If you’ve been on the internet any time in the past few weeks, you’ve probably heard about how awe-inspiringly wonderful Black Panther is. The early reviewers aren’t wrong: writer/director Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) has managed to craft a top-tier Marvel movie that bears the distinct stamp of Coogler himself. It’s exciting, smart, and emotional. It’s going to make a ton of money and send moviegoers spiraling into obsession over Letitia Wright, playing T’Challa’s super-smart little sister Shuri, and Winston Duke, who plays the Wakandan leader M’Baka. (If you weren’t already obsessed with Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Daniel Kaluuya, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, et al., we’re going to need to have words.)
Not to piss in anyone’s cornflakes here, but there is one thing that Black Panther does wrong, and it’s that it made Chadwick Boseman shave his got-dang chest.
Witness this shot of Boseman in the short-lived TV show Detroit 1-8-7. Now, it’s not a resplendent chest rug, but there is some follicular intensity happening there. In Black Panther? All gone.
This isn’t something that’s specific to Black Panther. Marvel, for whatever reason, has about as much interest in letting its heroes' bountiful chest rugs shine forth as it does in actually making that Black Widow movie. (Hey-ohhhhh.) It’s something that stands out all the more given the studio’s dedication to the shirtless beefcake shot.
If you squint, you can see that, while they made Paul Rudd develop abs for his half-a-second shirtless scene in Ant-Man, the Marvel chest hair czar—whoever they are; can I apply for the position?—didn’t make him shave his chest.
But Mike Colter? Chest hair in real life:
No chest hair in Luke Cage:
Chris Evans in What’s Your Number? Chest hair.
And in Captain America: The First Avenger: smooth and glistening and … uh, I lost my train of thought.
You think Andy Dwyer cares about manscaping? He does not.
But apparently Star-Lord invested in a DIY waxing setup for the Milano.
Charlie Cox. My sweet, sweet Charlie Cox. You’re going to need to sit down for this one. Because this is Charlie in his natural state…
...and this is him in Daredevil.
I never thought I’d complain about shirtless Matt Murdock, but my god, Charlie, what have they done to you?! Click here to get more angst on about what could have been.
Tony Stark doesn’t have chest hair, but if I had a complicated metal contraption in the middle of my torso, I’d probably keep the hedges clipped, too. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan’s Black Panther character), Quicksilver, Frank Castle, Bucky Barnes, and numero uno Marvel Fabio Thor are all smooth of chest, but in my extensive—ahem, I mean very, very brief—Googling, I was unable to find evidence that their respective actors had chest hair in the first place. Some guys don’t, after all.
But some guys do, is the thing, which you’d barely know if you obtained all your knowledge of the human race from the MCU. (You’d also think there are a lot more sky portals than there are.) It’s not just a matter of me liking chest hair. OK, it’s 85% a matter of me liking chest hair. But the other 15% is this: Marvel is totally perpetuating unfair body standards for men, you guys! The masculine ideal nowadays means ripped and oiled and often hairless from the neck down like a naked mole rat. Which may explain why the one Marvel hero allowed to unapologetically flaunt his lush chest plumage is the one who represents the sharpest departure from the stereotypical ideal of the masculine superhero: nerdy scientist Bruce Banner.
Ruffalo? More like Scruffalo. Let’s be real, Bruce would probably Hulk out if anyone came near him with a waxing strip. And guess what? The Hulk would still have chest hair.
Consider the gauntlet thrown, Marvel. And not the Infinity kind, either. Embrace the chest hair I want to see in the world.