Oscar Pistorious is a paraolympian runner. I am not an athletics expert, but I have heard of him, because he is also a metrotastic model.
Currently Oscar is the face and body of Thierry Mugler A*Men Perfume‘s Pure Shot range. Pure Shot is known in the trade as a ‘sports fragrance’ which, if I have picked up the ‘notes’ correctly, is supposedly more manly and butch than regular perfumes.
‘Pistorius is the 25-year-old South African 400-metre runner who has been called “the fastest man on no legs.”* Pistorius was born without a fibula in either leg; his lower legs were amputated when he was a baby and he’s been using prostheses since he was 13 months old. Pistorius’ J-shaped carbon-fiber prostheses look “dramatic” and futuristic, and they play a big part in the A*Men advertising campaign (especially the video).’
There are a number of things worth noting about Oscar’s advertising campaigns, which also include ads for BT, one of the Olympics sponsors.
One is obvious: that Pistorius is a man with disabilities, but is being ‘objectified’ and treated as a ‘sex object’ just like fit, able-bodied metrosexy sportsmen are. In a culture where physical perfection is fetishised, it seems anomalous that someone with NO LEGS of his own is a model.
But another aspect of the ads featuring the athlete gives us a clue as to the reasons for this unusual occurrence. That is, they seem to be playing on the ‘futuristic’ aspect of prostheses, and the technology that enables Oscar’s incredible achievements. As The Sun newspaper, who named Oscar amongst their Top Ten Hot Shots of metrosexy men olympic athletes, say:
‘The South African double amputee has earned the name ‘Blade Runner’ for his incredible pace on prosthetic legs.
After winning gold in the last two Paralympics, the 25-year-old qualified to run for his country in the able-bodied races, becoming the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games.
And the hunky runner will compete in the 400 m and the 400m relay’.
So the aesthetic that seems to be enabling Pistorius to be a model alongside Beckham, Ronaldo and Nadal is a posthuman one. I am reminded of Donna Haraway’s Cyborgs, and the discussions of apocalyptic landscapes and cyberpunk style adverts at Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey ’s Cyborgology project.
However I think it is worth noting that inspite of or rather because of his lack of leg muscles, Oscar has a very well developed upper body. This makes him quite ‘conventionally attractive’ in metrosexual terms. The torso is (almost) everything for metrosexy modelling. Also, his torso shows how the lines between an ideal ‘human’ and ‘posthuman’ body are blurred. In Transexy times, ‘pneumatic’ tits and abs show how even without prosthetics, the metrosexual body is ‘hyperreal’ and augmented.
I haven’t seen any disability activists celebrating Pistorius’ modelling career. I wonder if like feminists are, they are conflicted about metrosexuality. Because metrosexuality puts into question some of the assumptions around objectification and victimhood that disability and feminist campaigns rely on. I mean if Oscar Pistorius enjoys being objectified, and profits from it, maybe objectification is a bit more complex than we have been led to believe?
MetroAuntie is not conflicted. I think Pistorius’ status as ‘sex object’ is great. But I am intrigued, and maybe a tiny bit disturbed by the shift in visual culture to cyborg and posthuman imagery. I doubt it is going away though. So we may as well explore this brave new metrosexual world.