Are Bodybuilders Underrated?
Yes, I suppose that they are, a little.
Bodybuilding has always been a fringe sport, with its fair share of bigger-than-life-characters, oddballs, conmen, crazies and criminals. As sports go, its popularity probably hangs on a rung of the ladder down there between Competitive Darts and Curling.
I think that for a little while, though at the end of the 70s, when Arnold was in his heyday as a bodybuilder and Pumping Iron had just been released, there was fascination and some respect in the sport. This era is usually considered The Golden Age of Bodybuilding and was probably the period of time that it was closest to being accepted by the public as a mainstream activity.
I suppose that the novelty eventually wore off and people grew a little jaded and it has slowly edged back towards the fringes and into the shadows.
As its level of recognition changed, so did the nature of its appeal to the average person who aspired to the embodiment of the ideal. And the type of body that used to win trophies changed along with it. If you give medals for aesthetics, you get better aesthetics, if you give medals for meat, you get more meat. And unfortunately for the popularity of the sport, more meat is where the medals went.
What was once considered the aesthetic epitome of the sport & art of bodybuilding: the elegantly strong, balanced, athletically classical paradigm commanding a collective intake of breath and garnering a wide popular appreciation changed. It became more about freakish mass, drugs and the power politics of the sport than aesthetics, balance, personality and a search for a sort of physical transcendence. And, let’s face it, some of the muck beneath the patina of the myth surfaced and stepped into the limelight.
This change of perception & ethos probably has something to do with its current lack of popular appeal. My personal view is that the sport could use a good, swift kick up the backside and some strong leadership personalities to revive its fortunes.
Most people assume that this photo on the original edition of the book and movie is Arnold. It’s not. This is the bodybuilder Ed Corney.