Contenders, ready! Gladiators, ready! Cross-Your-Heart male bra, ready!
It’s back. This weekend that naff 90s Saturday Night family entertainment staple Gladiators returns to British TV — though this time on sattelite and cable only.
A few, possibly superfluous, observations:
It looks a lot kinkier. It looks, in fact, like a suburban fetish party. Rather ‘dark’, with a lot of leather and rubber and a lot of porno pouting — and that’s just the guys.
The most popular male Gladiator, ‘Spartan’, wears a skirt.
Some of the men also seem to be wearing bras. It’s difficult not to wonder they’re a bit lacking in the tit department but have good abs, so they gave them something to cover up their saggy breasts or over-large nipples.
Or maybe, along with the skirt, it is just more evidence that the male body is now as packaged and fetishised, not to mention scrutinized, as the female variety — at least on Prime Time TV.
Actually, on the basis of the new Gladiators, you could argue that women are now held up to less exacting standards. The men are showing more flesh than the ladies — and their flesh is much more spectacular. Spartan’s abs aren’t really terribly useful, but they do look fantastic, so let’s have him hanging by his arms while the camera zooms in on them.
Either way, the Gladiators, male and female, with the exception of pigtailed Battleaxe who looks like she might actually be able to handle herself in a pub fight, seem less like super-heroes than a bunch of tarts.
But then, tarting’s what we want these days. Especially on family shows like Gladiators.
It’s a measure of how mainstream metrosexuality is now, how ‘normal’ it’s become, that even naff old Gladiators has been metrosexed up — ‘for all the family’. The original series was of course also a form of lycra-clad voyeurism, but with a It’s a Knockout/PE-teacher heartiness as fig-leaf. New Gladiators, on the other hand, like the brave/terrifying new metrosexual world we’re living in, isn’t the least bit shy and doesn’t need fig-leafs. Instead, we’re given skimpier outfits and flickering, lustful, wicked flames licking around their perfect bodies.
Sometimes the effect though can be very confusing. Atlas (left), with that long blond hair and sly wink he does on the website, looks less like Charles Atlas, than a cross between Popeye, Jessica Rabbit and Dick Emery. It used to be said that female bodybuilders looked like men in wigs — but looking at Atlas I can’t work out who or what is wearing the wig. Transexy time again.
Perhaps inevitably the trailer for the new series includes a pastiche of the hit 2000 film Gladiator, set in the Coliseum. Gladiators were slaves, commodities of worked-out human flesh that were bought and sold and pitted against one another in a life and death struggle by Roman showbiz at the point of a sword. Now though it’s done at the point of a TV contract. Who says civilization doesn’t advance?
Perhaps I’m reading too much in again, but to my eye this adds a layer of irony to the inclusion of several black Gladiators — in an attempt to update the format to reflect multi-racial Britain. Or perhaps simply to make it look more ‘exotic’ and saleable.
The muscliest gladiators meanwhile seem even musclier. Atlas and Destroyer look more impossibly massive than the big Gladiators of the Nineties series, such as Hunter and Wolf. The bar has, literally, been raised. Their shoulders in particular are vast — perhaps because since the 90s, partly down to the original Gladiators series, we’ve all got a personal fitness trainer — or are related to one. So they have to be EVEN BIGGER.
Or perhaps it’s because we’ve all got widescreen TVs now.
Somehow I don’t think it terribly likely the steroid ‘epidemic’ that drug agencies have warned is rampaging amongst young men today because they want a desirable body like the ones they see in the media will abate anytime soon.