysmorphia O’clock”… But hey, they were out of t-shirts at the Dysmorphia Store. Next time.

After coming to terms with this, and getting a lot better and differentiating between going to the gym to look good and exercising in a healthy way that accentuates body positivity, a healthy lifestyle, and achievable challenges and goals that aid self-esteem, it left me thinking about why size has become such a massive part of masculine pop culture in recent years.

I mean, look at Sean Connery, look at movies stars pre-1980. They’re all averagely-sized men for their era. Yes, they may be sexy to look at, but they’re not Greek adonises.

Hit the gym Sean. I can basically see your skeleton.
Hit the gym Sean. I can basically see your skeleton.

What happened?

What does this change say about our culture?

And why won’t they commission my 50 year old hench Harry Potter script that I keep sending to Daniel Craig?

… Gonna be writing a follow up post to this very soon ;)

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