Clean body is a clean mind

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Sports for many people is a way to escape reality, fears, and problems. In Alice in Wonderland, the main character Alice chooses to escape her reality by walking through the looking glass. This looking glass has become a metaphor for which a person can find a release or a place of serenity. For some this mirror is running. Running tends to be the most common and accessible way for people to escape reality, fears and problems. For many, running allows one to create a new beginning by clearing the mind and starting fresh again. The image that I have chosen is a young, fit and lean white women running through a wall of water. One the far left side of the image it appears to be a dark gray color depicting a dark and ominous place. As one continues to look more into the image there appears to be black, brown, white and gray particles that gives the illusion of dust or dirt coming off the young female runner. As one continues to bring their eyes closer to the runner one is now able to see to what appears to letters in block form in the colors black, white, brown, nude, and gray. Then as one continues to move closer to the runner there appears to be words that are coming off the runner such as rage, sadness, and insecurity. Although there is dirt, dust, and negative words coming off the runners body, the runner still looks strong with her shoulders back, head held high, a strong and sturdy running stride, as well as the emphasis of all her muscles being flexed. The runner’s back leg is fully extending showing her muscles and as she is suspended through the air. Her arm is also extended to the back of her body in an “L” shape with her fist closed allowing the viewer to see the cuts and curves her muscles make in her arm. As she runs one is able to analyze the negative self perception that this runner has of herself. As one continues to move to the middle of the image the runner appears to be leaping into a door/wall of water. The background of the image now changes from an ominous gray that captures all the negative thoughts and perceptions to now a serial and calm white. The right side of the wall of water depicts a serene and calm white color. About half of the body of the runner has passed through the wall of water. There is no longer dirt, dust or words coming from her body. The only thing that is now coming off her body is water. The runners head has crossed the wall of water and her eyes are closed and her lips are in a slight smirk. Her head is held up high, with the expression of serenity and peace, as if she is being cleansed. As one looks the runner has seem as if she has been reborn.
This image appeals to the ideology that a fit body gives one a healthy body as well as a clean mind. It is now common in today’s society to emphasize the pro’s from working out such as having a better body image physically and mentally. As the runner passes through the wall of water her body looks as if she is being cleansed. The cleansing almost seems as if she is being baptized and taking away all her insecurity, rage, and sadness. In the Catholic church a human being receives the first part of the holy trinity (holy trinity: the father, the son, and the holy spirit) which is the holy spirit. A baptism takes away all original sin that one is born with and becomes pure receiving the holy spirit. This image alludes that if a person runs they will be able to mentally and physically cleanse themselves from all negative attributes of their lives. This ideology of muscular christianity has been in society since the Victorian era. Muscular christianity is the notion of the church promoting that to really be a man of god one must be fit and healthy. Being fit and healthy meant that one was serving God in a masculine matter. Although, this is not a male runner, she is still serving the idea of muscular christianity because she is physically fit (in today’s society that means a person is healthy) and she is doing her duty as a person of god by working out and having a clean mind and conscience. This notion of serving God while exercising gives the runner a look of sanctification and serenity. It looks as if when she is touched by the water all her negative thoughts and perception of herself have been forgiven and now giving her a new beginning to life.
An escape from reality is often sought when having negative thoughts and perceptions. Like The Looking Glass and Alice in Wonderland both characters cross into new worlds leaving all reality behind. This advertisement prompts that running is a form of a looking glass and a chance to leave all things behind and live in happiness for a while. As the runner crosses the wall of water, she is leaving a dark and ominous world that contains rage, insecurities and sadness. These particular words hold depth because these words reflect upon one’s self perception. The runner in the world of reality is dealing with appropriate femininity. It is now a hegemonic belief that women need to be thin and cannot have curves because they will be considered fat. Today’s society is still struggling with appropriating femininity. The female runner in this image is a strong, slender woman who runs with grace and power. She is suspended in the air allowing the viewer to see the strength that is seen in all her curves and muscles. Even though she is fit and healthy she still has negative words coming off her fit body. Many would argue that she does not have anything to worry about, but the notion of appropriate femininity will make a woman question her strength to be too masculine or even to fat. The wall of water allows the runner to leave the hegemonic and mundane word and run into a world of serenity and confidence. The runner is able to accept herself in this new realm and leave societies discourse.
Hence, body image and self perception is prevalent in today’s society especially in physical activity. Women continue to struggle with appropriate femininity. This ideology continues to hinder a woman’s ability to view themselves as strong powerful people in society. The strength that this woman demonstrates goes to show that women are able to be strong and lean, but be part of the world. Running creates this cleanse that allows one to forget all negative perceptions of themselves and now become equal with men.

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One Response to Clean body is a clean mind

  1. Sarah McCullough says:

    What a great cultural analysis of what at first glance might appear to be a simple image! I like how you tie in multiple cultural references–Alice in Wonderland, baptism, and Muscular Christianity. I would argue that today Muscular Christianity has morphed into a form of secular health that still retains the same notions of purity and morality, as well as its class and racial biases. How would you extend your analysis to insert a critique of the ideologies this ad calls upon?

    If you are interested in thinking about the relationship between running and mental health/escape, let me know. I have an article that might help you out!

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