So Richard Cohen has this column about the new James Bond movie where he sort of bafflingly laments how buff Daniel Craig is:
Contrast this new Bond to Roger O. Thornhill, the charmingly hapless advertising man played by Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.” Like Bond, Thornhill pulls off some amazing physical feats — his mad frantic escape from the crop duster, the traverse of Mount Rushmore — and like Bond he wears an expensive suit. Unlike Bond, though, when he takes it off we do not see some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer, but a fit man, effortlessly athletic and just as effortlessly sophisticated. Of course, he knows his martinis, but he also knows how to send out a suit for swift hotel cleaning.
[…] Grant — for all his good looks — represented the triumph of the sexual meritocracy — a sex appeal won by experience and savoir-faire, not delts and pecs and other such things that any kid can have. He was not alone in this. Gary Cooper in “High Noon” wins Grace Kelly by strength of character, not muscles.
Cohen gets some ‘expert quotes go here’ material:
“There has been a striking change in attitudes toward male body image in the past 30 years,” Harrison Pope, a Harvard psychiatry professor, recently told the New York Times. He said the portrayal of men in what amounts to the Bond image is now “dramatically more prevalent in society than it was a generation ago.” That same Times story reported that 40 percent of middle and high school boys work out with the purpose of “increasing muscle mass.”
First of all, when it comes to an increasing supply of fit, good-looking males, I am staunchly in favor.
Not for the reasons you’d think, though. I actually see the increasing prevalence of good-looking males—and the corresponding pressure to resemble them—as a consequence of feminism. The more egalitarian your society is, the less women need to rely on men for status or livelihood. A woman is not impressed by your Ferrari if she drives one herself. Stripped of the traditional condo-and-cufflinks status symbols, men have to resort to the last asset they have—their looks.
My only evidence for this, alas, is anecdotal. After five years in Denmark, I was convinced the primary reason Danish men spend so much time tanning, gymming and hair-producting was because it’s all they have. Danish women have jobs, education, professional status, financial stability, what do they need yours for?
Inequality of good-lookingness between the genders has become a kind of proxy index I use when I travel. Anytime I walk around a country full of stylish, beautiful woman and schlubby, hairy-backed men, I fear for its Gender Inequality Index score.
Part of me almost agrees with Cohen’s lament. There is something meritocratic about your attractiveness being based on your confidence, you status, your character. In America, he softly moans, hard work will not just propel you out of your class, but out of your league. For men of his generation, each of Daniel Craig’s jumping pectorals represents something lost, a new bar to hurdle.
So that’s part of my response. But the rest of it is me making a wanking motion and a ‘pfffft’ sound. Living in a country that’s becoming more equal, where other people’s desires are as important as your own, means you no longer get to choose the criteria by which you will be judged. For two millennia, women have been living in a world ruled by men. Nothing makes men angrier than realizing that might not always be the case.