Monday, February 1, 2010

Body snarking: Not just for female celebs anymore

Actor Jon Hamm ("Mad Men"), like Justin Timberlake and Alec Baldwin, has revealed himself to be a host with the comedic power to redeem the increasingly unfunny "Saturday Night Live." Hamm hosted the show this past Saturday with musical guest Michael Buble. The skit "Hamm and Buble," where the actor menacingly coerces Buble into "partnering" on a pork and champagne-themed restaurant is easily as unforgettable as Timberlake's "Omeletteville" or Baldwin's holiday classic "Schwetty Balls"








Hamm has great timing and gamely goes "all in" on his sketches. It is particularly refreshing that the actor, best known for playing a traditionally handsome, chiseled-jaw-wielding alpha male, doesn't seem precious about his reputation as a Hollywood hunk; he has no compunction about looking or playing the fool. On that, Salon Broadsheet writer Mary Elizabeth Williams and I agree.

I'm a bit disappointed, though, by Williams' decision to take pot shots at what she calls Hamm's "muffin top" in the following digital short:











...what really got us hot and bothered was his eagerness to take off his shirt – revealing a body so downright normal it was almost cuddly....

In a digital short early in the episode, Hamm was Sergio, the well-oiled, ponytailed,
saxophone-playing manifestation of a Gypsy curse. Tormenting Andy Samberg with
his smooth jazz, he loomed over his victim, flaunting visible muffin top. Read more...
What I see in that (pretty funny) short is a better-than-average, fit male body--perhaps not the fat-free, six-packed body of a Calvin Klein underwear model, but certainly the body of someone who makes their living fitting within prevailing beauty standards. Pretending that Jon Hamm's body is "cuddly" and muffin-topped seems as silly, and potentially damaging to the understanding of realistic body standards, as pretending Jennifer Lopez and models Lara Stone (right) and Crystal Renn (constantly called out for their atypical model physiques) are big gals.

Our society's collective body dysmorphia is so acute that we are unable to tell the difference between what an average, healthy and fit body looks like and what prevailing Hollywood and beauty industry standards look like. And we miss the fact that these two measures are completely unrelated.

A feminist columnist, though, should understand a thing or two about unrealistic body standards, imposed as they are most heavily on women. We cannot rail against no-body-fat standards for our sisters, but then call out a man with the barest of tummy jiggle for having a "muffin top." We can't zing media for spending too much time on actresses' bodies and too little on their actual talents, but then make a review of an actor's appearance on a comedy show all about his body. We can't dismiss media who want to make size 4 Lara Stone a poster girl for the average woman (actually, the plus-sized woman) and then pretend Jon Hamm is a body double for the average guy.

This kind of thing doesn't play any better when a woman does it. And it ultimately undermines any progress we make in dismantling unrealistic body standards.

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