Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Paul Solotaroff

Paul Solotaroff is a contributing editor at Men’s Journal and Rolling Stone and author of the new memoir, The Body Shop.

From his Q & A with Alex Jung:

How has the male ideal changed? What does it look like now?

Muscle is no longer the kind of freakish totem that it used to be. You don’t have to be an iron head to get noticed anymore—I think there are lots of muscular guys who don’t lift weights. Yoga muscle is the real elixir these days. If anybody’s a pimp these days, it’s the guys who are at the front of classes at Crunch who have that long, really dense, righteously earned muscle from doing four and five hours of postures every day. I think that’s really healthy, because that’s really useful. My muscle is useless. It’s much more grown-up muscle, more about inhabiting your body intelligently as a man rather than still doing what I do, which is carry around this adolescent fantasy of masculinity.

What do you think has prompted that change?

Well, muscle got so commodified in the '90s—action-flick stars, massively built ballplayers and the gorgons of professional wrestling—that it stopped being a freak show and became a lifestyle, or the adjunct, at least, to one. Where once it was the banner of blue-collar macho men, suddenly wealthy men were flocking to gyms and putting on size like a pair of British wingtips. They got what Schwarzenegger was selling all those years—that muscle, properly packaged, radiates power. And when women of style stopped being repulsed by brawn and found that they actually liked it, the stampede was on at high-end health clubs and the mass-market chains. The owners of Crunch and Equinox should send Ah-nuld a monthly check—not that the bastard needs it.

Some of it is probably cyclical. You go from the kind of wispy Williamsburg paradigm to its polar opposite and then back again. In this country we go from electing a Bush to an Obama. These cycles used to have 20-year arcs. Now the oscillation is much faster. I also think they’re much more fractional. I think there’s one body style that rules the day in Brooklyn, and then another in Bayonne, and a third in Short Hills. I just feel that everything now is so segmented so we’re really living three generations at once.

Where do you see muscle in popular culture?

If...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue