In a recent Men’s Health article presenting their 10 candidates for the upcoming Men’s Health Ultimate Guy award, I noticed something about the photos that were posted to introduce us to these candidates. Most were indeed amazing guys that each had a compelling story to tell about overcoming some great obstacles or engaging in some poignant social cause. But many of the pictures pictures accompanying these articles told a very different story.
Now, I am someone that would have loved to have learned of these guys and their awesome deeds without the benefit of any photos at all. What do those photos really add to the story, except things that were never intended to be a part of what elevated them to candidate status (hopefully).
“I’ve written extensively on how appearance as evidence of anything—without exception—encourages a compromise of health at some point; no matter how well intentioned.“
I suppose it’s not much of a stretch to get behind the value of a photo of the person to help us all get a sense about the person; as in a good head shot to accompany their story.
What I saw instead were numerous (near universal) pics of these guys with their shirts off, and often taking a mirror-selfie of themselves, highlighting ripped abs and pumped chest and biceps. I contend that pics like that add so little substance to these stories as to be silly; yet can you imagine that MH would have ever considered not showing those? Such is the state of our culture. It’s the same culture that spawned body building as a sport; one where appearance is the competition.
You get where I’m going with this; it’s a notion I have spoken of often: when we let appearance become a focal point, we cheapen the value of the message. When appearance becomes important, health will suffer in the pursuit of it. I’ve written extensively on how appearance as evidence of anything—without exception—encourages a compromise of health at some point; no matter how well intentioned.
“Some of the biggest offenders are those who claim to teach something other than how to look good (think: fitness, wellness, yoga, etc.), yet use almost-clothed photos of themselves as testimony to the effectiveness of their methods.“
As in the case of a person who is sincerely pursuing health as a primary goal, he/she will be ultimately mislead when all they ever hear or see on the subject is about the look of health instead of the substance of it. That person will understandably undertake strategies that produce somebody’s idea of the appearance of health to the exclusion of everything that doesn’t; of which there are many in the pursuit of actual health. The appearance will always be the easier of the two to accomplish.
Some of the biggest offenders are those who claim to teach something other than how to look good (think: fitness, wellness, yoga, etc.), yet use almost-clothed photos of themselves as testimony to the effectiveness of their methods. All they are laying claim to is the (relatively easy) ability to look good. I know, health is an experiential thing and we’re an image culture. But don’t forget that we all still experience ourselves through health. So when exactly does health get to be the goal?
I know many of you are proud of the bodies you have created and want to show them off, and hopefully they are in fact a good indicator of how healthy you are, but realize what message you’re sending by making appearances the focal point of your achievement. No matter how well-intentioned, what you are really saying with that mirror-selfie is that the body builders were right all along.
And yet, the name of the magazine is Men’s Health.