Some of you might have seen Man of Steel. Some of you might have not, so you might have missed the news about how Superman now has chest hair. That’s cool, I guess.
Henry Cavill’s choice to avoid the razor in Man of Steel has people on the Internet, having finished oohing and ahhing in spectacular fashion, making it out to be a very big deal. The reactions are interesting considering it happened in a Superman movie of all things. Cavill noted the run of comics in the early 90s where Superman goes against Doomsday, shirtless, torn and ready to die, as inspiration for his look. It’s a nice addition when you consider the rest of the movie is trying to paint him as an alien trying to learn and accept his heritage on the planet Earth.
Yet, hairy chests are still an irregular occurrence in superhero movies. With comic books, the main look of a character, filtered through many artists and their varying interpretations, tends to fluctuate on a monthly, even yearly basis. How many Batmans are there again? It’s really all about the details, so while recognizing Superman is practically a given, he might have a different haircut then you remember. He might even be sporting some new cloths. Anything can happen, so chest hair in comic books comes with a lax approach. You might see it. You might not.
On the other hand, movies and television shows about superheroes tend to go for a more chiseled godlike approach. Whether it’s because of a decision of the actor or the cast and crew or because of the visual medium itself, hard to say, but there’s an interesting consistency in how so many superheroes tend to look pretty vanilla when going shirtless. There’s even a blog dedicated to how many times shirtless scenes occur in animated features and it’s pretty consistent with movies on how often you see a hair adorned chest: Zero to none.
While it’s interesting to debate about the future implications of a movie where Superman has more chest hair than Wolverine, it’s likely not to be the big deal some of us are expecting it to be. It likely won’t kick-start a massive trend and the next Avengers movie will feature Thor looking like he spent a month or two in some Asgardian forest. People love facial hair on dudes because it gives them definition, makes them seem real, so human. So why are we demanding this on characters who are supposedly unlike humans with their fantastic abilities?
If we pull it back and think about men in popular television and movies, you’ll start to find a more receptive crowd. Guys like Don Draper, James Bond, any Jason Statham character ever perpetuate the ‘chest hair is good! chest hair is excellent! Tis manly’ argument. But at that point, we’re just getting into a ‘should you manscape to look cool or not?’ discussion and that is a ridiculous argument to make here. At the end of it all, it was a personal choice by Cavill to add further, personal details to a character in a film.
Could a filmmaker please consider a movie with a hero (other than the Green Arrow, because that is an obvious answer) whose got a sweet mustache? Not sweet as in ‘manly and firm’ but something really ridiculous that gets people’s attention but still looks like facial hair and looks good. Can somebody make that a reality, please?
Or instead, why don’t we just appreciate Man of Steel for what it is? An interesting movie about a guy from outer space who just so happens to have super powers and hair on his chest. It may be a big deal in time but it probably won’t be. But that doesn’t take away the enjoyment from the film itself and there’s nothing that says it should be to begin with.