Why does the media representation of male bodies keep getting bigger?


Racheting up the tough guise

Over the past few decades, there’s been a ratcheting up of what it takes to be considered a real man.

Even as the cultural ideal for women’s bodies has grown thinner and thinner, the ideal for men’s bodies has grown bigger and bigger. From action heroes to pro wrestlers to toy action figures, the size of men’s bodies has grown exponentially over time, as shown in this clip from Tough Guise 2.



Questions for Reflection & Discussion:


  • How has the media ideal of men’s bodies changed over time?
  • Do you think these changes have had consequences for boys and men in the real world? Is this a more or less harmless development, or do you see signs around you that these changes have had a negative impact on some guys?
  • What do you make of the fact that the media ideal of women’s bodies has gotten smaller and smaller even as the media ideal of men’s bodies has grown bigger? Do you see our cultural ideals negotiating men’s anxieties about women and women’s power in the real world? In what ways?
  • Over the course of your own lifetime, in what ways have you seen, first hand, the ratcheting up of media violence? What role does gender play in this trend?
  • When you think about young boys being exposed to these accelerating levels of violence – whether it’s in movies, video games, or porn – what kinds of messages about manhood do you think they’re absorbing? What kinds of messages about women? About femininity? How might these images affect them in the short term? In the long term?