Tuesday, 31 July 2012

447: Charles Atlas

“Physical Culture”, body-building, call it what you will. Is it just a desire to build up a more manly physique to attract the ladies, or does it shade over into something more insidiously homoerotic? All those 1950s muscle magazines featuring glistening, toned, scarcely clad young men, and the 1998 film “Beefcake” would argue that the intent was more homosexual than advocates would admit. Of course the most famous body-building course, aimed at the boys who just wanted to look a bit more manly, was Charles Atlas’s, with his adverts about the wimp on the beach getting sand kicked in his face. So a few parodies of the format of the ad and the other appeals of muscle.


Monty Python’s Flying Circus, 16 November 1969
0.38 – 0.55

This animation by Terry Gilliam is a spoof of Charles Atlas. However the line, about “a body that is the envy of other men” produces this camp poof. The snide tones and a limp wrist are universal. The “duckie” I think is more English, but the blonde bouffant hair and striped suit are more American clichés of the time.


Playboy, November 1977
Lou Brooks

This one, since it is a cartoon, can more accurately follow the original cartoon style of the Charles Atlas adverts. The parody follows the format, but each panel is rather more subversively coarse than the original. The pay-off of the strip is the homoeroticism of body-building, confirmed by the final line in which the bodybuilder reveals his name is Bruce. This is obviously the cartoon I was trying to remember in this earlier Al Jaffee cartoon about the gay appeal of bodybuilding

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