CHEMICAL PINK REVISITEDPosted November 5 ’11
My first published novel, Chemical Pink, came out ten years ago. The book is basically a Pygmalion story set in the world of women’s bodybuilding; My Fair Lady goes to the gym. I did a lot of research including a short stint as a competitor. In 1992 I proudly claimed title of Southern California Bodybuilding Champion and took home a five-foot tall trophy, which I still have. I’ve published two novels since Chemical Pink, each set in their own weird subculture, and while I have continued to train at Gold’s Gym all these years, I haven’t paid much attention to the evolving sport of bodybuilding.
Recently there has been renewed interest in turning Chemical Pink into a movie, which is of course a thrilling prospect for me. I have been meeting with producers and directors. I find myself once again discussing the fascinating world of competitive body modification and realize that lot has changed; Bodybuilding has evolved. By the late eighties/early nineties, the pioneer women of the sport had trained hard and through diet and supplementation were able to achieve a level of muscularity never before seen. They just kept growing. And growing. Many of the fans found the increased muscularity offensive and felt they were witnessing the grotesque and unnatural transformation of women into men. The audience started to turn away from the sport. The sponsors panicked. Something had to be done. Fitness Competition was born which allowed women to compete with a lot less muscle. Most of the Fitness girls had some sort of gymnastic skills and thus brought to the sport a new level of athleticism. And then Figure competition was introduced for those lacking the dexterity of a gymnast. And then Bikini competition came along for those with a pleasing shape but not much muscle. Most recently Women’s Physique has been introduced to bridge the gap between Bodybuilding and Fitness/Figure.
Everyone shows up for the contest tan and lean. 99.9% have long, painted fingernails. Here you will not see any shake or jiggle in the winners circle.
They’re like a set of Russian Nesting Dolls, dark brown and oiled, in each in a different colored bikini.
The point of each competition is to display the oneself in a series of positions and hope that the judges will find your form to be the most ideal. As you work your way down the line from the original Bodybuilder to Bikini, you will see that each group gets a little less muscular, a little softer, until you have the girls in the Bikini category standing on stage with firm physiques but very little actual definition.
All the women are told that their posing suits “must be in good taste” and under no circumstances are they allowed to wear thongs (which are considered bad taste). Bikini, Figure and Fitness competitors are encouraged to wear jewelry. Bodybuilders and Women’s Physique are not.
Bikini, Figure and Fitness competitors must wear high heels during the competition. Bodybuilder and Physique contestants are not allowed to wear shoes and must compete barefoot.
Bodybuilders do the traditional poses, also done by the men, and with closed fists to emphasis the density of muscle.
Physique competitors do the same poses but with the more feminine “open hand” to accentuate the beauty of form.
In all fields there is music and the artful display of body parts. Fitness girls tend to do back flips and somersaults; a prerequisite for that category seems to be extreme flexibility.
I wonder about my character from Chemical Pink, Aurora Jeanine Johnson. Aurora was in some ways a lab rat for Charles Worthington. She suffered terrible consequences in pursuit of her goals. If I was to write her story today, would it be as extreme? Are the girls in these new categories subjecting themselves to the same kinds of tortures that she endured? Is Charles Worthington still holding the reins? Or have these amazing women taken control of their lives and destinies? It is a question worth asking.