The curious case of Ben Stiller bustin’ out of his pants

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It is common knowledge that actors and other celebrities are airbrushed for mass consumption. In print advertising, everyone is gorgeous, thinner, and has no pores. But one trend that I’ve noticed the last few years is not bigger breasts on the women (nothing new), but, well… how do you say… male enhancement, especially for the lead male.

The first time I noticed this was in the movie poster for Fool’s Gold, starring Matthew McConaughey as a horndog adventurer. I did a double-take because my eye was drawn immediately not to the duo’s dazzling smiles or bronzed skin, but directly to Matthew’s shorts, where he looked, well, quite happy to see Kate Hudson. I showed the ad to several people, and they concurred that his crotch was the star of the poster. But, considering it was Matthew McConaughey, it wasn’t really a huge shock, just kind of… ew.

But then I get to the stranger image that popped up (so to speak) in my inbox the other day: the just released DVD cover art for the kiddie adventure Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. It is quite similar to the film’s movie poster, but with notable differences. The gaggle of folks gathered around Ben Stiller has been pared down from almost a dozen to a select few. For all practical purposes, Stiller is still in that generic stance that reflects the polyester men’s slacks ads from the 70s… you know, the ones where the pants were so flat in front that the men were rendered completely sexless like a Ken doll.

But Museum‘s marketers apparently will have none of that neutered business: Sex sells! (Even apparently for a movie aimed at children.) Note how the theatrical poster is darker, and Ben is carrying a flashlight (which also handily obscures any details). But now on the DVD, the image is lightened up and is, well, digitally enhanced. Is it just me, or does Ben weirdly look like he is about to bust out of his pants? It seems even stranger because the rest of his uniform’s slacks are so nicely pressed and non-wrinkled.

Upon closer look, however, the advertisers probably had to butch-up Stiller a bit. Why? Well, among the shuffled side characters, Owen Wilson’s cowboy now appears just to Stiller’s side on the DVD art (Owen was tiny on the original poster). One glance shows you all you need to know: Owen doesn’t need to bust out of his pants to be sexier than Ben—he’s wearing leather chaps! And everyone knows that leather chaps trump polyester pants any day… no matter how much Photoshop help you get from marketing.


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