This paper provides a critical decoding of advertisements in Flex, a popular bodybuilding magazine. The analysis focuses on the visual and narrative representation of the muscular male body and bodywork practices in advertisements promoting bodybuilding technologies. The images of the muscular body found in bodybuilding advertisements encourage masculine self-transformation through bodywork. Moreover, the taken-for-granted representation of the muscular body as natural and desirable is rooted in an ideology of gender difference, championing dominant meanings of masculinity through a literal embodiment of patriarchal power. The foregrounding of the muscular body as a cultural ideal offers conservative resistance to progressive change and alternative masculinities by valorizing a dominance-based notion of masculinity.
Philip G. White is with the Department of Kinesiology and James Gillett is with the Department of Sociology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8S 4K1.