Describing Zac Efron’s Body As A ‘Dad Bod’ Is Not Only Inaccurate, It’s Dangerous

Is that a dad bod? Really?

Zac Efron Dad Bod

by grazia |
Updated on

If you've been watching Down To Earth With Zac Efron since its launch on Netflix, or if you've seen pictures or tweets expressing intense levels of thirst for Zac, then you'll know that the actor is looking very different from his Baywatch days. A few years ago the star - who first rose to fame as a teen star in High School Musical - could be recognised by his slim physique, a washboard set of defined abs, free from excess fat or body hair. Now, he's a little broader and a little hairier. He's changed, but still undeniably attractive. It's acceptable to acknowledge a shift. What's not acceptable is to label him as in possession of a dad bod.

The idea of a 'dad bod' is already a slightly absurd concept, before Zac joined the involuntary troop. It became common in 2015, after male celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were spotted topless on beaches. Their stomachs were rounder than we had come to expect from the Hollywood ideal, as they relaxed in between rigorous filming schedules or, perhaps, just decided that there were better things to do than go to the gym. Popularised in an online essay published by then 19-year-old student Mackenzie Pearson, it picked up traction globally. We'd created a monster.

Aside from anything else, the title ignored the fact that some of these men were not fathers. But it also equated fitness with childlessness, as if becoming a father was the first step in 'letting yourself go' - whatever that equally flawed term means. For whatever reason, the 'dad bod' label has continued to thrive. But using it inappropriately could be genuinely damaging.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that 'dad bod' is empowering and well-meaning when it celebrates a man's continued status as an attractive, virile individual even when their pecs have faded and their definition has blurred. Let's temporarily put aside the fact that women don't get celebrated for their stretch marks or caesarean scars to the same extent. We toast mothers who look good despite their signs of motherhood, not because of them. But regardless of all of that, if you accept 'dad bod' as an acceptable description, then all power to you. If that's what you see when you look at Zac Efron, though, you need to reevaluate.

Zac is a little stockier, but he is still clearly in impressive physical health. His muscles are evident, his definition still present. Saying that he has a dad bod suggests that the larger, wobblier men who have found confidence and relief in the label are, actually, sub par. It tells men that they were actually wrong to look at their paunches and think 'you know what? I look ok like this!' It contributes to the idea that men can only be seen as sexy if they subscribe to specific - if broader than we have seen in the past - ideals.

Aside from that, Zac has been open and upfront about how exercise brought him stability after substance issues. Having emerged from rehab sober in 2013, he later explained that going to the gym saved him. 'When I’m very careful about my fitness and have a goal in mind, it keeps me motivated and balanced', he told Men's Fitness in 2017. 'I don’t feel the need to be out – that kills your day, your hobbies, and your motivation. Balancing sobriety and work and finding that comfortable place where you feel like a good person.' Proclaiming him as the new dad bod god risks suggesting that he has, in fact, not succeeded in his efforts to keep motivated, to be balanced. It could be seen as stating that, in putting on a few pounds, he's failed.

Zac looks great. Better than ever, depending on your taste. But all that matters is that he seems happy, healthy and fulfilled. Please, let's put aside the 'dad bod' labels and focus on that.

READ MORE: Chrissy Teigen Has Revealed Her Boob Job Scars and It’s A Timely Reminder That Plastic Surgery Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly

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