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White Man's Muscles

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Autor:   •  December 20, 2010  •  952 Words (4 Pages)  •  713 Views

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The White Man's Muscles

In today's society, the naked white male body is found everywhere. It can be seen in print ads, including clothing catalogues, TV commercials, and especially in movies, yet the prevalence of the naked white male body is something that has only been embraced since the 1980s. Prior to the 1980s, half naked white males were hardly ever seen in popular film because of the negative effects it would have on male self-esteem and masculinity.

People in our generation remember watching films such as Rocky, Rambo, and The Terminator, which showed incredibly built and tan white males in some type of extreme action role. However, people would be hard pressed to find a film in which a half naked white male was not shown as superior regardless of muscle size. Although some of the actors who portrayed Tarzan did not have the characteristics of the ideal male specimen, the prevalence of a tan, and the superiority over the animals in the jungle and the darker natives shows that the typical ideal of white male dominance is not limited by lack of muscles.

Bell Hooks stated that given a choice, and a possibility to come back as something other than you are, most people would choose to come back as a white male. People for many generations have acknowledged the advantages of being a white male. The obvious lack of public displays of the typical white male body was a way in which men could protect the ideals associated with being the highest class in the most dominant race. According to Richard Dyer, "a naked body is a vulnerable body." Why would people considered to be the most powerful open themselves up to something that could threaten their masculinity? The threat associated with white male masculinity and their bodies is because their bodies are the same as everyone else's. The portrayal of the typical white body would lead people to question why people that are so similar to them command all of the power. If people could not see their bodies, they could not question their masculinity or their power.

The hard muscled and tanned bodies of people such as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were used in action movies not just because they fit the part, but because they exemplified what a "white male" was. The obvious differences between these men and other men off the street plays into the ideals of masculinity. Only toned bodies, bodies that simulate the ideals of perfection can truly avoid any of the horrors that are associated with coming into contact with femininity and non-whiteness. Men like to see these toned men as opposed to regular guys because they do not need to fear their shortcomings. Only few people can live up to the idea of the perfect man and so seeing them on film is a form of escapism. If real men were depicted, all of their fears associated with being normal would be realized.

The use of bodybuilders in film instead of standard males was a mask to cover up the inadequacies of white men. Using these perfect beings has negative effects even today but it is constantly being reinforced in our society.


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