The Sin of Male Vanity and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The Sin of Male Vanity And It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

The most universal human weakness is the sin of vanity.

We shouldn’t even call it a ‘deadly sin’ anymore. If vanity really were deadly, there would be nobody left alive on earth – except maybe that Scottish lady with the great opera singing voice.

Everybody knows about the extremes of female vanity. We may not understand it, but guys are at least aware of the cosmetics industry, plastic surgery, eating disorders, and the closets filled uncomfortable shoes that you overpaid for.

But while American pop-culture has accepted female vanity, male vanity is still a dirty little secret. We don’t feel comfortable talking about it, but I assure you that men can have just as many body image issues as women.

Right now, there are a thousand aging men staring at their gut and trying to fool themselves into thinking that they aren’t gaining weight. And there are a thousand muscle-bound guys gazing at themselves in the mirror at the gym and seeing a weak, skinny kid staring back at them – so they lift weights for another half hour.

Men’s self-image issues can be fascinating and hilarious. It’s strange that the entire entertainment industry ignores male vanity. Except the great FX sitcom “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Glenn Howerton, the actor who plays Dennis Reynolds on “It’s Always Sunny,” is a unusually attractive dude. Howerton, like his character, is unwholesomely proud of looks and he is obsessed with staying fit and looking young.

Howerton really understands the sick mind of a vain man, and he has used his character to show us some of the ridiculous extremes of male vanity.

At different times, Dennis has starved himself and become addicted to diet pills in his unwavering commitment to stay thin. He has burned his skin off with a chemical peel and injected himself with Mexican Botox in an increasingly self-destructive quest to defy the aging process.

Obsessing over your looks can help you win over girls and make you lose your mind. Glenn Howerton bravely shows us both sides.

When it comes to extreme commitment to his character, though, no one can compete with co-star Rob McElhenney. McElhenney plays Dennis’s best friend Mac and – for the sake of comedy – he gained 50 pounds for the role.

Mac grew up with an indifferent mother and a jail-bird father. Like so many guys, he dealt with his low self-esteem by obsessively lifting weights. In his 20s, Mac was under the impression that he was the bar tough guy. But clearly he was just a scared, insecure manchild who happened to have big biceps.

The character Mac became more interesting and more hilarious when McElhenney actually gained 50 pounds of muscle and fat (mostly fat) between Seasons 6 and 7.

While he used to be delusional about how buff he was, now he refused to accept how fat he had become. Mac stubbornly argued that he had merely “packed on mass,” even as he scarfed down a bag of burritos while injecting his stomach with insulin.

Once again, though, “It’s Always Sunny” shows that male vanity is a double-edged sword. With his gluttony, Mac had squandered his looks and contracted Type 2 Diabetes. However, at an imposing 210 pounds, Mac had finally become the immovable bar tough guy he always wanted to be.

All of this and Danny DeVito (possibly the least vain man in showbiz) make “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” the best comedy on television. Catch new episodes every Thursday night at 10pm on FX.