American Dream, American way of life, Bodybuilding, Dwayne, Feminism, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Bay, No pain no gain, Pain and Gain, Palm Trees, Philosophy, Positivity, Rock, sex, Steroids, Sunshine, Taylor Swift
I sat down to watch the Michael Bay crime-comedy ‘Pain and Gain’ with the iconoclastic reviewer Mark Kermode’s critique still ringing in my ears. As the journalist made more than clear, this was not a movie that appealed to him:
“(It) was absolutely loathsome and morally repugnant and vile and evil and bad.”, he sighed with his usual laid-back, folded arms, schoolmarmish shtick.
Having a lot of respect for Kermode’s judgement on this art-form, I fully expected to loathe the film myself. And ultimately, yes, it is a haphazard work in parts, filled with lumpy, half-digested ideas and jokes in questionable taste. But for the first half hour, it can’t be denied, I was strangely enthralled.
I won’t go into the plot. Just know that the story and the crimes depicted are based in fact and that it all grows increasingly ridiculous as things go on. I only want to talk here about the opening, because this is something that – even if it was meant satirically – struck a chord deep within me.
Mark Wahlberg’s character Daniel is the film’s narrator and for the first half an hour, he explains to the viewer exactly why America is great and how this relates down to the conduct and attitude of the individual.
He informs us that be believes in physical fitness, self-starting, body-building, masculinity and self-reliance. He notes by way of illustration the example of US history; the story of a colony that went on to dominate the world through guts, determination and a terrifying kind of self-belief.
As I say, this is all meant to be a satire on the American mindset, and the film later tries to make nonsense of the opening premise. Still, I found myself in agreement with every word Wahlberg’s character spoke. He described in a simple and powerful way, the aspects of America I most admire. I also think the linkage between physical fitness and philosophy is a valid one.
I took up bodybuilding a few years ago under the influence of the work of Yukio Mishima. I really don’t think there is a better or more virtuous hobby available to a person, especially to a man. Bodybuilding doesn’t just build muscle, it builds confidence and ambition. It opens doors in the mind. The increase in dopamine triggers goal-orientated behaviours. I can write a thousand words in one sitting after working out. I feel more sure of my views, less tolerant of doubt, moderation and of those who would dare oppose me. This is the way nature inspires us. With every kilo added to your routine, you justify yourself. Bodybuilding – unlike intellectualism – counts for something in the Darwinian game. I may be able to write well (or so I’ve been told) but what does literacy matter in the end? When the struggle is unleashed and the contenders amass, I won’t be writing the enemy to death. To be a man, one has to be prepared to be a brawler, a thug even.
A well-built body is the physical manifestation of a determined mind; it is the ‘will become flesh’ – to quote Mishima. It is also an ideal metaphor for the American can-do attitude that is infinitely superior to the drizzling self-deprecation of England.
There is nothing wrong with bodybuilding. There is something wrong with the post-modern mindset that is always against strength and self-improvement. These are the work of individuals that can never to given to the herd, and that is the issue with the post-modern crowd. Inside themselves, they know the truth. But it far simpler to be disgusted with the ‘other’ in place of with themselves.
Defend the Modern World said:
Absolutely. I thoroughly recommend the pursuit of muscle. I’m not ‘big’ in a Jay Cutler definition of the word, but I do have enough about me to face people down on the tube at night. Whenever that happens, it gives me a little kick. I suppose that’s moronic, but pleasure is pleasure.
Thank you for your very motivating post.
Dint know that Mishima could be so inspiring. He’s considered as the finest Japanese Novelist, albeit a bit crazy: His ritual suicide in honor of the Emperor comes to mind.
Any particular Mishima’s work you’d recommend or link would be appreciated.
Defend the Modern World said:
The book that inspired me to start bodybuilding is a long essay (sold as a book) called ‘Sun and Steel’. He wrote it just before he committed suicide. He was certainly unbalanced and nurtured a destructive fascination with violence and death. But many geniuses are a bit mad. That may be a cliché, but some clichés are true.
“Runaway Horses” is also an interesting book. It’s about a right-wing fanatic who aspires to political violence. I was reading it when Anders Breivik chose to massacre children in Norway.
Despite my admiration for his writing, I don’t deny the fact that Mishima was a straightforward fascist. He was an apologist for Japan’s criminal actions in WWII and for that, he cannot be forgiven.
In my opinion a genius is one who is generally obsessed with one topic or subject to the exclusion of all others, with very few things distracting them, with great powers of concentration.
And, how being born in the right era counts!
Mishima, if he was born a hundred years ago would have been considered one of the great nationalist hero of Japan’s history, instead of being considered as a rediculous fantasist by the mainstream today though revered for his pen.