How did the sport of Charles Atlas, Lou Ferrigno, and Arnold Schwarzenegger transmogrify into the mongrelized, gender-bending display of brown steroid abuse it is today?
From a layman’s perspective, the dividing line between bodybuilding being a sport of muscle-bound white men to a degenerate contest that focused on black men and gender-defying women came shortly after Arnold made it famous in 1977’s Pumping Iron. Ironically, the film documents Arnold’s conquest of the sport in apartheid-era Pretoria, South Africa! Unfortunately, the bodybuilding world capitalized on the positive notoriety generated by the film (and Schwarzenegger’s long, successful film career) by turning to blacks and masculine women.
Bodybuilding began in earnest in the late 1800s thanks to Eugen Sandow, a muscular Prussian who popularized what was then called physical culture. The Art of Manliness website and other sources have dealt with Victorian-era physical culture at length, so check those out if you’d like to learn more about this interesting period. This early strongman phase gave way to the Charles Atlas and Jack LaLanne period of bodybuilding and physical culture. As in most eras of physical culture/fitness/bodybuilding, there was a dual emphasis of marketing to individual, ordinary people who wanted to change their lives, …
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(The opinions in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Southern Nation News or SN.O.)