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April 24, 2012 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Posing like a man: after doing his back in imitating the cover poses fantasy heroines find themselves in (previously), Jim Hines is now trying out the male equivalent. Will these be any more dignified? The answer might surprise you!

Or not.

See also.
posted by MartinWisse (45 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Jim the Untanned!
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:12 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


His Conan poses are awesome.
posted by rtha at 6:17 AM on April 24, 2012


The prop choices are great.
posted by curious nu at 6:21 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Good stuff.

Men on book covers are indeed posed shirtless in ways that show off their musculature. However…
Male poses do not generally emphasize sexuality at the expense of all other considerations.
Male poses do emphasize the character’s power and strength in a way many (most?) female cover poses don’t.
When posed with a woman, the man will usually be in the dominant, more powerful posture.
Male poses do not generally require a visit to the chiropractor afterward.
See also ocelott’s post comparing male and female poses. She comes to pretty much the same conclusions as I did.


Good points, although in the context of those book covers, it should be pointed out that a man's power, strength, and dominance is the equivalent sexual characteristic to a woman's physical beauty. The sexual emphasis is there, it's just encoded in a different way.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:22 AM on April 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


If he had better abs, maybe he wouldn't need to be posing with a teddy bear. Maybe he should buy one of these.
posted by crunchland at 6:26 AM on April 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


ETA: I can’t believe I missed the, um, “overcompensatory” positioning of Conan’s sword in this one. Teenage me is so disappointed.

I like this man.
posted by infini at 6:27 AM on April 24, 2012


The sexual emphasis is there, it's just encoded in a different way.

In the second cover its encoded with a gun as a cock substitute.

Relevant to note these covers are aimed at tow different markets, one would expect the underlying poses in Conan covers to have a different message than on the romances.
posted by biffa at 6:32 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nicely done, although I notice that he does not twist his chest toward the camera quite as much as the figures on the book covers. He might find his back slightly more pained had he done so (although, not as badly as the back-breaking maneuvers that female figures are put through). If cover posing is going to be taken seriously as a sport, it needs to be Xtreem!
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:36 AM on April 24, 2012


one would expect the underlying poses in Conan covers to have a different message than on the romances.

one would, says teenage me.
posted by infini at 6:37 AM on April 24, 2012


Male poses do not generally require a visit to the chiropractor afterward.


That's an interesting one - might it partly be that the male figures are drawn from life, or are drawn from life and then not tweaked afterwards to create a twistier back/slimmer build/larger chest? Like, the Magic to the Bone cover is clearly either a photo reference or a photshopped picture, but there is something about the way the lower half of the body is pushing outwards while the upper body is twisting around that seems (more than usually) unnatural.

On a related topic, Hines links to this account of how someone who can twist their torso pretty much 180 degrees still can't do the superheroine twist, which is kind of amazing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:38 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Cute, but you really need someone with really good kinesthetic sense to hit it on the head. It's all about how a hand is resting on the shoulder, half-way down the arm. He's grappling that teddy bear like a furry on a Con weekend.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:47 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jeans shorts, ack!
posted by Mercaptan at 6:50 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just tried to do this Hulk one and hurt my knee a bit.
posted by Decani at 6:51 AM on April 24, 2012


I kinda like that the one woman in the Avengers isn't front and center in that link of yours, Decani. Makes it more of a team photo and less of an excuse to show off a woman with a great figure in skin-tight spandex.
posted by misha at 6:59 AM on April 24, 2012


Yeah, I mean all poses aren't created equal, but I am astounded at how common the full-or-half-ass-and-boobs shot is. I keep trying it and oh god it doesn't work. And of course some of the terrifyingly insane proportions.

This tumblr has some funny stuff.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 7:06 AM on April 24, 2012


I just tried to do this Hulk one and hurt my knee a bit.

Did you stick your leg into a crack in the ground, as the Hulk seems to have done? That may be your problem.....
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:08 AM on April 24, 2012


It's cool that he actually modeled the earlier ridiculous "women poses" to illustrate how realistic/unrealistic they were, and now is doing the same with the ridiculous "man poses". It is less angry blog post and more, "Yeah, this doesn't work so well with real anatomy involved."

AND he writes well!

One thing I've personally noticed in movie posters is that men like Vin Deisel and the Rock are often emphasizing their chests and abs. That makes sense, I guess, since they are athletic wrstlers, etc.

In book covers, looks like the same dynamic is going on--wonder if these male protagonists in the book are athletrs, or in physically demanding jobs? Because if theprotagonist is a bookseller, painter or poet, I'd think the washboard abs were a little of a stretch for the character.
posted by misha at 7:10 AM on April 24, 2012


Please tell me he bought those boots specifically for this project and has since returned them.
posted by yerfatma at 7:14 AM on April 24, 2012


It's posts like this one that explain why Jim is (deservedly) nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writing category.
posted by jscalzi at 7:16 AM on April 24, 2012


Like, the Magic to the Bone cover is clearly either a photo reference or a photshopped picture...

I worked with a young woman who modeled for paranormal romance novel covers. The first five covers are most likely real photos 'shopped into rotoscope territory.
posted by griphus at 7:28 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am also intrigued by the book title The Witch Thief. Is that a witch who steals or someone who steals witches? Or, possibly, someone who steals witches' hearts (in a romantic sense, because, ewww)?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:32 AM on April 24, 2012


I'm not fond of the "woman lying on the ground" trope in covers like this, though. I mean, Conan is not exactly an enlightened man, but sometimes he would go to the aid of a woman. Usually when he did, she was either a fellow fighter or someone he had an ulterior motive for saving (like when doing so would net him a lot of gold).

Those poses make it look like the woman is entreating for someone to save her, completely helpless. Sometimes that IS how the characters are written (usually when it is one of the many princesses in trouble--barbarian worlds seem to have princesses all over the place. Maybe they just spontaneously whenever the conditions are ripe, like mosquitoes proliferating in a stagnant swamp).

BUT! Often, it is completely the man's idea to come to the woman's defense, because that's his particular code of honor, not because she is weak and begging him to. Sometimes she is even pissed off at his presumption. That entreating woman, lying on the ground with her hand outstretched is still a book cover trope, though. You'll never see a guy on a cover in that pose.

I prefer Frazetta's covers because, for all his focus on bosoms and derrieres and improbable anatomy (though he usually painted from a live model), there is tension and a "poised, ready to spring into action" character to many of his women.

Of course, he'd revert to trope, too. But at least it usually fit the characters in the book when he did. For instance, on the cover of ERB's The Mucker, the woman is twisting around in that improbable butt and boobs enhancing position, but it is because the brutish protagonist has grabbed her and thrown her over his shoulder, and she is wrestling to get free.
posted by misha at 7:46 AM on April 24, 2012


Genji, I think she is multiclassing.
posted by biffa at 7:48 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


One thing I've noticed with Fantasy & SF book covers is a trend where illustrations, artwork, paintings, etc, are now being replaced with photos of this type. I do not like it at all, but I guess I can understand why: an attempt to target females as well as economic costs (photos being cheaper than commissioning an artist). I just find them tacky on the harlequin romance novels, now that they're spreading into genre I read... a war is brewing my friends.
posted by Fizz at 8:08 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am also intrigued by the book title The Witch Thief. Is that a witch who steals or someone who steals witches? Or, possibly, someone who steals witches' hearts (in a romantic sense, because, ewww)?

Twas the twentieth year following the Harrowing when the hearts of Men were made glad. For it was in that year doth Prior Abbott and Ser Costello did unveil their newest and greatest act of merrie and whim, that they doth entitled "The Witch Thief."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:39 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, even though Frazetta's females are generally semi-clad and amply endowed, they are typically bad-ass, rather than subservient.

I'm not going to fuck with this woman. She'll cut a fool.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:55 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


If he had better abs, maybe he wouldn't need to be posing with a teddy bear. Maybe he should buy one of these.
posted by crunchland at 6:26 AM on April 24


Eponysterical?
posted by en forme de poire at 9:05 AM on April 24, 2012


Frankly I'm a little disturbed that after all that lovin' he gave that bear he wound up murdering it with a light saber.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:22 AM on April 24, 2012


You always hurt the one you wuv.
posted by griphus at 9:26 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The titles crack me up - "Jim the Untanned"
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:27 AM on April 24, 2012


I'm not going to fuck with this woman. She'll cut a fool.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:55 PM on April 24


And did you see her kitty? Clearly a crazy cat lady.
posted by Decani at 9:28 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If he had better abs, maybe he wouldn't need to be posing with a teddy bear. Maybe he should buy one of these.

Yeah, right. He has better musculature than probably the majority of male posters on mefi, myself included.
posted by blucevalo at 9:47 AM on April 24, 2012


although in the context of those book covers, it should be pointed out that a man's power, strength, and dominance is the equivalent sexual characteristic to a woman's physical beauty

I don't really agree with this at all... maybe it's just me and my prolonged exposure to fanfiction communities, but the covers which display power, strength and dominance do nothing for me sexually, in the way that men posing in a more suggestive way (like the corny romance covers, though they're pretty mild) would. Note that the romance covers display much less "dominance" (typically only a gentle kind of dominance) than the fantasy covers, and the problem with the representation of women on genre book covers/film posters/&c. is that they're sexual at the expense of the possibility of female identification, even when in a non-erotica context.

"Power, strength and dominance" are not equal to a woman's physical beauty in this context, they're equal to a woman's implied sexual availability and submission (typically). The men on the romance covers are also physically beautiful, and the strength displayed on the fantasy covers is usually highly geared toward male power fantasies, rather than female sexual fantasies. IMO.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:56 AM on April 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


On that note, I think the number of women who would be attracted to a figure like Conan's on those covers is relatively slim, while most women on fantasy/sci-fi covers are a fairly standard Barbie doll shape (not particularly strong looking either, though there are exceptions). Conan's supposed to look super badass and strong at the expense of really being sexually attractive at all, and that's obviously pandering to men more than women. Super-exaggerated musculature usually has very little to do with straight female sexuality. It isn't equivalent to exaggerated curves on a woman. Note that the romance-cover men are pretty cut but they aren't way unrealistically so.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:03 AM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh my god this is great. But I have to go!

I will be back later to revel in it.
posted by kavasa at 10:04 AM on April 24, 2012


Conan's supposed to look super badass and strong at the expense of really being sexually attractive at all,

"Western men greatly overestimated how much muscle is desirable to women. The men were asked to choose the body type which they thought was most attractive to women. They overwhelming chose a physique with 20-30 lbs more muscle than average. But when women were asked to choose the body type they found most appealing, they chose the average one. " via Art of Manliness, with PDF of research article here

I think that the Conan 'look' is supposed to signal the sexual desirability of the character to women to the target audience of the books.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:25 AM on April 24, 2012 [6 favorites]


Note that the romance-cover men are pretty cut but they aren't way unrealistically so.

In general I agree with your point, but that very first romance novel cover is an exception.

That guy's abs are so perfectly cut he could be a Spartan warrior in 300 rather than some average dude schlepping around in old jeans.
posted by misha at 11:01 AM on April 24, 2012


Yeah, word. I've been trying to figure out a way to phrase that, but you got it-- it's an image of a man meant for men, to signal physical and sexual power.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:01 AM on April 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that the Conan 'look' is supposed to signal the sexual desirability of the character to women to the target audience of the books.

I think that it's supposed to be someone's concept of raw, barbaric and a little vulgar power... I'm sure there's sexuality in there, but it's a bit closer to the sexuality inherent in giving someone the finger- simultaneously incidental to intent and integral to communication.
posted by Phalene at 11:55 AM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that the Conan 'look' is supposed to signal the sexual desirability of the character to women to the target audience of the books.

As somebody who spends a lot of time at the gym, I hear tons of conversations by ripped men about other men who are also ripped. While one could argue that there is some sort of latent sexual attraction at play here, my impression is that there is a subcategory of men who have a genuine platonic admiration for men who are well sculpted.

Indeed, the tradition of admiring the well sculpted male form for strictly aesthetic reasons goes back thousands of years, but its not something straight men generally talk about presumably due to the contemporary world's still overwhelming homophobia.

I always thought the muscled men on fantasy books aimed at men were a sort of "wow, I wish I looked like that" sort of wish fulfillment as opposed to a sexual lure. Not only don't I feel like those fantasy book covers objectify men, I think they aim to celebrate caveman masculinity. Men are not meant to look at one and think "I want to do him." They're mean to look at one and think "I want to be him."

Though they're totally welcome to want to do him, also.

The romance covers that chop off the head and focus on the chest of a less-than-Conan sculpted man are a little more objectifying (and, since the men look more normal, are more aimed at women who, as have been noted, tend to prefer a more normal looking body). The female covers he parodies, though, objectify women in such a laughably over-the-top manner that one wonders why they don't just feature disembodied asses and boobs with occasional wisps of hair - and maybe some floating spiked boots for the foot crowd.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:47 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


my impression is that there is a subcategory of men who have a genuine platonic admiration for men who are well sculpted

Women also admire each other for looking good, looking sexy-- while there's an athletic component in the gym example, I know a lot of women who love to comment on red carpet fashion, for instance. They're not sexually attracted to the women, but the red carpet women are definitely conforming to certain sexual ideals. So the women admire the red carpet beauty, and identify with it ("I wish I had her legs, that dress is gorgeous, I wish I could do my makeup so flawlessly," and so on). Being beautiful both is and isn't an end in itself. So I think the part you quoted is meant to say that when you see women cowering behind Conan or writhing on the ground in front of him, a guy is supposed to think, "wow, that dude is freakin' ripped, I bet he could punch a hole through a stone wall, plus women are throwing themselves all over him, I wanna be that."

(This is just to discuss the sexual ideal-- obviously women work out to feel strong/admire strong women as well, but that's kind of the problem, that scifi/fantasy book covers usually pitch to the sexuality of men rather than the cathartic identification of women. And as a thought experiment, if I saw a book cover with a beautiful, strong woman doing something badass, while attractive, subserviant men threw themselves at her, I'd be kind of titillated on both levels. But that ideal is depicted next to nowhere in pop culture... like maybe music videos with female artists, is the first place I can think of it. And much like men are discouraged from admiring the bodies of other men, women are discouraged from having dominant sexual fantasies.)

So there's a pleasure inherent to conforming to certain physical ideals, whether they're healthy or unhealthy (see: psychology behind eating disorders), which is separate from raw sex drive. But I think the reason those ideals exist is often very sexual. You could argue that it's mostly a sexual insecurity encouraged by advertising and media as well ("I gotta look inhumanly strong so that women will throw themselves at me so that I'll have the pick of all of them, so that I don't look like a loser," see also toothpaste, deodorant, &c.)

Anyway, kind of thinking out loud, I feel like there's been a lot of discussion about this kind of thing on MeFi lately.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:58 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


stoneandstar: Let me start off by saying that I agree with you. I've been a bit of a Debbie Downer lately because I forget to start off these things by acknowledging that I basically agree but am nit-picking.

But I think the reason those ideals exist is often very sexual.

I think I am conflating "sexual" with "erotic." Yes, I think that there is some truth to the concept that much of what we do related to our personal appearance has some deep historical or psychological root in making ourselves better candidates for mating (even when procreation is not the goal/not actually possible). However, this is different from something being eroticized, which is, I think, the point of the two related photo series.

To whit, the goal of some of the pictures is to elicit a "wow, I'd hit that" reaction (which I would categorize as an erotic goal) while the goal of some is to elicit a "I wish I looked like that because then it would ultimately increase my chances of attracting a mate" (which I would categorize as sexual, but not especially erotic).
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:31 PM on April 24, 2012


Oh yeah, sorry, I wasn't trying to call you out or anything-- I agreed with a lot of your post, I just wanted to think on the points you brought up. I totally agree with that breakdown: my reaction to a red carpet starlet might be sexual in motivation, but it's not erotic. And the same with these book covers, I am thinking. The romance novel covers are erotic, and the Conan covers (with the vanquished women all around) are sexual.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:41 PM on April 24, 2012


Agreed and didn't think you were calling me out. Lunch?
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Men are not meant to look at one and think "I want to do him." They're mean to look at one and think "I want to be him."

I feel like maybe I didn't express myself well earlier - I agree, they want to be him because of several attributes, one of which is that character's attractiveness to women. But the men who are consuming that media overestimate the amount of muscles that women find attractive - which results in the over-muscled Conan.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:17 PM on April 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


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