How ‘Big Brother’ is giving boys big tits

(Originally appeared on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ as ‘Long live the met­ro­sexual!’ )

More evid­ence that reports of the ‘death’ of my Frankenstein mon­ster with per­fect skin, the met­ro­sexual, have been greatly exag­ger­ated.  In Europe and the UK at least, it seems he’s alive and look­ing very well indeed in his lovely new eye­liner - and busy recruit­ing your kids.  In the pro­cess giv­ing them rather large pec­toral muscles.

In ‘Metroboys’, pub­lished in the Dutch magazine Marketing Tribune, Norbert Mirani of the SMM Knowledge Centre, a trend research insti­tute for Holland’s largest pub­lisher of men’s magazines, reveals the res­ults of a major sur­vey of over 1000 Dutch males which, he says, show clearly that while fad­dish ‘new names for new types of men have come and gone the ori­ginal met­ro­sexual trend is any­thing but dead’. 

Confirming my own warn­ing in The Times earlier this year, his research shows that, au con­traire, it’s fast becom­ing ‘dead com­mon’ among younger males: ‘Characteristics that indic­ate metro beha­viour such as shop­ping, fit­ness and fash­ion interest score much higher among the under 35s than they do those over 35′.  This in itself is per­haps not so sur­pris­ing, since every­one knows that men over 35 are mar­ried with 2.5 chil­dren and the same num­ber of car­digans (or else they’re life-long bach­el­ors with one pair of very worn leather trousers).  More inter­est­ingly he claims the fig­ures show that, ‘the younger male will smoothly grow into beha­viour we now label as “metro” but which will be simply regarded as nor­mal by future gen­er­a­tions’.  In other words: they’re not going to wear car­digans when they get older.

His sur­vey of 1000 Dutch males under 35 found plenty of evid­ence that metrosexuality’s man­i­cured grip on the hearts and wal­lets of young males is only likely to increase.  38% already shop simply for ‘new ideas’ or ‘fun’, and 37% expect to shop ‘even more’ in the future.  Which along with the news that 55% expect males to use more day and night mois­tur­iser crèmes and 40% expect more males to use face-masks and 60% expect more use of hair col­our­ings means that the global con­sumer eco­nomy is safe.  Today’s gen­er­a­tion of males are unlikely to shirk their duty at the mall and seem keen to spend their money on high ‘added-value’ (i.e. innately fairly worth­less, expens­ively advert­ised) com­mod­it­ies so long as they make them feel more valu­able.  Vanity is increas­ingly what makes the world go round and men want a pretty piece of it.

Of course some Anglos, par­tic­u­larly Jeremy Clarkson, or any­one who looks like him, might object, say­ing: ‘Well, that’s just the effete Dutch for you – what do you expect from a nation that puts wacky baccy in cakes?’  Leaving aside the odd fact that effete­ness is some­how always the prop­erty of some nation other than your own Netherlanders, whatever you might think of their bak­ing and their long-haired police­men, tend to be social and cul­tural pioneers. 

Perhaps because it’s such a small densely pop­u­lated coun­try, per­haps because they lost an Empire (to us) long before we did, per­haps because they switched to a ser­vice eco­nomy before Thatcher shut down our man­u­fac­tur­ing indus­tries, or per­haps because they are extremely prag­matic people espe­cially when it comes to the pur­suit of pleas­ure.  Whatever the reason, what hap­pens in Holland will prob­ably hap­pen here, with clogs on – if it hasn’t already. After all, didn’t the ubi­quit­ous not to men­tion slightly naff High Street store Superdrug launch male eye­liner, alias ‘Guyliner’, in the UK recently?  Aren’t ‘man­bags’ prac­tic­ally an epi­demic in London and Manchester?

Holland’s lib­eral atti­tudes towards homo­sexu­al­ity widely mocked for dec­ades, have become more or less stand­ard in much of Western Europe – even the UK, where until quite recently bugger-baiting was some­thing of a national sport.  And the decline in the stigma of homo­sexu­al­ity was vital for the emer­gence of met­ro­sexu­al­ity – the per­se­cu­tion and patho­lo­gisa­tion of men who found the male body desir­able was for years an effect­ive way of keep­ing main­stream male van­ity quak­ing in it’s walk-in closet.  Flipping it around, the rise of met­ro­sexu­al­ity means, of course, that it’s now more accept­able to be Dutch.…

Arguably our youth are already as Dutch as Edam cheese.  After all, not only have they adop­ted highly lib­eral atti­tudes towards recre­ational drug use, they’ve already been utterly brain­washed by that fiendish TV show ‘Big Brother’ – a Dutch-made pop­ular­ity con­test which is usu­ally won by a met­ro­sexual.  Or a trans­sexual.  Or a homo­sexual.  Though this year the fact that a met­ro­sexual won was of little sig­ni­fic­ance, since almost all the males in the house were rav­ing metro and ended up main­lin­ing eyeliner. 

It’s only to be expec­ted.  A sur­vey of 2,000 teen­age males in the UK last year found that, on aver­age, boys admit­ted to look­ing in the mir­ror ten times a day

It is the increas­ingly self-conscious rela­tion­ship of today’s young males to their bod­ies, rather than shop­ping or mois­tur­iser, that really shows how met­ro­sexu­al­ised they have become - how self-conscious and com­mod­i­fied the male body has become: A whop­ping 78% of those Dutch males under 35 expect men will be even more aware of their figure/weight in the com­ing years, 65% expect more male use of health spa’s and resorts, 45% expect males will buy more fit­ness gear to use at home, 45% expect more male cos­metic sur­gery, while 52% expect men make even more use of sun­beds (William of Oranger any­one?) and 45% expect males to make more use of diet products. 

Which is great news for Coke Zero – the recently launched Coca Cola diet brand aimed at young males, pro­moted in the UK by an expens­ive and unavoid­able TV and cinema ad cam­paign in which fit, attract­ive, blond, pos­sibly Dutch (he’s badly dubbed with a mock­ney accent), young met­ro­sexual male fol­lowed down the street by an army of young men who either want to look like him or just get his phone number.

Dutch research also reveals that ‘fit­ness’ is now the most pop­u­lar sport that males of all ages take part in.  In other words, par­ti­cip­at­ory sport focused on mak­ing you fitter/look more attract­ive, has become more pop­u­lar than ‘real’ out­door competive/team sport, such as foot­ball.  Looking ‘sporty’ is far more import­ant now than being sporty.  Looking ‘manly’ far more desir­able than being manly.  Big tits are now some­thing that every man wants — for himself.

Even at the cost of your health, or your balls.  According to a report pub­lished this week by the UK drugs char­ity DrugScope one of the most pop­u­lar recre­ational drugs amongst young males is now ster­oids.  Apparently these prescription-only muscle-building drugs that can cause heart and liver prob­lems, along with testicle shrink­age, espe­cially when used incor­rectly, have become a much sought after com­mod­ity on the drugs black mar­ket in major UK cit­ies.  Their usage has grown so much in the past year that they are no longer an exotic habit of cheat­ing ath­letes and boun­cers with necks wider than their heads - accord­ing to DrugScope they are now ‘mainstream’.

But not because young men want to be stronger, or faster, but simply because they want to look more desir­able.  Ster­oids are now a metrod­rug, used by young straight men in much the same way as many gay men have used them for years: to look ‘hot’.  To be worthy of love.  To be looked at.  And thus to be cer­tain, in today’s world, they exist.  Some don’t even work out when they take them.  According to Druglink, most young males aged 16–25  are using ster­oids ‘for purely aes­thetic reas­ons – a short­cut to the muscled, toned physique of their sport­ing heroes.’ 

Or, I might add, ‘Big Brother’ con­test­ants.  The very first win­ner of UK ‘Big Brother’ was a body­builder.  Most shows have starred one flash­ing his pneu­matic tits at every avail­able oppor­tun­ity.  This year’s win­ner didn’t have a beefy body, but he did have a beefy love-muscle he wasn’t afraid of flex­ing.  In Australia, which in some fright­en­ing ways is more Dutch than Holland, the win­ner was an appet­ising 22-year-old built fit­ness instructor who spent much of his time stark naked in the mirrored (and, of course, camera-filled) bath­room wav­ing his even more built and appet­ising penis around. 

A few years ago when intro­du­cing the met­ro­sexual to the US, I poin­ted out that in ‘Spider-Man’ (2002) young Tobey Maguire appears to be injec­ted by ster­oids and ecstasy by a gay spider, turn­ing a geeky boy whom no one notices into a buffed, exhib­i­tion­istic, met­ro­sexual super­hero celeb, swinging across the met­ro­polis in his kinky rub­ber suit.  It seems that gay spider has been very busy.  His metro-web has enmeshed almost everything and every­one under 25.  Though maybe he wasn’t gay after all — just Dutch. 

Whether in sport or Dutch TV pop­ular­ity con­tests, or pretty much any­where you care to look in the West today, the male body is increas­ingly only as suc­cess­ful as it is desir­able.  In a medi­ated, con­sumer­ist, post-feminist, frankly rather dec­ad­ent world, male van­ity, once a ticket to mock­ery is now not only a ticket to celebrity — it’s a ques­tion of sur­vival.

Metroboys, of course, feel this instinct­ively, in their young, needy bones and swell­ing pec­tor­als.  Without need­ing to be told about it by mar­ket researchers. 

Or, in fact, me. 

 

© Mark Simpson 2006

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