Zac Efron and Seth Rogen’s latest comedy Neighbors slayed the box office this past Spring; it racked up an impressive $147 million at the box office and beating The Amazing Spider-Man 2 for the #1 spot during release weekend. Most of the buzz around the film was due to the films word-of-mouth, BuzzFeed-esque viral media promotion, through most of which found its star, Zac Efron, shirtless.
Unconventional trailers, like this one, played on Efron’s ab-tacular body strengths:
Rogen: “Hi there, I’m Seth and this is Zac. In our new movie Neighbors, I play a new father who just moved in to our dream house with my wife, played by the lovely Rose Byrnes…”
Efron: “And I play the head of a fraternity that moves in next door — “
Rogen(interrupts): “Zac…Zac…what are you doing?! What did we talk about?!”
Efron: “That I should stand here with no shirt and keep my pretty mouth shut.”
In fact, most of the buzz surrounding Efron — and what propelled him to cult icon status (at least where the girls, gays, and BuzzFeed are concerned) — has been his shirtlessness, in Neighbors:
In That Awkward Moment, a RomCom released earlier this year, the trailer for which featured a naked Efron with a viagra-related problem:
At the MTV Movie Awards, the nights most talked about (and GIFed) moment came when Rita Ora came up behind Efron during his acceptance speech for the Best Shirtless Performance award for That Awkward Moment (because being shirtless and doing it well has now officially become an award-worthy job skill):
Not to mention BuzzFeed, whose glorification of Efron’s God-like physique is
bordering on obsessive.
Click here to check out their many, many pieces one Efron, most of which worship his body or, at the very least, him as the perfect male specimen.
What does all of this media say? What is it telling us about the male body and our expectations for men?
Real men are not just smart with a good sense of humor; they’re not just defined by their careers and ability to provide (anything) as, they’re now defined by their bodies. Chiseled physiques are praised and with viral media websites taking hold of the social networking websites, this ideal is passed around quicker than the zombie virus. Through the bombardment of viral media that glorifies abs, pecs, general shirtlessness, body modification, and this idea of “perfection” — which has completely lost all meaning because what is “perfect?” How do we quantify and mass produce “perfection?” — is ingrained into our minds subconsciously. If a man doesn’t look like Efron, he will aspire to have a similar body, NOT because of Zac Efron the actor, but because his are the new standards.
One can’t log onto social media anymore without seeing a reference to CrossFit gyms, the new exercise craze that has swept the nation. The “gym selfie” has become commonplace and status updates and tweets are all about the “gym flow” and boasting about minutes/hours spent at the gym burning X calories and running X miles and showcasing Spotify gym playlists … as if everybody in the world cares about our workout regimes.
The issues is that we care. And we should care about our own physical fitness and our health. But why boast? If you’re a gay man or a girl, you may be used to seeing — or using — the #MCM (Man Candy Monday) hashtag trending on Twitter, which sees Twitterfolk praising the “perfect” men every Monday.
We may not stop and think about what we’re doing, mostly because it’s become commonplace to brag about our bodies and idolize celebrities who possess said physique. We also don’t realize the amount of media we’re exposed to on a daily basis. Even those who claim they don’t pay attention to social media or Hollywood entertainment are effected, whether they believe they are or not.
Constant exposure to advertisements on TV, in magazines, on billboards, even if you don’t really stop to look at them, they’re there, and we absorb these images and they become a part of our thought patterns and the DNA of what we come to expect. If you’re interested, click here to read more on the subject in “Men, Objectified: From Michelangelo to JLo, A Study on the Effect of Mainstream Masculinity on Male Identity.”
Another aspect of the viral media promotion of Efron’s Neighbors is this video, where he and Rogen appear alongside the cast of Comedy Central’s Workaholics.
This particular video is interesting when you break it down and simplify how Efron and Rogen are pitted against each other:
- Zac Efron is made out to be the “hero,” praised for how beautiful and handsome he is. His conventional masculinity is regarded as awe-some, while
- Seth Rogen is considered ugly and awkward.
Notice how Rogen is the “overweight” one in this scenario.
Also, there is a huge focus on the penis. Male endowment is a huge topic of discussion; everything from Locker Room talk to the whole “Size Does Matter” slogan used to advertise everything from candy bars to actual penises. There is a point in the video where the Workaholics crew demand to see Efron’s penis, and once he caves to the pressure and drops trou, it becomes clear that, not only does Efron possess the perfect bod, he also packs the perfect peen. They bow to his member, lauding it as a God-like talisman. To be fair, Rogen too is revealed to have a nice peen, but it isn’t enough to overshadow the rest of his appearance and demeanor, let alone Efron’s entire being.
At the end, it’s made clear that this was just a well-written promo spot for Neighbors.
What is this telling us?
To be a man, your body matters.
To be a man, your penis size matters.
To be a man, how you look matters. No matter what they say.
Is this what we should be saying? Is this the message we should be sending young boys growing up? The lesson to be learned here is this: If you see something, say something. It’s important to be aware of the messages being communicated from all forms of media so that we may be educated enough to understand and teach the difference between Reality and HyperReality.