The coverage of Paul Ryan's as-yet-unseen-but-theoretically-ripped abs from the coastal elite media has tended to imply that the presumptive vice presidential candidate is a little vain and a little metrosexual. And yet, in the flyover conservative message boards, the tone on his toned bod is entirely different. After years of reliably manly presidential candidates -- Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, John McCain -- Republicans have a somewhat prissy figurehead in Mitt Romney. (This is a guy, after all, who pulls the cheese off his pizza.) Romney's selection of Ryan has conservatives celebrating, and not just for Ryan's common sense small government solutions. Ryan is the manliest candidate they've got, and the great cultural divide between Red America and Blue America has never been more obvious than in the reaction to Ryan's abs. That's why it's critically important for us to explore their topography.
First, let's examine the belittling tone of the press. The New York Post's Andrea Peyser writes, "For the first time in human history, or at least since the election of man candy Sen. Scott Brown, we’re seeing true equality of the sexes. Call it -- The Year of the Manslut." She seeks not to lift the ladies up, but to bring Ryan down to our objectified level. Meanwhile, The New York Times' Cathy Horyn writes, "The man from Janesville, Wis., was hoisted onto the love pedestal, a nerd suddenly out of his loafers and into the sex dreams of Republicans, who apparently, unlike Democrats, need this kind of thing." However, he does not style his abs well, she says, because his jackets are too big. "Instead of boasting about his insane workout, perhaps Mr. Ryan should get a skilled tailor," Horyn writes. And Gawker's Hamilton Nolan noted that Ryan's beloved workout tape, P90X, is for bitches. Granted, Nolan actually said "for fascists," but the tone clearly implies he means bitches. As he explains it, P90X will not make you strong because you move to fast and use light weights:
A workout like P90X, by contrast, will build that vaunted "muscle tone" mainly by burning fat. There are no heavy weights involved, only light dumbbells and resistance bands and bodyweight work. It will not make you significantly strong, because it is a volume workout, which will build muscle endurance and possibly muscle size, but not absolute muscle strength, which is built by slower and more focused workouts lifting near-maximal weights—workouts virtually opposite from P90X, which is for people who want to have that "ripped abs" look without actually being strong.
Nolan explains "to my eye P90X gives less of that 'professional athlete' look and more of that 'manorexia combined with exercise addiction' look..." The Atlantic Wire would like to illustrate this distinction with a totally-not-gratuitous comparison of Christian Bale in Batman to Christian Bale in American Psycho.
It's jacked versus ripped, you see. And it's an important distinction when you're figuring out who to ask to help you move a couch.
However, those starved for a national figure embodying a bygone era of manliness can't afford to make such distinctions. When Rick Perry was still in the race (remember back then?), this image quickly began circulating:
If he'd won the nomination, we would have been treated to a lot of pudgy commentators raving that Perry was the nation's macho spirit animal. But it was not to be. And Romney is no substitute. Here's the best Weekly Standard artist Thomas Fluharty could do April 30 -- not show Romney as manly, but Obama as unmanly:
(Knee notation added.)
That was back when Ryan was just a distant possibility as the nominee. Now that he's on the ticket, Free Republic commenter and YouTube user Granny Jan Jihad Kitty has made a gallant effort to recapture the Perry magic with Ryan.
Here are some key stills:
The implication -- in case this is somehow too subtle for you -- is that Obama is kinda gay. Or, as this slide puts it, metrosexual.
"Surely the liberals will find something to criticize Ryan about working out with P90X," a Free Republic poster complained. "How about this: Paul Ryan needs to work out a lot, he needs his strength to throw all those old people off the cliff." Another was more optimistic: "All Ryan has to do is take his shirt off and this election is over." We're still waiting!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.