Monday, July 6, 2009

New TV show "Hung" and "the Body Guy"

I saw the first episode of "Hung" last night, and it reminded me of a conversation I had with Professor Peter Lehman, co-author with Susan Hunt of The Body Guy in the Movies.

Lehman's book describes the emergence of a new genre of films in the 90s that feature a character they term "the body guy". As he explains, "In these films, the body guy is frequently pitted against a mind guy, someone associated with the work of the mind, as opposed to the body, someone typically upper class or educated or a professional person, and the body guy is usually associated with the land or in an urban setting with blue collar work, and in this new genre of work there is an intensification of the sexuality of the body guy, who has a kind of sexual magic that is so powerful that he has the ability to awaken sexuality, and it is always a beautiful woman who is always married to or engaged to a mind guy who is inadequate to engage her, and she discovers this sexual magic the body guy who can fulfill her in a way her successful mind guy cannot."

The series "Hung" well-embodies this archetype. The lead is a school teacher whose wife has left him for a more successful dermatologist. His house (which is dwarfed by a snotty male lawyer's new McMansion next door) suffers significant damages in a fire and he is reduced to asking his ex-wife for a loan, but is turned down, so he has to live in a tent. He resorts to deciding that his skill or his gift is his large penis, and proceeds to try to figure out how to market himself.

Why are we seeing a rise in the "body guy"? As Lehman says, "What we see happening is a kind of something that’s very complicated now because we are living in a world where more and more power and real success for men lies for them in learning to develop their mind and to succeed with their mind and yet these films seem to send out an opposite kind of image that nothing is more powerful or enticing than the body and specifically the penis and this notion of male sexuality as defined by this kind of magical sexual performance that the 'body guy' can deliver, as if there is a belief out there that somehow if you become educated, if you are smart, if you are successful, that that takes you away form your sexuality in a way."

It's an attempt to assuage rising male anxieties about achieving financial success in today's economy.

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