Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sexy and They Know It

I was scrolling through Twitter early this morning and stumbled across USA Today announcing who People magazine had selected as 2012's "Sexiest Man of the Year." You know, that stunning, riveting announcement everyone was waiting for. On a scale of not caring about People's declaration of who's the sexiest in the land (I smell an interesting Snow White spin-off there) to uncontrollably excited, where do you fit in? Where do I fit in? Where does the general populace of the US, the English-speaking world, the rest of the world fit in?

Yes, this what I ponder while scanning Twitter early in the morning.

Personally, I annually forget that People makes this selection, then get vaguely excited that it might mean pics of some of my favorite actors, realize it doesn't, and then get moderately depressed that I still don't find Channing Tatum extraordinary sexy as I have been judged for this - obviously he's nice looking but beauty is subjective and thus I seem to be in a minority of people who are not enthused about this announcement (not that I'm not happy for Channing Tatum - you go, Mr. Tatum). But I can't help but wonder several things about this: 1) How exactly is the "sexiest man alive" selected? 2) What sort of man are we talking about here? 3) Why do we do this every year?

1) Okay, guys and gals and those against gender binaries, I tried my hand at internet searching to figure out how the hell these men are selected as the sexiest... and I got nothing. Admittedly, this was some quick and fast research before I had to run off to class, but I even created a freaking account with some discussion query website known as Quora that had this promising prompt:
Which then resulted in answers that were neither helpful nor accessible, as you had to use "credits" attributed to your account and I was already disappointed that this wasn't some cool, hands-on, Wikipedia-like forum. So, because Wikipedia is clearly more awesome, I ran there. And got this result:

May I emphasize something? The line: It is determined in a similar procedure to Time's Person of the Year.

You have got to be kidding me.

Let me take you back in the wibbly-wobbliness of this blog to a simpler time when I was just talking about Time magazine's nominations for Person of the Year because of Benedict Cumberbatch and because I was pretty annoyed about the entire 'person of the year' thing in general. I'm having a really hard time believing that these two random posts are, in fact, incredibly relevant to this whole issue of Sexiest Man Breathing Air On Planet Earth (aka: alive). We apparently have come full circle on this blog. I can't decide it if this is good or terrifying.

So, in short, People magazine somehow randomly nominates people and readers (presumably, if it's like Time's poll) can vote on the sexiness of nominated people. Sooo...

2) Note the fact that nominated people are celebrities. And very specific celebrities. As this nifty FYI post lets on, out of the 27 men selected since 1985, only one - ONE - of these men has been not white (Denzel Washington, chosen in 1996). After scrolling through the winners on the Wiki article, I found only 6 of the men who won were not from the US - Mel Gibson (Australia), Sean Connery (Scotland/UK), Pierce Brosnan (Ireland), Jude Law (England/UK), Hugh Jackman (Australia), and Ryan Reynolds (Canada).

I am deeply, deeply trying to resist the urge to use the "BORED" gif from Sherlock. But I can't resist...
All, in all, the results seem pretty typical. All of the men selected, save one are white and even have a fairly similar physique. Except for maybe Jude Law and just being conscious of the wonderful caveat that Hugh Jackman does both action films and musical theater, all other men selected are pretty high on the "macho athletic manly man" persona. Not to impugn them any for it. I would be a liar if I said I did not appreciate Brad Pitt and Ryan Reynolds and George Clooney's "all-American" masculine attractiveness (well, not so much all-American for Reynolds because he's Canadian). But the fact that pretty much all of them fit into a certain set of looks and desirability... well...
People magazine, can I speak to you personally for a minute here? I'm certainly not voicing a majority opinion and I believe I'm not even voicing a distinct minority. But I would just like to remind you that sexiness - whatever the heck one personally defines that as - is probably subjective. And while you very much want to give women (ie: straight, middle class white women roughly between the ages of 18-39 from the US, I suspect) "hot guys" you've "rounded up" for their "viewing pleasure," I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop trying to force upon me what is considered "sexy" in American culture. Because your perception of it - and right now, we're ignoring the fact that readers probably vote on this because 1) they have to vote on nominees, probably ones that People selects and 2) I'm sure a very specific audience reads People (straight, middle class white women... yeah, you get the idea) - is a bit skewed. So I'm very sorry to say that I find your displaying muscle-bound men in tight shirts sort of disappointing. But I do. I know it's shocking and I'll be accused of not being a "real woman" and doubts from others about my sexuality will ensue (been there, done that, got the t-shirt). But PLEASE. Could you make the definition of masculine sexiness any narrower? Right, of course you could. But this is not an invitation to do so.,,20315920,00.html
Which brings me to...

3) If I could find a gif of the Grinch from the film with Jim Carrey yelling, "They do this every year!" I'd use it. Why in the world do we submit ourselves to this repetitious ridiculousness, slowly molding us to focus only on a certain look and kind of masculinity? Many reasons - we like to look at nice-looking gentlemen, even if they aren't the men we ourselves would label as sexiest (because when women are usually the focus of the sexual gaze, it still seems nice when it's the other way around). Also, we like to hear about celebrities, even if it's just in passing, as People gives us with the description of Channing Tatum (who apparently quotes Edgar Allen Poe and makes sculptures. I'm curious as to what kind of sculptures or if that was just thrown in there to make us think of sculpted abs. And now I can't get Channing Tatum quoting "The Raven" out of my head... this is getting weird). Also, doing this sells issues - because even though I know I'm going to be disappointed, I'm still longing to buy a copy just on the off-chance that someone like Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch or Idris Elba  - or for God's sake I will gladly take Chris Evans - has a mention/photo in a random section (which generally consists of "geeky hot guys" or "nice looking men who wear suits" or "dudes from across the pond who are also attractive enough to elicit our awareness." I want to buy the stupid bloody magazine in the hopes that maybe, just maybe, Chris Colfer or Darren Chris got a mention. Or that Neil Patrick Harris or Zachary Quinto or Jesse Tyler Ferguson or (oh dream of dreams) Mark Gatiss or just simply a not-straight guy gets a nod. And how in the world has People magazine been immune to the epicness that is Colin Firth and Alan Rickman? And the fact that Rupert Graves is completely and utterly unknown... *cries.* I realize that some of these hopes would ruin the idea of what is considered "sexy" by whatever annoying hegemonic standards we are going by. But that's the point. Hegemony is boring. As lovely as Ryan Gosling is, how blase does it become when he's mentioned every single year (and yet somehow never wins)? I mean, I'm annoyed enough with myself that I can only mainly name celebrities from the English-speaking world (it is my mother tongue but's incredibly limiting...)
But I still want to buy the damnable magazine anyway. Why? Because I want to feel like I belong, that I'm not a total weirdo for liking slightly "feminine-looking" cheek-boned Brits. That people maybe, just maybe, could be described for something more than their looks. That men who are not so ridiculously photo-shopped and ripped that they could never be compared to the guys I see walking around the city could actually be featured as attractive in a magazine. But as far as I know, People magazine has and will continue to disappoint me.

Which I think is actually for the better. Partially because I'm so used to magazines like People disappointing me that I'm starting to thrive on it. But also because why does it really matter who wins sexiest man alive? What does "winning" actually mean? It's like the most superficial of all superficial awards. It has nothing to do with one's career or altruism or anything that probably really matters. It's like those superlatives given in high school year books - most likely to be president, most likely to be famous, etc (I was clearly never nominated for these and wanted to be a write-in for "most likely to commit high treason." I've no idea why, in retrospect; it just sounded badass. I was a very peculiar high schooler). This whole idea of someone being sexier than another person is crap, especially with celebrities. It's back to the whole "oh God, if people think Kate Winslet isn't attractive, I have no chance in hell" issue. To People magazine, all the other celebrities and the rest of us out here in our mundane lives are just losers.
Fortunately for us, losers are awesome. That's right, you heard me. LOSERS ARE AWESOME. I'm a total loser. I lose at everything (except for that one time I got a gift card at a hockey game; that was a total fluke and it will never happen again). I have never been cool, will never be cool (not cool by most societal standards, that's sure). I've never had a boyfriend, I don't know how to drive, the only award I've ever won was through my high school  concert band. Most people would cringe and shriek over my woe-begotten embarrassing failure of a life. I did for the first two years of college. But then I stopped. Why? Because being a loser puts you in a different group, a different way of looking at the world. One's difference is made clear, it recognizes the "power of 'difference,' of non-assimilation" (to quote Susan Bordo from her book Twilight Zones.  Robin, of all days to lend me this book... it could not have been more perfect). In the land of the losers, there is no chance of success because no matter what you do you'll never measure up. While society wants to shun us for this and pressure us to assimilate despite our shortcomings, we losers start to feel depressed and anxious and alone. But we're not alone. Once we begin to recognize that there's other losers like us that feel the same way and we bond together we start to realize something - there's something really liberating about being a loser. Suddenly, all the things that hegemony tries to instill becomes irrelevant. Not pretty according to what advertisers portray beauty is? Fine; that's their problem. Reading that Forbes article saying all Liberal Arts majors are damned to be unemployed? Welcome to the club of not caring what a bunch of business columnists think. Feeling way more like Olive in Little Miss Sunshine than Gabriella from High School Musical? Here's a different way of measuring accomplishments and life in general. Want a slice of resistance along with your thoughts that the blandness of People's sexy men are totally boring? Not your average white middle class woman - or any of those descriptors at all? Welcome to being a loser. It's a lifestyle - and it sucks less than society wants you to think. (It's funny because I just started watching the Nerdfighter vlogs with John and Hank Green yesterday and I'm fighting to use the word "WorldSuck." Screw it, losers are fighting WorldSuck; I don't think the Green brothers would mind me re-appropriating the term here.)

I could go on about the power of losers way more - but then you'd probably be reading my senior paper. Which is a work in progress.

Given all of this, I, but a small, unimportant member of the loser community, would like to nominate someone else as sexiest man of the year. Not because sexiest matters or winning matters but because just being awesome as you are is important. And because sexiness is a construct and thus, if someone does not measure up to society's idea of sexy but still acts sexy and thinks like they're sexy, guess what? It can come across as sexy. And thus, I vote PSY, from "Gangnam Style" fame, as 2012's sexiest man alive. Because this man is not having any of your hegemonic beauty crap.
Sexy on, PSY. Sexy on.

Also, I would just like to mention I now own hedgehog socks. Okay, so they look more like porcupines but Target labeled them as hedgehogs and Target wouldn't lie to me right?

Whatever. Awesome socks are awesome.


  1. Amen! Being a loser is awesome! :) And we fight against WorldSuck!

  2. I like being a loser! You are right, the world is a lot less stressful that way :)