Monday, November 24, 2014

To Be or Not To Be "Sexiest Man Alive!"

A Highly Rewarding Title...

Chris Hemsworth 2014

People magazine recently chose the "Sexiest Man Alive" for its December issue, a decision that was greeted with much anticipation and attention. This was one of the most important news stories of the week, right up there with immigration reform, and the progression of ISIS. The country often waits with bated breath as to whom will receive this coveted title with numerous debates in social media as to whether the person chosen was worthy of the distinguished honor. This year's choice, as I am sure most of you know, was Chris Hemsworth, who graces the cover with a "Saved By the Bell" 1980's haircut and what appears to be a nagging neckache judging by the position of his hand. A brief view of his bulging pectoral muscles is visible along with his hairy arms and some come hither stubble. He looks like a younger version of Brad Pitt, who has graced the cover twice, so it is fair to say this was a predictable choice. For those who were hoping to see an unconventional hottie such as Steve Carrell or Jim Carrey, since sense of humor is considered "sexy" by so many females, you are out of luck.

George Clooney 2006

Moreover, if you were awaiting a groundbreaking cover featuring a gay Neil Patrick Harris or a former slovenly Chris Pratt, as no gay man or fat or formerly fat man has ever appeared on the cover, you must be very disappointed.  If you were expecting to see a gorgeous Asian or Latino man you are going to be unhappy, since the only minority to achieve a front page tribute is Denzel Washington-way back in 1996. If you like older men and were anticipating an octogenarian such as Clint Eastwood or a septuagenarian like Jack Nicholson on the cover-think again. This cover is mostly reserved for Anglo-Saxon white males, between the ages of 27 and 56, who are over 5'10" inches, ( except for Tom Cruise who comes in at 5'7") have full heads of hair, and muscular physiques that are Harlequin cover quality.  Additionally, these men are mostly noncontroversial, not too intelligent and somewhat enigmatic, a tabula rasa that we can project our fantasies onto. While most of the news outlets jokingly report on this nonevent event, what most don't realize is how important this is for People's overall advertising revenue, and how pivotal this honor can be in advancing the career of the celebrity who receives it. Consequently, the decision process is conducted with meticulous precision, accompanied by months of discussions by top People brass as well as focus groups and research studies to determine the perfect pick.

Brad Pitt 1995

It might be safe to say the Noble Peace Prize winner is chosen with less forethought than this title.  The Sexiest Man is a critical juggernaut in the overall profitability of the magazine contributing 3% or 30 million dollars to the revenue of the magazine.  Moreover, because the issue falls out at the end of November, just before Black Friday, it is highly significant to advertisers who spend the bulk of their budgets to reach pre-holiday shoppers. Celebrities who flippantly discuss this title as if it is some trivial event should be chastised for their ignorant evaluation.  A review of past winners reveals that this title is a momentous occasion in a career, with most of the cover boys going on to win Academy Awards, hefty paychecks, and mega stardom. So despite all the mocking sneers, this honor is one that is noteworthy and impactful, as proven by the upward career trajectory of past winners.

Mel Gibson 1985

The award, which originated with Mel Gibson in 1985, supposedly came to realization when the Gibson story was being readied and one of the editors exclaimed, "Oh my God, he is the sexiest man alive," to which another responded that would make a great cover title and hence the birth of the "Sexiest Man Alive." For numerous actors the Sexiest title has been a precursor to Academy Award nominations and honors beginning with Mel Gibson who went on to win 2 Academy Awards for "Braveheart" in 1995. Denzel Washington who was accorded the Sexy honor in 1996 subsequently won an Academy Award for best actor in 2001. George Clooney who was sexiest man in both 1997 and 2006 went on to win 2 Academy Awards in both 2005 and 2012. Brad Pitt who also appeared on the cover twice received 2 Academy Awards in 2006 and 2013 for two films he produced. Ben Affleck who was on People's cover in 2002 won a 2012 Academy Award for directing "Argo."

Matthew McConaughey 2005

In 2005, People took a risk by putting Matthew McConaughey on the cover after he had just come off box office flops "Sahara" and "Two for the Money," and it turned out to be the third-best-selling edition ever. Furthermore, McConaughey went on to win an Academy Award in 2014 and is considered one of the most bankable Hollywood actors. Bradley Cooper who was considered a somewhat controversial choice in 2011 after being pigeonholed as the "Hangover" guy, has received two Academy Award nominations since 2011 and is currently considered an accomplished and talented thespian. Even Channing Tatum, who was a 2012 winner, has achieved stratospheric success and is currently directing a movie. Admittedly, Harry Hamlin, Mark Harmon and Nick Nolte, all "Sexy" alumni may not have been the most successful bunch, however, over a 29-year period, factoring in the vagaries of Hollywood, three letdowns are not that bad.


One might incorrectly deduce that these sexy men might remain decadent bachelors, availing themselves of the throngs of female admirers knocking on their door-however, this is not the case. Many have gotten married after the title was granted to them including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Reynolds and Adam Levine. Levine and John F. Kennedy Jr, were the only non actor cover boys in the bunch with the choice of Adam being a debacle as his issue sold less than 1 million copies on newsstands. Similarly, the Johnny Depp and Ryan Reynolds covers sold at or below average; however, the Channing Tatum, Bradley Cooper, and Hugh Jackman issues sold briskly. Some more "Sexy" trivia: the only year the sexiest title was not doled out was in 1994, and the only couple to receive this honor was Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford. Furthermore, cover stars Patrick Swayze and John F. Kennedy Jr. were the only 2 cover stars to die however, more than a few have been arrested (that Nick Nolte mug shot was anything but sexy). I would like to lobby People to strip someone who has acted in an unsexy manner of the title forcing them to live in shame for failing to fulfill expectations.

Ryan Gosling
Photo: US Magazine

Perusing this month's issue of People with Chris Hemsworth I must concede he is a highly attractive specimen who is probably giving a lot of the female and male readership a nice "Rush" (also a title of his movie). While he is not super famous he has been in some successful movies such as "Thor" and "The Avengers" and has some box office draw. Aside from a couple of squinty eyed provocative poses with his 80's hairdo sweeping the corners of his face while clad in tight t-shirts and foolish looking cowboy gear, the photo shoot is relatively covered up with no bare abs or buttockses on display (take note Kim Kardashian). Hemsworth is only required to answer a smattering of degrading questions such as: "What do you sleep in?" "Who was your first kiss?" and "Who was the first person to call you sexy?" (the last question was a doozy especially when he answered his drama teacher-uh oh). Recent rumors have circulated that Ryan Gosling has turned down this title numerous times perhaps out of fear of objectification and ridicule and I implore him to rethink his decision. Firstly, he has not had a box office hit since his debut in the 2004 "The Notebook." And more importantly, being included among the ranks of Cruise, Pitt, Clooney and Jackman, whose careers have flourished after the bestowal of this honor, is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is about time this title receives the respect it so rightly deserves.





- Lieba Nesis

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