Producers pinched his fat and told him to lose weight. This actor says it has to stop.

You might remember actor Sam Claflin as Finnick, the uber-athletic former champion from the "Hunger Games" movies.

Sam Claflin. Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images.

He's also played a leading man in a number of other films and TV spots, including "Me Before You" and "Snow White and the Huntsman."


But he said making a career out of playing the heartthrob ain't what it used to be, according to a recent interview in The Sydney Morning Herald. In fact, he says there's an ugly side to becoming an action star these days that people don't seem to want to talk about.

Claflin said men in Hollywood face enormous pressure to live up to unrealistic body standards.

The last time most of us saw him on screen, Claflin was sporting a lean and athletic look, but there was a lot we didn't see.

"I remember doing one job when they literally made me pull my shirt up and were grabbing my fat and going, 'You need to lose a bit of weight,'" he told the Herald. "This other time they were slapping me. I felt like a piece of meat."

If it sounds familiar, it's because women in show business go through this all the time. The truth is that the constant pressure to look flawless in front of the camera is damaging for men, too.

"I'm not saying it's anywhere near as bad as what women go through but I, as an actor approaching each job, am insecure — especially when I have to take my top off in it — and so nervous," he said. "I get really worked up to the point where I spend hours and hours in the gym and not eating for weeks to achieve what I think they're going for."

It wasn't always this way. There was a time when actors didn't have to appear chiseled out of stone before they'd be considered for a role.

James Bond then (1980s) and now (2000s). Photos via Central Press/Getty Images and Damian Oswald/YouTube.

"In the '50s and '60s, it was never an issue," Claflin said. "James Bond never had a six pack. He had a hairy chest. Marlon Brando​ in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' had an incredible body but he was by no means ripped to within an inch of his life. There's a filter on society that this is normal but actually it's anything but normal."

While actresses are being held to absurd standards of beauty and told they're too old to play the lead by the time they hit 30, men have it a little different.

They're spending months and months working themselves into peak physical condition through brutal exercise and diet regimens and dropping to almost dangerously-low body fat and dehydration levels.

All in the name of looking ripped.

The pressure on professional actors to push their bodies beyond their limits is bad, but the effect it has on regular people might be worse.

When the only women allowed to appear in movies have to fit a certain aesthetic, it rubs off on young women everywhere. It's similar for men when every time they turn on a movie or TV show, all the guys look like bodybuilders.

Some studies are finding that men, and young men in particular, are turning to dangerous steroids to bulk up. This pressure to be big and muscular is wreaking havoc on their self-esteem.

It's time for Hollywood to loosen the reigns and display more body diversity on-screen.

We get it — Thor has to have big muscles. He's a demigod. But does every spy, dad, police officer, and accountant we see have to have six-pack abs? Does every actor need to dehydrate themselves before each shoot so you can see the veins in their biceps?

The effect on-screen may be striking, but the effect it's having on people in the real world is anything but.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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