When I first saw the headline for the blog post: Visualising Superheroes With Average American Body Types I immediately jumped to conclusions.
I thought that this was yet another piece about comic books objectifying women. I fail to understand this idea because men are just as objectified as women in comics. Everything is objectified in comics based on a variety of reasons depending on the type of comic it is, and the reality of the situation is that I never see any women in public with the hourglass shape typical of comic book women. Likewise, I never see any men walking around in public with barrel chests and ripped with a thousand muscles typical of the men in comics. I’m certainly not built that way although I wish I was. Nor do I see mythological creatures walking down the street or space aliens zooming around in the sky. I never see any of these things when I leave the house because those types of men and women, creatures or aliens aren’t typical reality. All of these things are fantastical and that’s all comic books are, stories filled with objects of fantasy for the purpose of escapism.
So this was my mindset before actually looking at the article, another comics objectify women story. However, even though I was absolutely resolved to dismiss the text entirely I still wanted to see the pictures. So I checked them out. Then I come to the Iron Man and I’m mildly shocked. As I keep going down the page I’m surprised to see they have not only realized the women but they have also realized some men as well. So now I had to go back to the top to read the text and find out what this was really all about, because now I’m pretty sure my first assumption was wrong.
I wasn’t completely wrong because the purpose of the article was about both objectivity of the body and bulimia. Not just the objectivity of women, but the objectivity of both men and women It went on to show how the objective bodies of the women and men in comics are sheer fantasy and are completely unattainable objects through bulimia or any other unhealthy means.
This is their (bulimia.com’s) conclusion to the exercise: As you might expect, the differences are stark. When seen through a more realistic lens, the stick-thin thighs and visible ribcages vanish from the women, while the men’s exaggerated V-shaped upper bodies are cut down to a more reasonable size.
The extreme body shapes of the originals come from the fictional universes in which these characters reside, and as widespread as these images may be in our culture, this certainly isn’t something that any real person could hope to achieve safely. If these characters had a figure more like that of the average person, perhaps more people could look up to their favorite superhero without feeling the need to emulate an impossible physique. Ultimately, what’s truly heroic is respecting yourself, your body, and your health.
I really like the sentiment of this conclusion although I don’t think I agree with it over all. I’m not so sure people would enjoy their fantastical heros and heroines if they had completely average bodies. Superman and Wonder Woman are the Zeus and Hera of the modern age and for them to have completely average bodies would destroy a lot of the fantasy of the comics, and that is their purpose after all, to be fantastical escapism. Also, I’m not sold on respecting yourself as heroism. I personally think the real heroes of the world are Doctors, nurses, firemen, or an organization like bulimia.com , the type of people who would help someone with bulimia or save someones life in some other way.
So in the end, I’m glad I looked at the pictures as well as read the article. I learned some statistics I didn’t know about bulimia, I saw comics from their point of view, and I also think maybe comic book makers could put a little roundness back into the characters. After all it was only 400 short years ago that Peter Paul Rubens and his paintings of “plump” ladies and gents were all the rage in Europe. There could always be a social shift back in the Rubenesquedirection someday. Who knows.
(This post is also on the Atomsplit Tumblr page)