The Dark Side of the Male Fitness Internet, Explained | Internetting Season 2

The Dark Side of the Male Fitness Internet, Explained | Internetting Season 2


Bodybuilding.com is one of
the most popular fitness forums on the internet. And the most popular
profile on bodybuilding.com belongs to this Australian
bodybuilder called Zyzz. On the website’s
boards, his catchphrases pulse through
the conversation. “You mirin’, brah? You mirin’, brah? You mirin’, brah?” On Facebook, hundreds of
fan pages pay tribute. And on YouTube, images
of him flexing and posing are remixed into epic
motivational clips. “And every one of us has a
little bit of Zyzz in us. You just don’t know it yet.” He’s also been dead
for seven years. He died in a sauna in Thailand
when he was 22 years old. Doctors said that he had an
undiagnosed heart condition. But on the internet, he lives
on as meme and inspiration. “Zyzz really inspired me to
do gym and just to be myself.” “Zyzz got me
where I am today.” “Bro, thanks for
the motivation.” “Thanks for the motivation.” “Thanks for the motivation. You’ve set the bar. That’s what
everyone’s aiming for. Everyone’s aiming
for your physique.” There are now nearly 300,000
YouTube videos about Zyzz. A new tribute is uploaded
every couple of hours. If Charles Atlas
was the bodybuilding king of the 1920s and
Arnold Schwarzenegger was the prototypical
manly man of ‘80s movies, Zyzz represents the
quintessential man of the modern
fitness internet. He’s got one of the
most valuable assets for an online fitness star — an insane before-and-after
transformation photo set. In four years flat, he went
from awkward high schooler to Myspace Ken doll — 6 foot 1, 205
pounds, 8% body fat. “Oh!” A lot of diet and
workout trends pretend that they’re about
improving your health and wellness. “And feel great!” But Zyzz popularized a laser
focus on what he called ‘aesthetics.’ His persona was never about
lifting the heaviest weights or running the fastest mile
or eating the most nutritious meals. It was about achieving the
craziest physique possible. He pursued it until
he literally died. But a lot of other men
are still chasing it, too. “(SINGING) We’re talking ‘bout
the language of exercise!” Women have always had
a version of this. They’re expected to idealize
certain aspirational female forms and to build
communities around whittling their own bodies
in their image. “(SINGING) [inaudible]” And keeping up
appearances has long been a reality for gay men, too. “Come to Man’s Country
and develop your body — or a friendship with
somebody else’s.” But this space, built for
straight men to measure, quantify, objectify,
and straight-up admire — sorry, ‘mire’ — each other’s
bodies, that feels new. Zyzz made the male-on-male
gaze explicit. It’s interesting that even
as men and women have become more equal in a lot of
ways, idealized images of their bodies are
moving more and more toward gendered extremes. Psychologists
suggest that as men lose status and social
power over women, they’re driven to assert
their masculinity physically — to strive to look
like real men even if they don’t
always feel like them. And on the internet, whole
new vocabularies and image references are forming to
help men express themselves in this new mode. Here, everything
is quantified. Life is a series of stats
and reps and rankings. It’s not cooking,
it’s meal prep. It’s not food, it’s intake. And it’s not breakfast,
it’s meal one. The male body is converted
into a math problem to be solved. All of this can
be totally fine. But when you take
the quantified self to its extreme conclusion,
you find a hellscape of objectification. Every type of guy
can be slotted into his own
dehumanizing category — virgins, Chads,
soy boys, cucks. A man’s stats
determine his status. Online fitness culture offers
men a powerful illusion of control — over their own bodies
and over other people’s, too, because on
bodybuilding.com, guys don’t just talk about fitness. They talk about
relationships and politics. And those are easily filtered
through this adolescent human ranking system, too. In these forums,
humanity itself is reduced to a hierarchy. And the same ruthless logic
that lures men to the fitness internet — that getting
shredded will give you access to some elusive
male dominance — is also easily
exploited by people on the political fringe. “They don’t want
men being men. That’s why Infowars has
developed Anthroplex.” “Zyzz! Zyzz! Zyzz! Zyzz!” Many of Zyzz’s followers
will never achieve his body. “And you’ve got a
genuinely sick [inaudible].. I do not give a [bleep] — ” But they’ve absorbed
his ideology. “Well, Zyzz, he told me
that life’s way better when you’re aesthetic as [bleep].” If the dawn of the social
web fanned fears about young girls falling prey to
pro-anorexia sites where they were instructed how
to starve themselves, we’re just beginning to
realize how these online communities built around
male body goals can be destructive, too — not just for the men
themselves but for all of us. Hey, this is Amanda. This is Shane. He edits the videos. She writes the videos. You watch the videos. And if you like the videos, like, comment and
subscribe here. And then tell us,
where do you see masculinity in crisis? In the mirror Leave your answer in the
comments. We are very thirsty. [singing] “Internetting with
Amanda Hess.”

100 comments on “The Dark Side of the Male Fitness Internet, Explained | Internetting Season 2

  1. Helginator Post author

    Very many errors here like strong men have more to say in society is wrong and you show only 1 forum where they hangout.
    As man I admit look up to them. But that does not mean I want to be like them I want to be more fit but reason is I am chubby but my goal is be normal not exercise
    every day. Most men want to be normal type of body. Idols is not wrong even woman are more crazy they use a lot more money on the body then men.
    I think you are feminist want to have your view right. You did no interview.
    There are more women destroys there body then men you don't say this in the documentary.

    Reply
  2. william richardson Post author

    First of all I was curious about this story, and after seeing it I was very disappointed and thought is that all there is really my friend, especially when Zed had only 300 hundred thousand followers, and she made an article damming whole fitness industry, what a major let down and then she attacked male masculinity as if, and them she went on another rant about somehow tying it to some right wing sight, and female identity and body types, she put too many eggs in one basket to make this story and made a mess, this story went all over the place and didn't make any sense or point to what she was trying to say about the fitness industry and society, she should have just focused on Zed and his sad followers and another thing I've been working out for 20 years and I've never put myself in any category.

    Reply
  3. Christiaan Kruger Post author

    Not everyone who lifts is an obnoxious Zyzz fanboy. Some people are actually trying to be healthy and strong besides looking good. I may be wrong about this, but to me it seems the focus is far more on natural bodybuilding these days than in the past.

    Reply
  4. Aquatoy Post author

    Wait… You are you tying say that looking good is a bad thing? That promoting a healthy life style is hurting society?

    Reply
  5. clif high Post author

    this woman is clueless. It is not the fora (forums for you NYTimes readers under 50) that provide these categorizations of male social hierarchy, but rather behavioral psychologists of the last 150 years. Read a bit sometimes outside of your narrow bubble vision.

    Reply
  6. Calle Moreus Post author

    What is this crap, lift some wheigths and stop analyzing. People thats fat and have no discipline feel bad when youre doing what They know They should be doing

    Reply
  7. Rosspark100 Post author

    If some dudes want to pop steroids like skittles and look like boulders with veins more power to them. It can be dangerous but I'm not gonna tell someone what to do with their body as long as they aren't hurting others. If someone wants to drink a bottle of vodka every weekend that's their choice and if someone wants to blow their money on coke that's their choice too. People should be informed on the dangers of substances and how to use them as safely as possible because the use of dangerous substances will NEVER stop. If people want help to stop using them help should be given but the individual needs to WANT to stop.

    Reply
  8. S Post author

    You are literally modern day puritans. Your “moral panic” reminds me of the religious right in the 80’s and 90’s

    Reply
  9. The Doom Balloon Post author

    I seen nothing wrong in all of this for the dudes . Those forums can be super helpful and motivational . Put a goal in mind for you and gets dudes fit . It’s healthy and ok in my book

    Reply
  10. David Post author

    My left buttock is more in shape than both of you. Only thing that's dark here is the dark hole in your stomach that keeps sucking in all the food

    Reply
  11. Karl Palmgren Post author

    Lifting weights, esp strength training focuses on progression of strength rather than body transformation. It's okey to want to get a good body; I just think it's healthier to have it as a secondary goal and letting be stronger or faster be the primary one..

    Reply
  12. Jordan Sullivan Post author

    You know women can also be into fitness right? Like it's a certain type of personality who's into that sort of thing. If you want to argue that focusing too much on appearance is bad, I mean sure, but that isn't newsworthy, and you don't propose any solutions.

    Reply
  13. rohirrim 98 Post author

    Hey i go to the gym 5 times a week because im insecure,lonely and need to burn off the apsurd amounts of calories from beer and fast food i consume on the weekend!

    Reply
  14. Madu U Post author

    i think it wouldve been interesting to analyze the rise in "bigorexia" or body dysmorphia in relation to this "ideology" as being destructive vs the ideology itself being destructive. When people start to use drugs and steroids this ideology becomes destructive. You can tell this is from the outside looking in vs someone from the inside explaining the phenomenon so a lot of what was said comes off as a bit aloof to veterans of the bodybuilding industry.

    Reply
  15. Vicho Fernandez Post author

    I want to ask why is objectifying people bodies a priblem. Its a real question please dont give me crap

    Reply
  16. Khandar William Post author

    NYT turns into subscription models, on the promises of quality content

    is this such quality meant to be?

    Reply
  17. Katie M Post author

    Are we just gonna ignore the countless women who lift, go for gainz and aestethic, meal prep, and do everything else in the video? This isn't male exclusive, a lot of women may go for lower weight higher rep exercises, but plenty go for straight up powerlifting too. People workout with different personal goals in mind, I really doubt there are many out there based on misogyny. Most focus primarily on self improvement, not on regaining some lost sense of power.

    Reply
  18. Rushi Post author

    Sure some people take it to extreme but achieving that body u idealiz is extremely hard to get from diet to exercise to cardio to supplements to motivation to discipline. It's easy to rub this off as a obsession or trend but healthy fit body and mind is important in today's day and age where most youth are eating junk and playing games and being depressed.

    Reply
  19. Aesthetic Decision Post author

    Poorly resesrched, ideologically packed and incoherently presented.

    The devil's journalism trinity, best video for case study.

    Thanks for lending me this video for class.

    Reply
  20. TheSliderBy Post author

    Did they just compare a website about working out and getting healthy to one that promotes anorexia? That is just sick. This is a terrible video.

    Reply
  21. Malie Collins Post author

    …"powerful illusion of control over their own bodies"…good grief, what's the illusion to taking the reigns on your health and setting goals and achieving them? This whole video is just bad journalism, if you can even call it that.

    Reply
  22. Chris Qiao Post author

    When you showed the buff dudes clip you had absolutely zero credibility left. You took a joke seriously

    Reply
  23. World Eater Post author

    haha the content producers dont like the world being reduced into a hirachy :/ unfortunately that's the reality and your feelings don't change that

    Reply
  24. Johnny McNuggets Post author

    100K DISLIKES AND ZYZZ WILL COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN AND FLEX ON THE AUTHOR OF THIS VIDEO

    Reply
  25. Warrior of Slaanesh Post author

    ''The male body is turend into a math problem to be solved'' wtf that's why I like bodybuilding, everything is math and anatomy.

    Reply
  26. Black Knight Fool Post author

    Lesbians are not a part of the conversation is regarding hetrosexual people or men

    Reply
  27. Noah Olsen Post author

    This is probably the most ill-informed attempt at trying to cover an industry you have never been part of. no coverage of male physique or how the sport of bodybuilding actually progressed or started. you chalk Arnold up to some muscle dummy movie star then quickly redirect your attention back to some myspace model. and then you go on to give Bodybuilding.com some weird Illuminati rep. I would highly encourage you to:

    First, delete this video (just look at your like to dislike ratio)

    Second, spend just a month immersed in any aspect of the sport; bodybuilding, physique, fitness, bikini…ect (yes, sadly that means training too)

    Lastly, once your month is complete start a new video about your experience. but please for the love of all that is good….. don't mislead due to your lack of research/ care.

    Reply
  28. Giacomo Bonetti Post author

    The amount of dislikes and negative comments on this video just confirms everything that the videos is saying

    Reply
  29. Silver Surfer Post author

    Way to make motivation and inspiration to better oneself yet another piece of the patriarchy.. Zyzz inspires young men and boys to work towards their goals physically and mentally. He's never urged anyone to practice mysogyny or sexism of any kind, yet your video presents a stain on his past reputation and everything he stood for.

    Reply

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