I’ve been a big fan of Donald Glover for over 10 years now. Before he was on Community or Girls, even. Back in my pre-Daily Caller days, I was acquainted with a comedian and writer named DC Pierson*, who together with Glover formed an NYU sketch-comedy group called Derrick. The group made their name during the early days of YouTube, and when I saw the following sketch, I became an instant fan:
“That kid is gonna be a star someday,” I probably didn’t say to myself at the time. But I should have, and now he is. Glover seems to be good at everything he puts his mind to, which so far has included comedy, acting, and music. And this week, under his musical nom de plume Childish Gambino, Glover released a new song and video that everybody is talking about: “This Is America.”
WARNING: Violence, Adult Language, and a Strong Sense That You’re Complicit Just for Watching
Over 52 million views, as I type this. I’m assuming a lot of those are repeat viewings, as people try to figure out what the hell they just watched.
There’s a lot going on here. All the critics and thinkpiece authors have picked up on the most obvious themes: racism, gun violence in America, our voyeuristic society, the use of entertainment and social media to anesthetize us and insulate us from reality, and other heavy stuff like that.
But this video has another crucial message that a lot of people have missed. Glover is demonstrating something very important here:
It’s okay to have a dad bod.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term “dad bod,” I’ll let Wikipedia define it:
“Dad bod” is a slang term in popular culture referring to a body shape particular to middle aged men. The phrase has been adopted in United States culture as a celebration of this particular type of physique, with references generally skewing toward a positive and light-hearted tone. This masculine body type is a unique cross between muscular and slightly overweight physiques and could be considered skinny-fat.
That’s what Glover is showing off here. He’s got a bit of a spare tire, and obviously, he doesn’t care. He could’ve put on a t-shirt, or any other sort of shirt, to cover his slight gut. Or, he could’ve starved himself for weeks or months before the video was shot, stripping his body fat down to the superhero-like levels we expect from our shirtless celebrities in 2018. He could’ve made himself miserable, or hidden the body that nature and time and his own personal choices have given him.
Instead, Glover said: “This is me. This is my dad bod. These are my love handles. I’m in pretty good shape — it’s not like I’ve completely let myself go, obviously I still work out and stuff — but come on, I’m over 30 now. This is as good as it’s gonna get. I’m okay with it. If you’re not, that’s your problem.”
In recent years, a lot has been made of body positivity among women and girls. And that’s great! Nobody should be made to feel guilty and ashamed for falling outside our society’s standards of beauty. I’m all in favor of models like Ashley Graham proving that you can eat a carb and still be sexy. But it’s been a while since we’ve seen a male version of this. If a man is going to show some skin onscreen, he’s expected to get shredded like Chris Hemsworth and Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds. Or else the typical middle-aged male’s flabby physique is played for laughs, like in [fill in any Will Ferrell or Mike Myers movie here].
Chris Pratt famously went from fat to fit in order to star in Guardians of the Galaxy, and in the first two flicks, he popped off his shirt at the drop of a hat. But in Infinity War, Pratt’s slight weight gain is made into a joke and he covers up the whole time. Apparently, nobody wants to see Star-Lard.
Donald Glover ain’t havin’ none of that. As always, he’s following his own path. He doesn’t care about your rules. He’s not there to conform to your expectations. Bask in his slightly zaftig glory.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some work to do. Swimsuit season is rapidly approaching, and all this pasta ain’t just gonna eat itself!
*Pierson is multi-talented too. Not only does he act, but he’s also a terrific novelist. Check out The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To.