Life is hard enough for women outside the public eye, but actresses and musicians have always had their appearances picked apart. A couple years ago, Lindsay Lohan’s substance habits were once again called into question when a photo of her teeth got passed around the Internet. Kim Novak was criticized earlier this year for being an irrelevant old lady who showed up to the Oscars. Jennifer Lawrence was labeled “too big” to play alongside Hunger Games co-star Josh Hutcherson in 2012. Females in the spotlight never escape this unique brand of sexist atrocity, and it looks like male actors are going through the same thing on a level they haven’t experienced before in 2014.
In the May issue of Men’s Journal, Logan Hill argues that guys these days can’t simply have a six-pack and expect to compete with the likes of Ryan Gosling, Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey. Men searching for big roles must have “5 percent body fat, massive pecs, and the much-coveted inguinal crease,” and they’ve got to be willing to do anything to get there in a short period of time. To transform for his werewolf part in Twilight, young actor Taylor Lautner underwent drastic lifestyle changes and intense workouts so he’d be ready to pull his shirt off before the cameras started rolling:
“For much of Hollywood history, only women’s bodies were objectified to such absurd degrees,” Hill writes. “Now objectification makes no gender distinctions: Male actors’ bare asses are more likely to be shot in sex scenes; their vacation guts and poolside man boobs are as likely to command a sneering full-page photo in a celebrity weekly’s worst-bodies feature, or go viral as a source of Web ridicule.”
At a screening of Magic Mike, which had a mostly female audience, everyone gasped when Channing Tatum showed his bare bottom off on camera, and that was only the beginning of the film. The movie about male strippers needed all the main players to be in perfect shape for the racy scenes, and cast member McConaughey had to work with a trainer to prepare for his part as a seasoned dancer:
Gunnar Peterson and McConaughey said “Rattlesnakes and Water Moccasins” was the image they aimed to achieve for the character, and they succeeded after six months of twice a day workouts. Sounds stressful for sure, but two days a week seems much more manageable than what Jessica Simpson did to portray Daisy Duke in the early 2000s. “When I found out I got the role, I went straight to the gym,” Simpson said at the time, adding that she worked with a trainer six days per week a month before shooting and three to four days a week after that. Of course, it would only be a few years before the tabloids would start calling her a “professional fat person” again, so time will tell whether famous men will go through something similar after pushing their limits to look the part.
McConaughey played an attractive, svelte individual in Magic Mike, but that’s not the only type of character who must display physical perfection. As noted by Hill, “a fat Superman would never fly. A pudgy Spiderman can’t swing. And an actor who can’t get jacked on deadline doesn’t have a shot at being a leading man in today’s Hollywood. Given the choice between acting chops and physique, producers and directors will often choose the better body.”
This isn’t the first time in Hollywood history that male performers have worked towards exceptional bodies, but as it becomes a normal aspect of the process and the professional livelihood of an actor increasingly depends on his mainstream marketability, more men will experience what women have been asked to do since the early days of entertainment.
In other words, if this isn’t you, you better start worrying about your place in showbiz:
What do you think of these unrealistic standards for male actors (and of course actresses, for that matter)? Share in the comments section below.