Abs on parade: Male bosom getting major movie screentime

<p>Gerard Butler might have started the abs-centric trend in " class="article-img" />

Gerard Butler might have started the abs-centric trend in "300."

Six-packs, eight-packs, 12-packs, full cases; abs are definitely a-poppin’ in movies these days.

And personally I wish they’d pop back to wherever they came from. Not that I feel threatened or inadequate in any way, you understand. I’m pretty sure I have a set somewhere, maybe down in the basement.

No, I just think there’s something ridiculous about them, basically because they have no practical application. Pumped-up pecs and bulging biceps can come in very handy in a movie if you’re Samson, say, trying to pull down the pillars of the temple. But a washboard stomach? Useless except for scrubbing clothes or playing rhythm in a skiffle band.

Useless or not, a rectus abdominus with tendinous inscriptions is now standard-issue acting equipment, though it’s hard to pin down how that got started. Maybe it was Gerard Butler’s brawny loincloth-and-cape look in the original “300.” Maybe it was Matthew McConaughey doing his shirtless pre-Academy Award thing. Me, I blame Taylor Lautner in “Twilight.” But it doesn’t really matter because the trend is entrenched. Male movie stars now pop their tops on the regular.

There are so many sets of chiseled abs on display in the “300” sequel “Rise of an Empire” — the Spartans clearly had the best personal trainers in the ancient world — that a colleague was convinced they must be computer-generated. A buff-bod CGI effect similar to the algorithm that makes fur look realistic in PIXAR movies.

That wouldn’t be surprising, really, but it seems more likely that today in Hollywood a good gym membership is at least as important as acting classes — maybe more so. Or perhaps it’s closer to the mark to say actors still have to be able to emote convincingly, but they have to be able to do it with 3-percent body fat. In the recent “Son of God,” for example, even Jesus has abs. A discrete set, it’s true, but it was clear he had been doing his sit-ups.

It wasn’t always that way. In the old days, if you wanted to ogle some abs you had to go to a Steve Reeves movie. And in those, acting was optional.

Of course, ogling is what this is all about, and that may be all the justification that’s needed. It’s only fair, after a hundred years of cinematic fixation on what ‘90s comic Pauly Shore might have called “boobage,” that abs should be get equal time.

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