Perfection For Sale!

When did body issues start?

Perhaps the dawn of the printing press. I'm sure Johann Gutenberg had a notion of what his invention meant and what it would do.

Mass-produced media. Mass-produced ideas. Mass-produced ideals.

Mass production of anything has the potential to effect people's perspective.

I wonder, as I do, if people who didn't match their mass produced ideals of their day felt self-conscience.

Did Greek culture, with it's artistic preference for smaller genitals on men, cause men with bodies outside the ideal to feel inadequate? Surely. Perhaps less due to less saturation, since producing the fine art that constituted the mass media of the day took much more effort.

Perhaps it was the Victorian era, however, where mass-produced forms of the both men and women came into their own. Not only were pictures of what men and women should look like printed (should look like according to god knows who, really), but products for reaching those physical ideals were advertised and sold. Girdles and mustache wax being merely two.

If you look at some of these illustrations and photographs from those times, it really appears that all men had thick, heavy handle bar mustaches. All women had the hour glass figure and long hair piled high on their heads.

Imagine being one of those men who had thin, fine hair that took forever to grow in. Give me a year and half maybe I'll get a mustache out of it if I never, ever shave.

Imagine being an athletically built, thin hipped woman.

Naturally I wonder about these things as I wander the urban landscapes of America and see the two main ideals of gender plastered wall to wall trying to sell everything from cars to contraceptives.

If our advertising is to be believed, women are to be very thin, frail and bored. Men are to be huge, ripped and scowling.

This is of course, not all advertising, but enough of it that I can make such a broad generalization that and still hit pretty close to the mark.

Sometimes the marketing doesn't make a ton of sense. Like using naked people to sell clothing (I'm looking at you, Abercrombie & Fitch), or using people with pearly white teeth to sell tobacco products (Newport).

It goes well beyond that, of course. Being a regular watcher of TV these days, I saw a Mazda commercial where people who weren't driving Mazdas magically looked old when they saw themselves reflected in their non-Mazda cars. That's right.

"Drive a Mazda or you will age prematurely."

There's a kind of mercenary ruthlessness in that sort of advertising. Reinforcing a cruel lust for youth (a topic I will sink my teeth into soon enough, I assure you), the advertisement is itself a symptom of the ideals that people are told they need to reach, and the suggests that it's product will help you reach them. This is counter intuitive, because let's face it: no one ever got physically fit driving anywhere.

Naturally, if the advertising were an honest business, people wouldn't buy anywhere near as much stuff.

I don't meet those physical ideals myself. Try though I might, I am thin. I come from a long line of thin men. Thin their whole lives, perhaps a gut toward the end of life. I used to work out all the time and eat tons of food and if I worked really hard I could gain twenty pounds or so. If I stopped my body would burn off everything while I slept.

Broad-shouldered, yet lanky and stork-like, the men of my family except one family on my mothers side would have been excellent chimney sweeps one hundred years ago.

Naturally, a first response is "You don't know how lucky you are." I used to scowl at that sentiment. These days I'm actually more okay with myself. In my early 20's I realized just how much bullshit was being forced down our collective throats and how I shouldn't try very hard to built like a superhero (Massive torso, small waist, power legs, great calves and so on).

Of course I don't own a car, either.

I've found true physical fitness has only a little bit to do with appearance and more to do with strength and endurance. I think it's a safe bet that most underwear models, while delicious looking, cannot "run flat out for two miles before [their] hands start shaking."


Splendid_IREny said...

Sgt. Brightside - I'm inclined to say the same thing of the anorexic models during Fashion Week. They don't look like marionette dolls when they walk, so running doesn't seem remotely possible.

Jennifer Sardam said...
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