I vaguely understand the value of the celebrity endorsement, the eye-catching strategy of linking stars to products, but I swear, if I live to be thirty I’ll never understand the pursuit of that strategy in open contradiction of its own meaning. Yes, of course if you’re a health magazine, you’d want to find some nice attractive young celebrity to adorn your cover and give your photographers fifteen minutes out of their day, but even so, this latest double-feature from Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness caught me off guard. I mean, these two magazines are allegedly devoted to promoting, well, health and fitness … and yet the latest issues of both feature two Hollywood stars who couldn’t care less about health and only simulate fitness when they’re in training for a movie.
Men’s Health is fractionally the less irritating of the two, since it’s mild enough to be the less hypocritical of the two. Its cover-boy, Twilight star Kellan Lutz (whose Hercules movie sank like a stone but whose upcoming Tarzan movie may fare better) is on the cover fully clothed in T-shirt and jeans, and he’s slightly hunched over with his hands jammed in his pants pockets. The three inside shots (by Patrik Giardino) feature the actor – not exactly MENSA material, but a friend to dogs – either standing around visibly hung over or else caught in the split instant of doing a trick pushup, and some of the quotes in the accompanying article by David Morton are precious: “I had a full-body scan,” Lutz mentions at one point, “and it turns out I have dense bones.” Hee.
And then there’s the closest the piece skirts to noticing the elephant in the room:
If you’re not a natural in water, don’t force it. Likewise, if your trainers rack up more mould than miles the road’s not for you. “I’m not a fan of running,” says Lutz. “I burn fat with bodyweight moves in between gym sets.”
The reason Lutz isn’t a fan of running is because he smokes two packs of cigarettes a day. The ‘bodyweight’ moves he does between the entirely anaerobic gym sets he (and all other tobacco addicts) prefer are carefully chosen to avoid triggering the kind of heaving body-wracking cough-sessions that will seize a tobacco addict if they try to act like a normal person.
All of which, despite being a moral failure of the first water, is at least Lutz’s choice (all young tobacco addicts make the decision with their eyes completely open – there’s no ‘may’ in the modern equations, it’s “will” instead – smoking “will” cause lung and heart disease, you “will” die – soon and in agony – if you consume this product). What mystifies me is the decision of Men’s Health to put this guy on its cover when there are plenty of sports-world celebrities who actually are devoted to men’s health, rather than its complete opposite.
And of course far, far worse was the decision of the folks at Men’s Fitness to put Ashton Kutcher on their latest cover. Kutcher is shot against the exact same background as Lutz was, wearing the exact same clothes, in the exact same position: vaguely hunched, hands jammed in pants pockets, looking annoyed rather than energetic. And the inside article, by David Katz, is every bit as engagingly written as the Lutz piece – but instead of tactical omissions, it’s full of outright lies. It has to be: Kutcher is ten years older than Lutz and has been smoking five packs a day since he was 16 years old. Where Lutz feels a fuzzy hitch in his lungs if he tries to engage in aerobic exercise, Kutcher is now as incapable of such exercise as a 90-year-old emphysema patient would be. Where Lutz occasionally hawks up phlegm, Kutcher spends thirty minutes every morning blasting long green slabs of thick lung-matter into the nearest sink. Where Lutz lit up in the natural pauses between angles in his photo-shoot, Kutcher’s photo-shoot was entirely arranged around his addiction in order to take advantage of the tiny windows of time he can go without smoking. Katz mentions that Kutcher enjoys jiu-jitsu and hilariously works in a red-hot whopper:
Kutcher first discovered jiu-jitsu while shooting an ad campaign for the fashion brand Colcci in Sao Paulo, Brazil, a few years ago, when one of his local security guys suggested it as an alternative to the actor’s morning run.
… which is the equivalent of a freelancer offhandedly mentioning former president George W. Bush’s “morning Latin studies.” Kutcher doesn’t need an alternative to his morning run, since he hasn’t been capable of running in years; and his ‘discovery’ of jiu-jitsu extends only to the few photos in this issue, in all of which his handsome face is wearing the vaguely panicked expression all tobacco addicts display when the minor physical exertions they’re forcing themselves to do make them wonder if they’re going to have a heart attack right there on the spot. The eyebrows peak; the mouth puckers; the skin turns slightly purple (hence the fact that these Men’s Fitness shots are all in black-and-white). Hollywood is admittedly a tougher venue to trawl for a young male star dedicated to fitness, but even in a generation of young stars absolutely dedicated to smoking, Kutcher (and Johnny Depp, who’s probably slated for next issue) stands out as the complete opposite of what the magazine purports to promote. A fitness-destroying addiction is a huge part of his existence – surely there was somebody else available?
At least Katz drops the whole jiu-jitsu nonsense for most of his article and instead focuses on Kutcher the tech-mogul. God help us all.