Monday, April 23, 2012

Be a Man, Part II

I last left you with the disheartening notion of never knowing when a man's abs are photoshopped or not, that men are told to be "manly" (whatever the hell that means), and hedgehogs need hugs. I like to continue with the line of thought (putting aside the hedgehogs, for now) and talk some more about male celebrities and pressures with body image.

1) I remember some controversy with Chris Evans in Captain America having to take small doses of steroids in order to bulk up enough for the role. I can't seem to find anything about it online, so maybe it was just one of those rumor things. But that's a story in itself. (I'm trying to recall if a similar rumor went around about Gerard Butler in 300 but I can't find anything on that either). Of course, people were upset by these allegations. Yet who knows if it was true or not? If filmmakers are capable of going back in and adding in abs, it seems unlikely that actors would have to take steroids to bulk up. But of course, there's the pressure of having people expecting actors to look exactly as they did in the film, and I'm sure actors are expected to bulk up a certain amount in order to take the role.

2) According to Wikipedia, Dennis Quaid struggled with anorexia in the 90s, which is total news to me. It is NOT just a female issue.

3) W.A.R.G. - These are not those wolf-like creatures from Lord of the Rings. No, this is a group who calls themselves Women Against Ryan Gosling. Yes, apparently some women have felt the need to organize themselves because they feel the Ryan Gosling fandom has been forced upon them too much. And for some reason, this gives them the need to say rather unkind things like this:

I think the most annoying Gosling quality is his voice. He always sounds as if he has a slight head cold or just woke up. In my opinion, this makes him sound as if he is slow witted and dull. Those memes are the best thing that ever happened to him, because they add an intelligence to his persona that he really doesn’t have otherwise.

And this:

He is pabulum — bland, vanilla, unthreatening, unmemorable. I think more than anything, it’s his contrived ‘Aw shucks’ demeanor. And I just don’t like looking at him.

And this too:

Specifically, I do not like his face. He looks manufactured. His eyes are too close together, his face is too smooth, his cheeks are too flat, his hair is too neatly coifed. Even his beard looks like it’s bored. He looks like a Hitler-youth love child of Haley Joel Osment and Chuck Norris. Also, his voice sounds contrived. It’s as though he’s trying his best to do an imitation of someone who is laid-back and fun.

You can read more of them in the article if you're curious, but they're all pretty much the same. I don't care what your opinion of Ryan Gosling is; criticizing his facial structure and voice is kind of a moot point. It's not exactly something he can change, so now you're just sort of insulting him as a person. Which is harsh, if you ask me. And pointless. Because, really, what does it matter if you don't like him? Why do you feel the need to hate on him?

4) After reading the last W.A.R.G. comment above read this and see if you think it's weird. Because I think it's weird. Despite the creator's proclamations that Benedict Cumberbatch is beautiful, they still acknowledge that (apparently) his eyes are the wrong distance apart and so on and so forth. Maybe it's the manic hipster fangirl in me (manic hipster fangirl - great name for a band, I call dibs), or maybe it's because I'm slowly learning to love statistics, but my reaction was a rather harsh, confused, "What do you mean? COMPARED TO WHAT?*" Seriously, is there a proper distance eyes are supposed to be? Is there a proper size for necks and chins and mouths and things? I never studied anatomy so what do I know, except that as that humans we're supposed to be attracted to symmetry. I didn't think actual serious mathematical proportions were that much of an issue.

* This phrase has been uttered by my research methods professor more times this semester than I have said "Freeman," "hedgehog," "Cumberbatch" or "fangirl" on this blog combined. I'm actually not recklessly using a hyperbole here; literally this phrase has come up at least twenty times (so probably not as much as the word "fangirl" on this blog, but you get the gist.

The weird thing to me is that the physical descriptions of both Gosling and Cumberbatch sound kind of the same when read one after the other; the tone is different obviously, as one is written in condemnation, the other in praise. But there's this weird, vague line that both commenters are teetering on. I feel pointing out such characteristics either way is hurtful - the first way rather directly, the second sort of backhandedly.

It would be really easy to just get angry at the people posting this, saying the W.A.R.G.s are just rude and the Cumberbatch fangirls are just saying things without thinking about the context. But getting angry with them doesn't solve anything. It's not that simple.

I see a lot of things about Cumberbatch's looks on Tumblr. They mention how their friends don't think he's attractive, how people have judged him for his looks, posts like this that mention quotes he's apparently said about his own appearance and how its affected his career, all paired with a charming little pop song* and their cries that he should stop saying such self-depreciating things and see himself as they all see him - absolutely beautiful.

*Goddammit, that song's by One Direction. Did you know that was One Direction? I Googled the lyrics after listening because I'd never heard it before and realized; seems this new "boy band" really is everywhere. Is it weird that THIS is the way I've first encountered their music? Yeah, yeah it is.

To make this even more complicated, many of the Tumblr users who make or reblog these sort of posts make self-depreciating comments themselves. They don't see themselves as beautiful either. And while they get upset with disparaging comments made about or by Cumberbatch, I can't be upset with any party. It's so easy to say someone else is beautiful but when I look in the mirror, it becomes so much harder. I can see beauty in everyone else, but with me, I look at my reflection and think, "I don't count."

Does telling everyone that they truly are beautifully really help? Well, it certainly doesn't hurt. It's better than criticizing other people's appearance to make someone else look better. I almost wonder if that's what's going on in the case of Ryan Gosling; people are tired of hearing about how attractive he is and so, because they're tired of a certain type of beauty being "mainstream," they criticize it and unknowingly do exactly what they despise. Of course, this is all just an idea balloon; maybe they just like being trolls (internet trolls. Not the kind that wind up running around in the dungeons of Hogwarts). But I honestly think it's something more than that.
Beauty is subjective in many ways; we all know that. But that doesn't mean it's impossible to find. I came across this post from one of the people I follow on Tumblr back in January. And even rereading it now still makes me smile and makes me feel good about myself. Last night I attended The Vagina Monologues and while in the theater, watching the readers come out and take their seats before the show, I realized something. In that one moment, I realized I'd never been around so many women who both seemed un-self-conscious and made me feel so un-self-conscious. After writing about body image all week long, it was a sudden release. I hadn't felt that good about myself in maybe... well, ever.

These sort of feelings are rare for me. Rare to read something like Tumblr post, rare to feel so utterly carefree in any environment. Maybe it's because it's so much easier to criticize than accept that more than one definition of beauty exists. Maybe because it's easier to get angry when someone says something you disagree with then think about why they are saying it. Maybe it's because we've argued aesthetics for centuries and we might as well just keep that up. Maybe because it's hard to see beauty in a world that often focuses on the ugly or mundane aspects.

Maybe because accepting beauty (especially one's own) is harder than it looks.

Crap, I just went on a massive tangent and I can no longer remember how I was going to neatly sum up everything with a little bow. Wait, I'm talking about culture - there is no nice little bow. Alas.

And because there is no neat, tidy way to end this blog post, I'd just like to take the moment to thank Google for existing. This blog has gotten a ridiculous amount of page views because of searches like the one illustrated above. And while I'm pretty sure most of these searches result in, "WTF is this?" I'm still amazed at the amount of web traffic this blog has gotten. I'm impressed. So thanks, readers. Even if you're just looking for funny pictures of Martin Freeman. I appreciate it, regardless :)

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