As David Beckham's underwear commercial track record has proven, if you pour the chiseled star into a pair of H&M branded skivvies and film him jumping from buildings or even just standing there, you've got yourself some eye-candy and some comedy gold. So it's no wonder then that Late Late Show funnyman James Corden chose to cast himself aside Beckham in a mock underwear commercial to hype the muscle-bound soccer star's visit to the show this week. The jokes write themselves.
Decked out in "D&J" boxer briefs, the two men — who obviously have different body types — make light of the vapid and downright salacious commercials Beckham is famous for. Filmed in moody black and white, Beckham and Corden run around the set in their underwear, posing draped around each other or popping out from behind each other in ridiculous fashion, while Corden's voiceover can be heard discussing what it takes to be a "man." Apparently, "he needs to be able see through himself."
It's such a great read on the inane performativity of such ads and how they oftentimes position masculinity in the most rigid of terms. But what's more, although it calls upon the "fat comic relief" trope — the camera scanning the physical difference in Beckham's muscle-bound form and Corden's softer frame — the mock ad artfully flips body shaming on its head.
Corden is confident and expressive with his body, flinging himself across stage, flirting with the camera and Beckham (!), never shying away from having his curves captured as he touts the faux underwear's tagline, "D&J briefs: for a man with a great body… and David Beckham." Yes, the tagline's humor lies in the idea that Corden believes himself to have a great body, comparable to Beckham's. But instead of laughing at Corden, you become totally convinced by his body acceptance. Corden's size and stature is an asset, and as Kat Stoeffel argued in her piece for The Cut titled "Can Men Be Fat Shamed?" Corden's weight is "incidental to his identity." The talk show host may not be sculpted from rock like Beckham is, but he's still Beckham's peer, and he is a success.
And while it's massively inspiring for Corden to satirize physical standards in our weight-conscious society, the comedian's flaunting of his physicality, as Stoeffel puts it, "represent[s] a distinctly male freedom not to care about their appearances." You have to wonder if Victoria Beckham, David's very posh wife, would ever mock female body issues with a non-skinny funny lady? While never-forgotten episodes of Victoria Beckham: Coming To America show the designer has an amazing sense of humor, for women, "weight gain is still on some level a moral failure" — or rather, it's pushed upon us as if it is.
Corden's slow-mo of his bulging abdomen is such a great FU moment to sizeism. Hopefully it could start a ripple effect (no pun intended) for all.
Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.