Is it just me, or should superheroes be less buff?

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
(Image credit: Disney)

Superhero films are supposed to be a display of limitless possibilities. We can suspend disbelief watching a giant purple despot snap away half the universe with his fingers, but it’s apparently too fantastical for the hero tackling him to not have an eight-pack. This is a genre defined by defying the norms, yet every guy has the exact same body type.

I get it. Our caped crusaders are meant to represent a heroic ideal, something special, not one of us schlubs. Still, it seems like a major curtailing of imagination to force this identical body type on to every guy. Why did Kumail Nanjiani have to get shredded for his role in 2021’s Eternals when he doesn’t even take his shirt off? If Guardians of the Galaxy’s Star-Lord is an everyman, does he really need to be weighed down by muscle mass? Why does it matter if Thor has a belly when he’s an alien god?!

The pressure to maintain this physique is unbearable. Actors have admitted to crying when they were allowed to finally eat carbs after months of restrictive diets and punishing gym sessions. Anyone who tries to buck the trend is maligned, as when Robert Pattinson joked about not wanting to get in shape to play The Batman. It often makes no sense for these guys to get jacked anyway. Why would you want Batman, a detective who sneaks among the shadows, to be Mr. Universe?

It doesn’t help that women in these films also have the same body types, but in their cases they’re much more lithe, devoid of definition or anything that would make dudes grumble that they’re somehow less ‘feminine’ for having delts. My kingdom for a heroine who can do pull-ups!

The exhausting lack of body variety in the genre feels like a major missed opportunity for Marvel and company. Wouldn’t it benefit audiences to see a greater range of people on screen? Let’s bring everyone to the forefront of cinematic heroism, from the small to the large. If anyone can be a hero, such is the message of these films, then it’s time for an average Joe or Jane to save the day… Or is it just me?