What our obsession with Chris Pratt’s body says about us

The more Chris Pratt's body changes, the more things stay the same.

 

Feliks Garcia

Internet Culture

Published Jun 12, 2015   Updated May 28, 2021, 2:35 pm CDT

If there’s anyone who knows how to tell a good poop joke, it’s Chris Pratt. His former co-star and TV wife, Aubrey Plaza, posted a tweet promoting this weekend’s release of Jurassic World, which stars Pratt as Owen, a dinosaur hunter. Plaza included a gif taken from a Parks and Recreation outtake where Pratt as Andy Dwyer, clearly improvising, describes his symptoms to a doctor. I’ll let the GIF do the talking:

That type of gross, bro-next-door humor doesn’t detract from Chris Pratt’s charm. In fact, his relatability is what makes him so universally liked to begin with. Like most people, I was first introduced to Chris Pratt through Andy on Parks and Rec, the simple schmo who got funnier—and chubbier—each season. Ever since Pratt’s rapid rise to the top of the Hollywood mountain with Guardians of the Galaxy, however, attention has shifted to his body as a topic of conversation.

The body is a standard talking point for women in Hollywood who are routinely bombarded with questions by the press about their weight and diets, so why does it matter that Chris Pratt is all of a sudden under the microscope? Pratt simply faces far less scrutiny than his female counterparts, and he’s allowed the freedom to navigate between fat and fit bodies—leeway that is never given to women on and off camera.

Since 2011, American films have seen an uptick of abs and male muscularity in what I refer to as the post-Magic Mike era of filmmaking. Some writers saw the saw this as a shift of the male gaze. Vulture’s Joe Reid asked, “Are we living in the golden age of male objectification?” He saw that summer as a time when the “male gaze was reflected back at itself—and with enthusiasm!” A shift occurred that year, according to Reid, that suggested a sense of “objectification for all,” instead of just plain, old Hollywood misogyny.

That same year, Marvel began building its cinematic universe outside of the Iron Man franchise, fortifying the foundation with the dinner-plate pecs of Chris EvansCaptain America and the tree trunk arms of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. Marvel’s Chris Triumvirate was finally completed in 2014 with the addition of Chris Pratt and his Guardians abs. But adding muscularity to masculinity in the 2010’s wasn’t exactly a shift in gender dynamics. Instead, it simply reinforced gendered ideas of what men “look like.” 

A shift occurred that year, according to Reid, that suggested a sense of “objectification for all,” instead of just plain, old Hollywood misogyny.

Reinstating the muscular man in movies signified a return to the oiled bodies of the ‘80s, a body that was meant to symbolize white American power and virility. Prior to 2011, Hollywood leading men were more or  awkward, manboy types, like Michael Cera and Seth Rogen. The shift to Channing Tatum’s dancing to Ginuwine’s “Pony” suggests that brawn can exist within a more nuanced, fluid masculinity, as opposed to the rigid maleness of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. 

Chris Pratt is another manifestation of that hybrid masculinity; although, I would argue he’s closer to Bruce Willis, as he has the space to navigate the terrain of the muscular action star with his goofy persona.

Pratt’s fitness, undoubtedly, is the result of months of hard-hitting gym action and quite a drastic change from the chubby, cuddly character he had played for seven seasons. In a recent interview, Pratt talked about why Andy Dwyer was fat, mostly because the more weight he gained, the funnier he got. “[My] comedic nature understood the irony of a super-happy fat sweaty guy who is completely confident and accepting of who he was.”  

I never thought of Andy’s weight as something that impacted Pratt’s comedy in the series; rather his timing, improvisation, and the utter stupidity made for hilarious moments, full of belly laughs and head slaps.

He elaborated on how his body made him feel before the weight loss to Men’s Health, suggesting that his weight made him “impotent,” quickly walking back his comments once the Internet caught wind of them. “I’m not sure I knew what ‘impotent’ meant,” he told Us Weekly. Pratt generally comes off as a guy who makes off-the-cuff remarks at his own expense, which is partly why we love him, but the powerless feeling he felt when he was fat had less to do with the outside pressures of staying thin—something never put on the backs, or bellies, of male actors.

Regardless of how Pratt feels about what made Andy Dwyer funny, or how “ironic” it is for a “fat sweaty guy” to be happy and confident (something that isn’t totally unheard of), his early career benefitted from that body, which continues to be celebrated through our recent “Dadbod” spring.

When Dadbod—the trend that celebrated the “balance between a beer gut and working out”—reached critical mass on the Internet earlier this spring, BuzzFeed took a moment to remind the world that Chris Pratt has been rocking the Dadbod since at least 2009. Sure, the acceptance of bigger bodies is excellent, but when popular culture accepts fatness, it’s too often exclusively male bodies. There is no equivalent “Mombod.” 

As the Daily Dot’s EJ Dickson writes:

The problem is that while women are under constant pressure to hit the gym and regain their former shapes the second they pop a yawling infant out of their snizzes, men live under the constant reassurance that no matter how much PBR they drink or how many slices of pizza they eat, women who look like Cameron Diaz and Maria Bello and Rose Byrne will still have sex with them.

No more pizza and beer for Pratt, unfortunately, but try to imagine a female star who has undergone substantial weight loss and subsequently been celebrated for both her fit and fat body. That’s just not how the Hollywood double standard works. Men like Pratt can have their cake, eat it, and order another round of dessert, and they’ll still get roles.

Chris Pratt’s only been at this level of stardom for about a year, and the fact that any amount attention is given to his body centers around the dramatic change he underwent in a roughly short period of time. But you can rest assured Pratt will be in the limelight for a long time, given the fact that he’s committed to at least two more Guardians movies, the inevitable Jurassic Park sequels, and rumored to be the new Indiana Jones

And the longer Chris Pratt’s on the big screen, the fewer entertainment journalists will remember that he was once King Dadbod and he could tell one hell of a poop joke.

Feliks Garcia is a writer, powerlifter, and foster of homeless cats. He holds an MA in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, is Offsite Editor for the Offing, and previously edited CAP Magazine.

Screengrab via Universal Pictures/YouTube

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*First Published: Jun 12, 2015, 5:42 pm CDT