The Grotesque Body in Sport

Bakhtin's (in Hemphill, 1995) conception of the grotesque:

images the human body as multiple, bulging, over- or under-sized, protuberant and incomplete. The openings and orifices of this carnival body are emphasized, not its closure and finish. It is an image of impure corporeal bulk with its orifices (mouth, flared nostrils, anus) yawning wide and its lower regions (belly, legs, feet, buttocks and genitals) given priority over its upper regions (head, 'spirit', reason).

When David Lynch created The Elephant Man, was he foreshadowing society's acceptance of the grotesque body in sport, which we see in the hypermuscularity of the WWF, the anorexia of women's gymnastics, or the silicone implants of much sports marketing?


Hemphill, D. (1995). Revisioning sport spectatorism. Journal of the philosophy of sport, 22. 48-60.


One response to The Grotesque Body in Sport

- rss feed for this comment thread
  1. Jackie Cramp says:

    Sport has become a form of leisure and entertainment for it's spectators. This "grotesque" body adds to the entertainment because it is something out of the normal that we don't see everyday. These "grotesque" bodies with over sized muscles and intimidating appearances are common in pseudosports, such as the WWF, that are made big, noisy, and violent to increase the entertainment value for spectators. This pressure to get bigger could cause health risks depending on the strategy the performer uses to gain the extra size (for example, drug use to increase muscle size).
    On the other end of the spectrum is the under sized body of the gymnast. Gymnastics has become a sport that is reserved for young athletes and the adolescent body. Gymnastics is no longer a "woman's sport." These tiny athletes are petite and light which makes it easier for them to complete the rotating movements involved in gymnastics. Being small in gymnastics gives the athlete an advantage when learning new skills, and can factor into one's success in the sport. Also, a higher degree of difficulty in the routine makes it more entertaining and exciting for spectators and judges to watch. This presseure to stay small could also cause health risks as the gymnast tries to hold off puberty to maintain a smaller frame. Eating disorders and excessive exercise are not uncommon in this sport.
    Though both scenarios (large/small bodies) have the potential to lead to unhealthy behaviours, both are widely accepted and even encouraged by society. Is society willing to risk the health of other individuals for their entertainment?