Sunday, November 22, 2009

Film Review: Bigger, Stronger, Faster

The film examines the idea that in order to be a man in our society that an individual needs to fit a stereotype. It deals with how men are socialized to fit into a certain beauty ideal and explains the different lengths an individual is willing to go to in order to achieve "perfection". The film is a documentary by Chris Bell, who strived most of his life to fit the ideal muscular standard of a "man". The film explains that in order to achieve this ideal some turn to steroid use especially within the world of sports and competition. This film relates to the masculinity course because it points out the importance of examining masculinity and that men also feel the pressure to fit a certain beauty ideal.
In theories of masculinity we discussed how our society is based on hetero-normative belief system in which all individuals are able to fit into a certain box. Throughout the semester we discussed the example the system of oppression is like a birdcage and that it is important to not only focus on a single bar but the cage as a whole. While thinking about this concept and the film I started to think about why men feel this pressure to fit a certain beauty ideal and how out culture has enforce a certain stereotype. Based on the film I think it is very important that we deconstruct popular culture and identify the system that it is perpetuating. I know that popular culture is "entertainment" and that it is not reality, but when then I think of all the individuals that don't critique what they watch. In the film Chris goes to a photo shoot for a popular diet supplement and after interviewing one of the male models is informed that the model has used the supplement but has also taken steroids. The films show many examples of how individuals that are idolized and tell boys and men to work hard and they to can achieve the perfect body are just supporting a false image. After considering all of those scenes from the film I started thinking about how the majority does not fit the beauty ideal and how not fitting into that standard promotes self-esteem issues and creates generations of self hating individuals. By evaluating the popular culture we are exposed to we can begin to understand why we find certain things funny, sexy, or even unappealing. Many times within feminism we forget about men and how they are also effected by body image. Many men grow up idolizing men like Arnold Schwarzenegger and then strive to achieve that body. The film examined how because of the body ideal many men turn to steroid use. The film then explains how many individuals who are doing steroids know little to nothing about how it effects their body. I related this to men's sexual health and how many times men don't know about their own bodies and how reproductive health information is only focused on women. I film expressed the need for research on men's health issues in relation to steroids.
The film helped open my eyes to understanding how body issues develop in men and how there is a need to unpack the stereotype of the "perfect" guy. It also help show how feminism is inclusive and that all genders face similar issues.


Kelly T said...

I agree with you when you say that we hardly, if at all, focus on men’s health issues. Men are taught by society to not talk about certain issues this being things like their feelings and their health. Why would they want to sit around and talk about whether or not it’s normal for their penis to look like that or for their semen to smell a certain way? It seems much more common and acceptable for women to talk about their menstruation, their gynecologist visits, etc. When men do it though, it can be seen as being “homosexual” and what “man” in their right mind would want to be homosexual? The fact that society doesn’t allow for men to open up to one another and share their thoughts and feelings is at the root of all of this. If men were “allowed” to talk about things, maybe then they would be more open to talking about their bodies, body image, psychological issues, etc. It won’t be until men can do speak openly and freely about these issues without judgment from other people in society, that men might stop perceiving their bodies in a certain light.
I also agree with you when you said “there is a need to unpack the stereotype of the "perfect" guy. It also help show how feminism is inclusive and that all genders face similar issues”. I couldn’t agree more that body image is not just a women’s issue. It’s a people issue, for sure. Men and women both feel negative reinforcement from the media declaring what they should look like and how they should act. Once we redefine the media, we redefine our standards of “beauty” and then we can redefine what it means to be beautiful and happy. We have the power to change things like this and in turn change how our society thinks and feels about body image and self esteem. So… let’s do it!

Abigail said...

This documentary was a great example of male body image and a pressure for males to have a unnatural unhealthy body.

Even visiting some of my in-laws for the holiday weekend body image has come up at least 5 times in two days. Just today a college age females was scolding her younger male cousin for being thin and weighing less than her. She claimed that guys are suppose to want to be big...which was funny cause he never said whether he was happy or unhappy with his weight. He was asked by the female how much he weight then she immediately criticized him when he answered.

Males and females seem to do a good job at normalizing and standardizing the cookie cutter shape that people are "suppose" to have.

Ashley Halpin said...

I enjoyed your film review and agree full-heartedly with you and the other reviewers about male body image and the need to focus on men's health issues. I would just like to point out that while men do have a beauty myth, they also have other ways of being attractive. Power, success and wealth are three factors that increase the desirability in men who may not be physically attractive. Since women are viewed primarily as sex objects, their physical appearance may be more important than it is for men of similar power, success and wealth. In fact, many men who feel threatened by a successful woman may view these same factors as the opposite of attractive.