The Sunday Times: From heart-throb to heartblob

The general hilarity over Hugh Grant’s moobs shows that once pretty male stars now get shamed in the same way as women. Is this equality?

A quiet holiday in Marbella with his girlfriend must have seemed like a good idea to Hugh Grant, but he may be regretting it after he was snapped splashing in the Med and subjected to an onslaught of body-shaming.

The gossips and tabloids set about chronicling the 55-year-old’s flaws with gusto. Some noted his once-buff physique had morphed into a dad bod. Others observed that his muscles had melted into moobs and that his waistline had expanded so substantially his belly flumped ahead of him into the sea. Lined and jowly, he was more pasty cookie monster than floppy-haired heart-throb.

As one publication cruelly noted, Hugh was less Four Weddings and a Funeral than “four bellies and a pair of man boobs”.

Even the kindest observers, who praised Grant for ignoring the call of the himbo, still mentioned his “ample belly-level embonpoint and two enormously floppy moobs”.

Perhaps next year Grant might consider hiding his love handles behind one of those burkinis Nigella Lawson prefers on the beach. Or perhaps he does not give a damn that he has let himself go (after all, Martine McCutcheon, who starred with him in Love Actually, admitted last week she “wouldn’t kick him out of bed”).

More interestingly, however, as Grant walked into those waves he waded not just into the eye of a paparazzo’s lens but into a new debate about gender equality.

After decades of women being assessed on their looks, men are finally getting the same treatment. Is this man-shaming a sign of gender equality? Is fat no longer a feminist issue?

Man-shaming — the catch-all term for criticism aimed at the male body — is a relatively new phenomenon but perhaps a predictable one. In recent years men have followed women by becoming sex objects too.

You need only think of Aidan Turner whipping his top off as Poldark, the singer Justin Bieber clenching his abs on Instagram, Channing Tatum baring his muscles in Magic Mike or Zac Efron in almost every film he makes.

As men cashed in on their sexuality and enjoyed their objectification, it could only be a matter of time before they started attracting the same criticism that women have been subjected to for years.

Now the attention long paid to female stars’ cellulite, mummy tummies and bingo wings is being directed at men’s beer bellies and moobs. Grant is just the latest outsize man in the frame, but plenty have been in his place.

Leonardo DiCaprio, who long ago lost the pretty-boy looks that women swooned over in Titanic, now regularly gets teased for his paunch. He cannot get his top off on the beach without a picture of him appearing online cruelly mocking his pot belly and lumbersexual beard.

In recent weeks , as we have watched the collapse of Johnny Depp’s marriage, people have noted how badly Edward Scissorhands has aged. Having morphed from a teen idol with dark, brooding looks and a baby face to a larger, limp-haired version of himself, he is less Cry-Baby and more exhausted Jack Sparrow.

When Matthew Perry arrived in London earlier this year with his play The End of Longing, nobody could stop talking about how he had turned into a pale, overweight imitation of sweet-faced Chandler Bing from Friends.

So it has been for George Clooney, told he does not look as good as his wife Amal; John Travolta, whose performance in The People v OJ Simpson was overshadowed by discussions of what the Saturday Night Fever star had done to his face; and Russell Crowe, who has had every inch he has added to his waistline documented.

No wonder Bieber is so keen to get down to the gym.



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