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An Obsession With the Bodies of Superhero Actors: Body Shaming, Sexual Harassment, and Objectification

Superheroes have been drawn with ridiculously and unnaturally perfect bodies from the get-go and that’s fine, sometimes it even adds to the entertainment. The exaggerated curves, bulges, and muscles are often so absurd it’s laughable. While that’s all great, no healthy human being can obtain these bodies in real life, especially if that human has a schedule that demanding of a working actor. But unfortunately, it seems like a lot of fans of the superhero genre don’t seem to understand this and the simple concept of a body type. This blatant ignorance or disregard leads to body shaming actors who play these beloved superheroes, as if the users behind these bullying accounts have flawless abs and muscles themselves. Sometimes this gets to a point where the actor cast is driven to delete their social media accounts. When it was announced that Ruby Rose was cast as Batwoman for the CW’s Arrowverse, the actress received tons of backlash on her Twitter. A lot of people criticized her sexuality, gender identity, religion, and her thin frame and it was so overwhelming she deleted her account. Body-shaming is a form of bullying and a disgusting plague that should not be tolerated in any fan base.

Arrow CrossoverCredit: The CW
We haven’t seen Rose in her suit yet, but here’s an exciting promo picture of the Arrowverse crossover that shows the famous insignia. Photo credit to the CW.

To show the obvious truth that they have feelings too, some actors have bravely taken their social media platform to fire back and call out the issue. Though this wasn’t the first time he spoke out, Grant Gustin most recently did so on his Instagram account (@grantgust) August 8 due to a leaked photo of him in CW’s new Flash costume. The actor, who plays Barry Allen/The Flash on the CW’s The Flash, unashamedly noted his naturally slim frame and said, “I’m happy with my body and who I am and other kids who are built like me and thinner than me should be able to feel the same way. Not only that, but they should be able to feel like they could be a superhero on TV or film or whatever it may be someday.” Similarly, his Arrowverse costar Caity Lotz (Sara Lance/White Canary on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) has also been under fire multiple times for her body type; however, she was body shamed for being “too muscular”. You can go on her Instagram (@caitylotz) and in just about any picture where she’s proudly showing off her biceps or six-pack, she condemns body shaming.

Lotz flexing with pride. Photo credit to @caitylotz on Instagram.

Interestingly enough, this fixation with superheroes’ physiques is often twisted the other direction into objectification and sometimes even sexual harassment. A disgusting example of the latter is with Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen/Green Arrow on Arrow). At San Diego Comic Con back in 2014, a man asked him to take his shirt off, claiming it was for his wife. Amell denied multiple times at first, but peer pressure is peer pressure and he was on stage with a crowd of thousands and some castmates and fans put it to a vote—as if it wasn’t his decision—so he did. Just from looking at his social media, it’s easy to tell that Amell is definitely confident, especially with his body; he regularly posts videos of his workouts and doesn’t mind sharing a shirtless photo or two. Still, that doesn’t make it okay to pressure someone into undressing or revealing their abdomen as Amell did because it’s sexual harassment.

Objectification in general can be easily seen at any press junket when the interviewer or fans mainly ask questions that involve their bodies. Questions about a workout routine or respectfully praising someone’s physique are completely harmless, but when an actor spends more time talking about their routine or diet than their acting, it starts to seem like their body is the most important thing about their craft. Body over craft is a problem in any movie, but it seems to be specifically prominent in the superhero genre. To get into specifics, I’m one of the many who finds Chris Hemsworth (Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) unfairly handsome in every sense of the word. But I also find people openly associating him with his body alone rather than his craft disgusting. A famous example of this would be talk show host Ellen unabashedly showing viewers his abs just to please the crowd at the People’s Choice Awards in 2016. Even though she is a lesbian who makes jokes for a living and seems to be friends with Hemsworth, the effect is still objectification and people need to know such a thing is not okay. Because I’m a feminist, it’s my duty to point out a double standard that makes gender equality harder to accomplish. If you switched the genders of Ellen and Hemsworth in this situation, there would’ve been a public uproar without a doubt.

An actor’s body does play a role in the performance because it adds to their physicality, but it is in no way more important than the performance itself, so getting caught up in an actor’s physique is pointless to the big picture. Not only that, but when it turns to body shaming, objectification, or even harassment, it is absolutely unacceptable just as it would be if they weren’t all pretty celebrities.

Nothing but love.

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