The Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron is one of my favourite DVD‘s!
I have been a fan of superheroes since I was kid. My older brother used to collect comics from the late 60’s through to the early 80’s and he used to let me read them. I was 9 years old in 1979 and my brother bought for me the best book I could have ever hoped for, DC heroes versus Marvel heroes. The cover in itself was all I needed to see before I yelled out a loud THANK YOU. I was hooked.
From then on I had obsession with Hulk, The Thing (The Fantastic Four), Luke Cage and the X-Man Colossus. If they were big and had huge muscles then they were the comics that I would want to read. Can they fly? Not interested. Do they have the power of fire or ice? You can keep it. Super intelligence? No thanks! Hulk smash? Yes please. Is it clobbering time? You bet!!
The big brutes always got my attention, I wanted to be just like them. As I got older I wanted muscles of my own. But has this helped to create unrealistic gym expectations in my mind? Do I now desire the impossible?
I haven’t always been the overweight person that I am today but I have yo-yoed with my weight and body size over the years like many people. At my peak I used to be in the gym 5 days a week. Running, leaping and lifting heavy weights. I was my own super being and also completely obsessed with exercise. But I was an adult; an adult who hadn’t read a comic book in years. I just wanted to be BIG! But why? Had my exposure to superhero comics made me subconsciously want to have a body like the heroes I loved to read?
There is plenty of research out there on the subject of the hypermasculisation of the male form and the influence of visual media. Body dissatisfaction has become a growing problem among men both young and old. Shira Gabriel, Ariana Young and Jordan Hollar from the University of Buffalo looked into various studies and found that exposure to muscular media figures contribute to men’s own body dissatisfaction. “Although the effects of muscular superheroes on men’s body image had not yet been directly examined, it seemed reasonable to assume that superheroes, too, would provoke body dissatisfaction,” says Young. (For more click here)
Anorexia and other eating and body image disorders have long been perceived as being “girl problems” but are becoming a growing concern for boys. Body image disorders such as “bigorexia” primarily affects males and as the name suggests, the sufferer strives to gain more and more muscle rather than to lose weight.
A creative team working with Bulimia.com, a website dedicated to providing information and support systems to those struggling with eating disorders, decided to transform covers of comic books depicting popular female – and male – characters and give some popular heroes more realistic bodies. Realistic being fatter, less toned and far less sexualised that we are used to seeing. In essence, removing some of the super from the superhero.
There are superheroes who have been created to promote a more positive body image. The Mind Hut blog has written about this subject highlighting characters such as Bouncing Boy and Big Bertha. I am not sure that making a hero super fat is an example of promoting a positive healthy body image.
What I found interesting is that if you want to see what a real Olympian body really looks like you notice that this will completely depend on the sporting event that they participate in. The Comic Alliance has a really interesting view on this.
The issue is one of variety. We need to see a range of body images thoughout all media platforms and then we are able to understand from a young age that these images are fantasy.