It’s no secret Facebook uses user information to coordinate adds. It’s why I get adds for online Divinity Schools (I apparently have an interest in religion) and adds for Budweiser (for the record, I brew beer and usually post pictures of it). I also run, and to help motivate myself I’ll post about it every once in a while. And I’m sure that’s the reason I get advertisements for ways to transform my body, from the flabby, hairy chested form it now manifests, to a lean, hairless, “built” machine-like physique that looks pretty darn “sexy” without a shirt on. Usually these adds feature side-by-side frames, one with the “before” shot, and the other with the results of whatever program is being sold.
Recently, there’s been another add showing up on my timeline. Instead of the side-by-side results oriented pitch, it shows 3 drawings of different body “types,” which are defined as “ectomorph,” “Mesomorph,” and “endomorph.” (you can check it out here. For the record, I took the test and I’m a fall between an endomorph and a mesomorph)
The first set of adds, the results oriented pictures, make me think immediately of the creation of an ideal male physique, something which may or may not be accomplished in this life, but which we all ought to strive for. Of course, I’m not sure how many men I know who were born without body hair, but I don’t think it was very many, and the punishment a person has to go through to maintain that kind of look (here’s one with The Rock that showed up for a while) seems kind of extreme (ok, so for some people lifting weights isn’t punishment…I’m not one of those people). And so, we accomplish an irony of the past 100 years of advertising: too be beautiful, at least according to the adds, means accomplishing something which cannot happen naturally.
The second set of adds get at another modern problem when talking about bodies: reducing really complicated sets off genetics to oversimplified categories. Roughly estimating, there are 3.5 billion men in the world (assuming the worlds population is 7 billion and that roughly half of those are men). Based on that information, I venture to conclude that there are at least 3.5 billion types of male bodies. Can groups be made? Sure, it’s possible. But why is society so quick to segment large groups of individuals into easily sortable categories? Remember when society did that with race? Or class? Or nationality? Remember how that still serves as a way to exert power and control in really bad ways?
I’m bothered by these adds, partly due to my own insecurities (yes, as a man I have insecurities about my body) but partly because of the power they try to exert on humanity. Can we, as a people, be done with celebrating what for many is a completely unattainable beauty? And please, can we stop lumping large groups of people into different categories based on perceived difference? Please?
From the perspective of the Christian church, we should reject them not only because of their use of power to control (although really, that’s a pretty good reason) but because they don’t jive with Jesus. Contrary to the imagination of those in the media, we don’t have a picture of the actual Jesus. Sure, the modern world has produced their own portraits, from the ‘Swedish’ Jesus (as my friends and I have called this blue eyed figure) to the muscular Jesus and so on.
But the only image of Jesus’ body we get in the bible isn’t toned and controlled; the first real descriptions we get are when he’s being beat and broken by the powers of the world. In three days, despite their efforts to inflict control over his body, he is raised from the dead, seemingly overcoming and (hopefully) ending the violence. The Good News of the cross can be understood as the power to overcome the control the world seeks to enact on bodies.
Why, then, are we still letting bodies be controlled? Why are we still giving in to hairless-muscular-sexy-without-a-shirt-(unnatural)-masculine-beauty?
I mean, come on Facebook? Leave me alone! How about some real men! with real bodies! Like these:
These make me happy!