John Hodgman explains why men in action movies wear those white tank tops

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Image Credit: Reiner Bajo

John Hodgman is an apocalypse expert, which you know if you’ve watched his comedy special John Hodgman: Ragnarok, taped on Dec. 21, 2012, now streaming on Netflix. That’s why when he stopped by recently to take the EW Pop Culture Personality Test (look for the video soon), we asked him to weigh in on a very important issue: Must a man wear a white tank top to save the world (or our president) in an action movie? Below, he works it out — and comes to an interesting conclusion.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is a white tank top essential?

JOHN HODGMAN: Like a sleeveless T-shirt? What some people call, as those it is funny, a “wifebeater,” but is actually terrifying and awful? No, that’s not true. Because Charlton Heston did The Omega Man and took his shirt off. And then of course he did Planet of the Apes, that’s post-apocalyptic, and he was naked through most of that. And then he was also in Soylent Green, which is on the verge of over-population apocalypse, and in that he wears the work shirt and the little spiffy bandana around his neck, and then he takes his shirt off all the time, too, and you never see one of those. So what movies are you thinking of?

Like Independence Day. Or, it’s not really apocalyptic, but Channing Tatum wears one in White House Down.
That’s not apocalyptic.

If our president dies, it’s apocalyptic, John.
Words have meanings. If you buy a Greek yogurt and it’s past date, is that apocalypse now? “Oh, FML. What an apocalypse.” No, I’m talking about a massive global end of civilization, end of life, end of life as we know it type cataclysm — if not the end of the world itself. Start at the end of the world itself and work backwards toward massive human casualties and apes take over the Earth. Anywhere in that range, that’s apocalypse. Not Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx being in a movie together. That’s terrifying. That might be the sign OF an apocalypse, but that itself is not an apocalypse. The thing is, when Charlton Heston made movies, America was full of grown-ups. Remember what Charlton Heston wanted to do after society collapsed in The Omega Man? He went to the movies. I can’t remember what movie he watched, some art film. There were art houses then. The point is, Americans could handle lookin’ at dudes’ nipples. Charlton Heston was taking his shirt off all the time because they could handle lookin’ at a dude’s nipples. Now they can’t handle it. It makes guys feel uncomfortable because they’re all teenagers inside. And they’re all like, “My friends are gonna think I’m gay if I look at Channing Tatum’s nipples.” That’s why you have those terrible sleeveless T-shirts in the movies all the time. Because America is too juvenile to look at a man’s nipples.

Read more:
Gallery: White Tank Tops: 26 Movie Moments We Cotton To
EW reviews ‘White House Down’


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