For those who think that the muscle-bound marines of games like Gears of War are absurdist, macho fantasy, Paul Solotaroff’s feature on “the dawn of huge” in this month’s Men’s Journal gives some context. Solotaroff outlines the rise of the American body-builder from outcast freaks or archetypal male:
Muscle, in all its meanings, is such a deeply American trope that it feels like part of our national narrative. We’ve made strength the flag of our exceptionalism and believe, however vainly, that our might will prevail in any test of wills against our foes. We’ve even found a way to monetize muscle, building an industrial complex of health clubs and home gyms and their hugely lucrative sideline: nutritional supplements. Thirty years ago, men stopped at a bar for a cold one after work; now those bars are Ballys and Crunches, and the person sweating beside you is as likely to be a woman as the guy who used to buy the second round. Most of them aren’t there to build contest-quality mass or prepare for strongman shows; they go in pursuit of fitness, which is strength by another name – muscle fit for stock traders and internet geeks.
Solotaroff’s outline of the normalization of fitness, particularly through the lens of the popular Gold’s Gym, is fascinating (and damning for the piece’s nymphomaniac centerpiece Arnold Schwarzenegger). You’ll never look at Cole Train the same way again. (Also, Muscle March)
[via Men’s Journal]