Disney released a trailer last week for its new She-Hulk series, mere moments after I sent out the day's newsletter. For a character with "hulk" in the name, she's kind of... lithe? Mostly very lean and veiny? Fine, broadly speaking! But a little confusing in, again, a She-Hulk series.
Sure, we will get an aggressive PR cycle around Maslany and how she gained, you know, "17 pounds of muscle in three months" (not humanly possible). But I've been realizing more and more that most people aren't even aware of the vast spectrum of bodies that can be strong; all they know is "runway model," "normal person," and "Ronnie Coleman," and pretty much only the last one is "strong." But what might have been? What could have been? Let's take a look.
The video game character Abby from The Last of Us II, she of months of absolutely deranged online controversy, is an instructive example, both in "possible appearance" as well as "why these 'lines' need to be crossed more often for the good of the culture." Her character model was based on Crossfitter Colleen Fotsch, whose upper back makes me weep with joy. Here is Colleen having a chill and using some arcane recovery tool, bless her.
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Another reference point in super hero movies that already exist are the women of Themyscira in Wonder Woman, because some casting director made a point of casting actual athletes, like Ann Wolfe (boxer), Samantha Win (martial artist) and Madeleine Vall Beijner (stunt actor).
Here's a smattering of my personal strong favs: Quiana Welch (who recently had a baby!)
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Daniella Melo! Kesha Collins??? Many are losing their minds over Lean Beef Patty. She has 2.5 million TikTok followers. She put the "rock the boat" challenge to shame. The culture chooses to simply ignore this??
A post shared by Kesha Collins (@kesha.collins)
This is not a referendum on what any person "should" look like, because there is no one way anyone should look.1 Anyway; we got only the slightest glimpse, and this wouldn't be the first fictional character to vary widely in appearance across the whole movie. But Marvel would simply pass up a "crush me with your thighs mommy" moment to Photoshop veins on and call it a day? What a choice. What a choice!
One last thing is that in the process of researching all of this, I came across this incredibly thorough "strength scale" of all the various Marvel superheroes. Elektra can overhead-press 260 pounds. Enjoy!
A post shared by A Swole Woman | eating/lifting (@swolewoman)
Here's a cut into online lifting culture that delighted me: Mythical Strength's Little Book of Bad Ideas, and the related r/weightroom thread. To explain a little here: Once you get to more advanced stages of lifting, progress becomes a lot less straightforward. At a certain point, this is how we keep the relationship alive🙂
I've been telling you to watch Pumping Iron II, and if you hadn't done it yet this week, your experience of Bev Francis returning to powerlifting after 36 years and just casually breaking some records has been impoverished. You gotta stop making these mistakes! This led me to try to figure out why there is a gym named after her in Long Island (she started it with her husband some time before this 1990s article) which let me to this absolutely bizarre 2008 NY Times article where some guy is trying to talk normally about watching the Olympics and failing.
You WILL Leave my son and dad Zion Williamson alone about his body!! Absolutely broken-brain behavior to fret about one of the greatest athletes of our time wearing sweatclothes.
Many readers of this newsletter are fans of the Maintenance Phase podcast; cards on the table, particularly for a show that harps on being stringent about methodology and sells "methodology queen" shirts, some of the early episodes were rough on how they interpreted studies. However, this week's thoroughly fact-checked episode "Is Being Fat Bad for You?" turned out really great. The perfect send to parents and family who harp on "concern" about being fat/overweight/obese!
The IOC released a new framework to hopefully better address fairness, inclusion, and gender identity after the disaster that was the Tokyo Olympics. Relatedly, the most dominant powerlifting organization in the US, USAPL, was recently booted from its international powerlifting federation (IPF) for among other things, its treatment of trans athletes. Sucks to be literally inhumane! Their response was to "go international" themselves. O....k?
I loved this Amanda Hess NY Times piece on Botox, particularly this part: "It strikes me that wrinkles on women are not only stigmatized because they make them seem old, but because they make them look angry, sad, surprised, distressed — they make them look alive." A thousand 😩 emojis!
Do you think if I include a single armchair fitness business analysis story in here, more of you can file this newsletter away as a business expense and/or tax writeoff? Let's try it: Peloton got "pummeled," in business parlance, this week over its shrinking revenue projections. Many are saying the at-home workout boom may be over? My perspective on this is that, while the sun might be setting on Peloton specifically, fitness trends have as many peaks and valleys as the Sierra Nevadas. Peloton is simply the Jazzercise of our time. In what feels like a sign, of a times, it has.. anti racist... classes... now? It also "took on strength training" and I simply cannot with the form in this image.
Relatedly, some Dancing With the Stars fans are calling "political bullshit" over Peloton instructor Cody Rigsby continuing to stay alive over other, better dancers. That's Peloton hegemony baby!
I'm in this photo of "is cozy season a cry for help?" and I don't like it. However, my new cozy initiative is that my older brother gifted us his old PlayStation 3 a while ago and I ONLY JUST REALIZED that means I can finally play all the good games I missed nearly ten years ago because I've never owned a PlayStation in my life. The Last of Us? Journey (which I guess won't be good anymore but we press on)?? Shadow of the Colossus? At least some of the Personas, surely??? UNCHARTED?????? I'm going on the adventure of my dang lifetime!!
I have to yell that the Stanley Tucci HBO show about eating in Italy is such good brain-free watching. The number of times he says some variation on "few know this about Italy/Italian cuisine," potentially THE most dominant, visible, amply studied cuisine in the whole world, MAYBE second to French? Sublime. "Searching for Italy"??? Stanley Tucci: Italy was never missing! But sometimes I simply like to be unchallenged and look at some noodles; that is what the Stanley Tucci show is about.
Ok I’m literally running out of space I love you for reading let’s go—
But bad-faith, insecure critics are asking: Isn't this pitting women against each other? No; it's pitting corporations against repressive conventional beauty standards. Is it just creating a new way for a woman to not measure up? No, unfortunately for you, this is not a case of the personal being political. This is not a personal criticism of Maslany herself; this is about a cartoon character that represents being strong, allegedly. Shouldn't we just not talk about women's bodies? Well, no, because everyone else insists on talking about women's bodies, but in the most shit and garbage way possible, and furthermore, are out here making choices about what represents strong women. As someone who can talk about women's bodies with joy and celebration, I'm not sitting this one out. They are also asking, wouldn't this just be exchanging one unrealistic body ideal for another? I don't think so. Obviously everyone hates women no matter what, but muscular women still get a marked amount of disgusting hate. My favorite Instagram account that documents this daily deluge is @you.look.like.a.man.