A valuable examination of the tyranny of body image--this time over men
Not so long ago, what the average American man did mattered more than how he looked. Since the 1970s, however, projecting the right look has become more and more essential, and men are spending millions of dollars on fitness training, bodybuilding, hair replacement, and cosmetic surgery in the relentless pursuit of physical perfection.
What has caused American men to fall into the beauty trap so long assumed to be a special danger for women? This book looks at the confluence of social, economic, and cultural changes that have shaped the new cult of male body image in postwar America. Lynne Luciano explores what men are doing to themselves, asks why they are doing it, and discovers what this new world tells us about American society today.
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Lynne Luciano is an assistant professor of history at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Looking Good is her first book.From Publishers Weekly:
Clothes, they used to say, make the man. Now sartorial grace is bolstered by a world of male cosmetics, diet products, hair products, hair-replacements and plastic surgeries. So much for uncontrived manliness. In this breezy, informative book (based upon the author's doctoral dissertation), Luciano traces the complicated and often surprising history of constructed masculinity. While the book focuses primarily on consumer patterns surrounding products that enhance masculinity (for example, in 1996 the bill for male plastic surgery reached $500 million, while in 1997 American men spent $3 billion on grooming aids and fragrances), Luciano deftly weaves these concerns into a larger historical narrative. She peppers her work with fascinating tidbits, from the fact that Julius Caesar crowned himself with laurels to hide his encroaching baldness to Pope Pius's XII's 1958 condemnation of plastic surgery because it "enhanc[es] the power of seduction, thus leading others more easily into sin." Luciano is at her smartest when looking at consumer products, like the electric reducing fads of the 1950s. Her competent, if often simplified, survey of cultural and sexual attitudes at times assumes a tone of moral conservatism, as when she states that "divorce was the logical outcome of the quest for self-fulfillment" popular during the 1970s, or when she ponders the "moral and ethical" issues of enhancing sexual performance through pharmaceuticals. While some of this material overlaps with Susan Bordo's The Male Body (1999) and Harrison Pope's The Adonis Complex (2000), Luciano's emphasis on historical and economic aspects of masculinity offers a refreshing perspective on Western views of the subject. (Jan. 19)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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