The worker may spend her or his workweek laboring in a factory […] but when she or he goes to the shop to buy something the commodity being bought does not remind the workers of her or his labor and does not seem to have an origin outside the shop. The consequence is that social relations in capitalist society are mediated by commodities rather then thought of as a consequence of the organization of labor in capitalism. In short, the commodity is naturalized.
At the Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition  two events took place that, retrospectively, may be understood as important moments […] of the spectacularization of the female and male bodies […] One was the first performance of belly dancing […] [which] marked an important step in the development of the striptease […]
It is at this historical moment that we find a new interest in the display of the male body. [Florenz] Ziegfeld promoted [Eugen] Sandow not as the world’s strongest, but as the world’s best-developed man’ […] Sandows’ act now hardly involved any feats of strength. Rather, it consisted of a series of poses. (More on Sandow)
The key to the spectacle of Sandow […], lies in the promotional description of Sandow as the world’s best-developed man. […] the male body was associated with productive labor, men being thought of ideologically as workers. The spectacle of the bodybuilding male body condensed and narrativized a story that involves labor, the natural, the manufactured and the commodity and that may be understood through Marx’s theory of commodity fetishism […] In modern Western thought, development has utopian ring to it. It connects with the ideas of progress, of modernization brought about by building or rebuilding and , ultimately with the idea of ‘developed countries’.
The commodified world is thought of as fundamentally unnatural […] satisfaction brought by these commodities is a consequence of their connection to a regime of fantasy […]. For the satisfaction to be realized, the desire must be naturalized, which means that the fantasy must, itself, take on a natural quality. […] In this context we can understand the bodybuilding body as mythically [Q: Mythically in regards to what? Walter Benjamin’s ‘mythical violence’?] attempting to combine the natural and the unnatural. […] the developed body, the bodybuilt body, is manufactured worked on by labor.
[…] the bodybuilt body seeks to resolve the unnatural, in the sense of the manufactured, into the natural. […] it asserts its production, offering itself, like a commodity, as a spectacle to be desired; not necessarily to be ‘acquired,’ by way of emulation […] but to be consumed as a spectacular creation of labor. Here, then, we have a narrative about labor. […] the body is transformed by its own labor into a manufacture body, which is at the same time, both natural and unnatural, simply a body but also a spectacle and a commodity.
[…] the myth of the bodybuilt body is premised on the idea that bodies can be (re)made. […]
Underlying the development of bodybuilding as a spectacle is the conceptual history of the body as a machine. […] During the nineteenth century the machinic understanding of the body was modified to that of a productive engine […] which produced, conserved and used up energy.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century the body began to be thought of as a machinic product rather than a machine of production. […] Anthony Synnott, noting that the first Model T Fords were produced in 1907, argues that ‘the automobile transformed thinking about the body’. However, this gets the relation the wrong way around. The car provided the ideal metaphor for the body, thought of as machine, but now being thought of also as a product/commodity.
[…] ‘the term ‘body maintenance’ indicates the popularity of the machine metaphor of the body. Like cars and other consumer goods, bodies, require servicing, regular care and attention to preserve maximum efficacy.
Cars are a means of transport, likewise bodies transport the person –that is, the mind, the privileged portion in the Cartesian dyad– through their lives.
[…] Arnold Schwarzenegger describes his attitude towards building his body: ‘You work your body the way a sculptor would work on a piece of clay or wood or steel. You rough it out –the more carefully and thoroughly, the better– then you start to cut and define. You work it down gradually until it’s ready to be rubbed and polished’. Here Schwarzenegger thinks of his body as an artistic product rather than a commercial product […].
[…] the connection with art was not new. When Sandow appeared in ‘Adonis’ [musical], the New York newspapers described him as ‘having the beauty of a work of art’ […] The claim that the bodybuilt body is a work of art legitimates its development for the purpose of display. Unlike art, commodities are expected to be functional, to have a purpose beyond that of spectacular display.
[…] in 1898, Sandow started a magazine titled Physical Culture. In his first editorial Sandow described the ultimate aim of physical culture as ‘to raise the average standard of the race as a whole’.
Here [at the Gym] assembly-line practices are used to rebuild the body bit by bit. If the mirrored walls of the gym allow self-inspection, film enables others to inspect. Here it is the labor process itself that is inspected […].
The new understanding of the body –in particular the male body– as a product, rather than simply a producer of products, was fundamental to the development of bodybuilding. […] the male bodybuilt body started to be generalized, something exemplified in the popularity of films starring male bodybuilders from the mid-1970s.
The bodybuilt body is alienated from the self, a product that can be worked on and examined in a mirror […]. As [Alan] Klein sums it up: ‘Alienation is, in [bodybuilding], brought to new heights. The self is distinguished from the body, the body beaten into submission. Richard Dyer puts it like this: ‘The point is that muscles are biological, hence ‘natural’ and we persist in habits of thought, especially in the area of sexuality and gender, whereby what can be show to be natural must be accepted as given and inevitable… However developed muscularity –muscles that show– is not in truth natural at all, but is rather archived’.
The naturalization of the male bodybuilt body in the twentieth-century West operates in the context of the naturalization of consumerism and of the commodities that are consumed. In this process the labor power that manufactures the product is mustified. The traditional gendering of the bodybuilt body as male is, among other things, a function of the ideological claim that the commercial labor is a male domain. […] Like the consumer who hopes that the purchase of a commodity will improve her or his life, the bodybuilder hopes that his labor will improve his body as he develops it. Here, the distinction between production and consumption is elided as the bodybuilder acquires his rebuild body.