The Miraculous Muscleheads Of Hollywood

So this is what you get from the New York Times when explaining how leading men in big budget movies look like a different species today compared with twenty years ago:

Almost any actor, even some of Hollywood’s most scrawny, can be physically transformed for the part if he’s willing to put in the hard work. The studios know this, which is why any inexpensive unknown can be chosen. The cast for “300,” including a post-“Phantom of the Opera” Butler and the relative newcomer Fassbender, were put on a brutal program with Mark Twight, a trainer whose workouts incorporated medicine balls, kettlebells and rings to emphasize the athleticism of the Spartans.

Did anyone fact-check that? Obviously not. So let’s rephrase with some hope of being vaguely close to the truth: almost any actor can be physically transformed for the part if he’s willing to put in the hard work and embrace a sophisticated steroid and nutrition regimen. The idea that the massive chiseled physiques in most action movies are simply a function of hard training doesn’t even pass the laugh-test. At one point, the reporter gingerly stumbles onto the bleeding obvious:

A number of trainers and actors told me that steroids were out there and that everybody had a good idea of who was on them — though nobody is willing to name names. But as trainers like Twight make obvious, the Hollywood fitness mechanism is brutal and advanced enough to make any performance-enhancing drug seem primitive by comparison.

Er, no. No training regime makes steroids look “primitive”.

First off, the steroids are far from primitive. They’re as sophisticated as the training methods. And it’s emphatically not either-or. Given the staggering physiques of almost all male action stars today, both drugs and training are obviously necessary. No one gets to look like Arnold without steroids, just as Arnold didn’t get to look like Arnold without steroids.

Second, just ask yourself: the piece reports a furious competition between hundreds of aspiring young male actors in an industry producing fewer movies with the baseline for action stars being a massive, muscled, chiseled and ripped torso. Did it occur to Alex French that a highly competitive environment in which steroids can mean the difference between miserable anonymity and staggering success is almost a textbook setting for a roid race? Of course it is. And of course every action movie Hollywood creates today is a paean to the power of pharmaceuticals.

Look, I’m not complaining. 300 is a gay porn movie from the gods. But please don’t try and convince me it’s really just the creatine and the kettle-bells.