The rippling, muscular, gargantuan male figure has become a highly desirable body type throughout America. From comic books to advertisements to major motion picture, this physique is constantly displayed through media. Gyms across the nation are filled with men trying to gain muscle mass and improve their figure, and bodies are even judged in a competitive format at body-building contests. The anthropological theories of cultural evolution and symbolic interpretation offer compelling insight into the muscular male figure and the desire for men to achieve it.
The cultural evolutionary theory of anthropology, though outdated, offers interesting insights into the muscular, god-like figure. As this theory sprouted and garnered popularity in the late 19th to early 20th century, its practitioners attempted to rate cultures on a scale, which ranged from “savage” to “civilized.” In this time period, the large, muscular body may have actually been placed lower on the cultural evolutionary scale, near the savage category. The civilized label was used to describe cultures that relied upon technology and promoted intellectual growth, and sought-after careers generally did not require manual labor or large, muscular bodies. On the contrary, many cultures that would have been deemed savage had a reliance upon hunting, gathering, and strenuous manual work. This lifestyle required a more fit, strong physique than that of an academic or business owner in this era. Thus, a massive muscular body would have been associated with lower, more “savage” cultures. However, over time, weight lifting and fitness gained immense popularity in American and European culture, and these physiques became desirable in “civilized” societies. In the modern era, cultural evolutionary theory may judge large muscular statures highly on the evolutionary scale due to the contemporary emphasis on fitness and body-improvement.
The symbolic and interpretive anthropological theory offers very different perspective on the strong, powerful physique. This lens focuses on symbols and their cultural importance, analyzing the meaning of said symbols through an emic, or insider, perspective. Interpretive anthropology may argue that a monstrous, muscular body symbolizes masculinity and power. This perspective may assert that the modern pursuit of superhero physiques reflects a desire- conscious or subconscious- to appear powerful and virile. As well-built, athletic men are persistently portrayed as sexually desirable protagonists in Hollywood, this physique can be can also interpreted as a symbol for sex appeal in modern American culture. Advertisements endlessly buttress this symbol, persuading their audience to purchase products related to improving one’s physique. As the god-like figure has come to represent sex appeal, masculinity, and power, it is easy to understand the passionate desire for men to achieve such a body.
The theories of cultural evolution and symbolic interpretation offer two very different perspectives on the modern muscular male figure, yet both offer interesting insight into the physique and the desire to attain it. As desirable body types are continuously changing, anthropological theories help understand the significance being these figures.
 McGranahan, Carole. “Cultural Evolution.” University of Colorado at Boulder. Boulder, CO. 9 Sept 2015. Lecture.
 “Symbolic and Interpretive Anthropology.” Anthrotheory. n.p., n.d. Web. 17 Sept 2015.