I should remember to reblog my own articles on my Tumblr. (Also, I should use my Tumblr.)
The Myth of Sexy Superman and the Search for Superhero Beefcake [Op-Ed]
By Andrew Wheeler
2011 was a good year for superhero beefcake. Not in comics, of course, but at the movies. And not in terms of quantity, but in terms of quality. What I’m saying is that Chris Hemsworth took his shirt off in Thor, and it was great.
All right, Chris Evans took his shirt off as well for his Charles-Atlas-ification in Captain America, and I understand Ryan Reynolds was briefly featured in his scanties before having his body replaced with a cantaloupe-skinned wire-frame in Green Lantern. That was it, though. The bar for superhero beefcake is set pretty low. And the bar is set low because the source material — actual superhero comics — has never been fertile ground for the shameless sexual objectification of men.
I know that sounds extraordinary to fans who insist that the men in superhero comics are objectified just as much as the women, but I speak as someone who spent his teen years hungry for comics that featured half-dressed supermen.
As a hormonal gay adolescent in the pre-internet age I cherished those very occasional — and usually incidental — moments of shirtlessness. Marc Silvestri’s Havok in a torn-up costume as the Goblin Prince? John Romita Jr.’s Matt Murdock in tighty whities? Alan Davis’s Captain Britain in drawstring pajama pants? Joe Mad’s Banshee flashing his abs as he pulls on a sweatshirtl? Any comic set in the Savage Land? These were my sacred texts. (And yes, I was a Marvel kid.)
Straight boys never have to hunt for that sort of fan service. The whole industry caters to their libidos. Gay boys and straight girls do not enjoy the same level of pandering. Sure, the men in these comics are usually buff and handsome, and they’re all dressed in skin-tight clothes and they all have six-pack abs. If you enjoy looking at athletic, attractive men, you will find athletic, attractive men in these books, especially when drawn by artists like Chris Sprouse, Dale Eaglesham, Nicola Scott and Olivier Coipel.
But it’s not equivalent. Superhero men are idealized, yes, but they’re rarely sexualized. While women are presented as broken-backed boob hostesses whose every move is a bend-and-snap designed to flatter and entice the presumed-male, presumed-straight reader, the men are sexless paragons of strength, with propaganda poster good looks that serve as visual shorthand for their masculine, heroic bona fides.
As a gay man, I want more from my objectification. I can’t speak for straight women, but I suspect they want better as well. [Editor’s note: We do.] There’s a popular perception that women aren’t as shallow about appearance as men, and maybe that’s true, but they’re more than capable of being just shallow enough. Many women of my acquaintance prefer the pale, skinny men of BBC costume drama rather than the Hollywood jocks I like, but whether you want Chris Hemsworth or Tom Hiddleston, Paul Walker or Paul Bettany, Colin Farrell or Colin Firth, we all like to look.
Man, I’m gonna miss Comics Alliance. They had the best articles.Via The Fairer Sex