It has been a norm that Hollywood, like most film industries, have been called out for over-sexualizing women. Even the gaming industry has faced severe backlash. In the famous Tomb Raider series, Lara Croft, who was meant to be a feminist hero, turned into another male fantasy because the team behind the game decided that ‘sex sells’ was a great marketing idea. People are talking about this issue, it has been heavily discussed and debated. But there is a similar issue that hasn’t garnered much attention: the sexualization of men in the industry.
I happened to stumble upon this topic while scrolling through Reddit. I came across a news article on “The Inquisitr” from 2015, where Natalie Dormer spoke to the Telegraph about men having it as bad as women in terms of objectification. This certainly wasn’t the first time, but it bought some much-required attention to the topic.
Hugh Jackman played Wolverine for 17 years, and in almost every scene of each movie, he doesn’t have a shirt on and looks ripped. In an interview with Stephen Colbert for his latest film “Logan”, Jackman said that all his shirtless scenes were pushed to the very end so that he could prepare for them. He would drink litres of water before the shoot and then remained entirely dehydrated for 36 hours until he faced the camera. Our body organs stop working after approximately 3 to 4 days of dehydration, yet, all these dangerous measures were followed just to make his veins stick out. Even Brad Pitt had to go through a similar procedure, for Fight Club, and so did Channing Tatum for his role as a stripper in the movie Magic Mike.
The condition of having superficial veins pop out, which makes the skin appear ‘thin’, is called ‘vascularity’. This is something bodybuilders often do before competitions. Self-dehydration is not recommended by medical professionals. Primarily due to their adverse and at times, tragic effects, as told by Dr Martin Sellens, Director of Sports Science at the University of Essex. An argument could be made that this is just dedication to one’s art, but forcing one’s body to go through hell just to become an eye candy on-screen or to ‘get the look’ isn’t a healthy idea.
The problem is not just with the herculean characters on-screen. It’s about how these kinds of actions end up demeaning the actor’s art, reducing their presence to a mere sexual appeal rather than their talent. Many a time one’s body type determined the kind of roles they got. Zach Galifinakis, who is known for playing Alan in The Hangover movies, joked about how it’s tough to make a break in the industry with a body like his. Kit Harrington, the actor, known for portraying Jon Snow, claimed that sometimes it felt like his acting wasn’t appreciated. Specifically, when he was put into roles where he was addressed by his physical attributes, where he would end up being just another hunk/heartthrob. He claimed that most of the audience gives no regards to his talent, and would rather discuss how sexually appealing women found him, which is a bit demeaning, considering that this isn’t the reason why he stepped into the acting industry.
I wish I could say that it is just the industry’s fault for blatantly pushing this propaganda, but the beautiful fairyland we called “The Internet” is filled with quiet ugly trolls. From Leonardo Dicaprio to Vin Diesel, many male stars have fallen prey to these trolls. Jason Momoa, the actor who played Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones and Arthur Curry from Aquaman, were body-shamed for having a “Dad Bod”. When a person like Jason Momoa is trolled, only because he didn’t have abs, then perhaps no one is safe out there.
People can be oblivious and will consume almost whatever is fed to them, so when you feed them with unrealistic body images, it not only makes the general public anxious due to increased body insecurity but also negatively affects the actors. Just because they are expected to be immune to such comments, doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother them. They are actors, and their job is to portray a character on-screen. They do not need to walk around, looking like a Greek Warrior.
Reading up about these often reminds you of modelling industry scandals, with runway models starving themselves to death to get that desirable body or the infamous “Paris thin” body.
In my opinion, objectification of any person, irrespective of gender, isn’t something that should be promoted in any manner whatsoever. Although women indeed have it worse than their male co-stars out there with regards to this and on top of that ageism, lower pay, etc., it is also essential that an issue like the objectification of males is given the required amount of attention. Hollywood must be called out for playing it dirty.
For us as consumers, it’s imperative to understand that an actor’s job profile doesn’t necessarily require them to have a ripped body. When we go around supporting and promoting such unrealistic body standards, and shame those who decided not to follow through, we are just as dirty.