Friday, December 3

The object is them: the problem with the title of the ‘sexiest man in the world’ | Actuality | ICON


Before he was known for making anti-Semitic statements while drunk, for being accused of mistreatment and for surviving the culture of cancellation, because everything that happened to him happened to him when that did not yet exist, Mel Gibson inaugurated in 1985 a tradition that comes to 2021 in top form and with other rules: the annual cover of the American magazine People which names the sexiest man alive in the world. In English, sexiest man alive.

Enjoying the success of Mad Max 3. Beyond the Thunder Dome, shaved, slick like a good boy whose blue eyes ate the cover, Gibson was the first in a series of famous men (and of almost always normative, incontestable, sometimes conventional beauty) who struck a golden deal with the publication. They posed for their cover, boasted of being the most beautiful and promoted the movie they had on the billboard. The magazine, in return, gained international notoriety by turning every year the news of the sexiest man in the world into news that fills space in newspapers and news programs. Here we are, talking about her. This November it will happen again.

During the following decades, gallants like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Pierce Brosnan, Ben Affleck, Johnny Depp, Hugh Jackman, Matthew McCounaghey or Jude Law were chosen. Some more than once. There were some glorious exceptions some years: in 1989 the sexiest man alive was Sean Connery, gray-haired and proudly alopecic in his late 60s. In 1992 it was Nick Nolte, at 50. In 1998 it was Harrison Ford, at 56. The real milestone took place in 1996: Denzel Washington, a black man. No non-white man would appear again until 2016, when Dwayne Jonhon, aka The Rock, half black, half Samoan, was cast. Since 2018, People it has chosen only black men (Idris Elba, John Legend and Michael B. Jordan). For now, no Latino or Asian.

Yes he has, at least if we pay attention to the criticism and the pitorreo that surfaced on Twitter, something much more unthinkable: an ugly man. The singer country Blake Shelton demonstrated in 2017 the cruel way beauty labels work: it is enough to be named “World’s Sexiest Man Alive” for a clearly attractive and canonically desirable man to pass, only to fall short of the excellence of previous winners. of the title in the area of ​​sculpted bodies and privileged bone structure, to be considered practically a cockroach. “Blake Shelton isn’t even the sexiest man named Blake Shelton,” could be read on social media. It is, perhaps, one of the cruelest fables about what can happen to you when the most handsome of any site is chosen for you.

Mel Gibson, the first sexiest man in the world for 'People' magazine in 1985.
Mel Gibson, the first sexiest man in the world for ‘People’ magazine in 1985.

Since 2019, and perhaps to get rid of that shadow of an arcane pact, the magazine People opens some voting that allows the public to choose their favorites in a series of categories of the most strange (and that do not influence, at all, in the man who will finally crown the cover of the magazine chosen as the sexiest). This year, through the web during this week, readers could choose between the sexiest Olympic champion, the sexiest new dad, the sexiest newlywed, the sexiest cook, the sexiest TikTok star, the sexiest foreign accent (his particular Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film), the sexiest vaccination selfie (“better biceps” would have been enough) or, in a meta spin, “man on the 2001 sexiest list who is still sexy,” including George Clooney or Pierce Brosnan.

There are no nominations or annual cover for “the sexiest woman alive in the world.” Only for man. It is, perhaps, the answer of People –Whose audience is 70% female– to the objectification of women that other magazines still practice: the men’s magazine Maxim, which existed in Spain until 2006, continues to publish its annual number choosing the sexiest woman in the world and for the first time this year it has chosen a black woman. And it is also the argument of some to justify the contemplation of the beauty of both sexes and the objectification of bodies if it is done in an egalitarian way. “But it is not egalitarian,” says Semíramis González, an art historian and curator of exhibitions who vindicates the role of women in contemporary art. “These lists have a different impact for men than for women because they are the ones who live in a social context that rewards or punishes them for their physical appearance. In a world where the dominant canon is sexist, continuing to classify men and women by their beauty does not have the same effect on each other. Beauty is mediated by a patriarchal system and perhaps the most interesting thing would be to start thinking in lists based on intellectual and professional criteria, not on physical appearance ”.

Michelle Pfeiffer was chosen the first
Michelle Pfeiffer was voted the first “most beautiful person in the world” in another annual People magazine list.

In 2013 something happened that, very remotely and in the wrong way, evokes that idea. In what seemed like a huge prank that derailed, the financial and business news outlet Bussiness Insider published the list of The 50 Sexiest Scientists, choosing men and women who, apart from geniuses of science, were canonically beautiful. The idea only got create a small fire on the internet. Just three weeks ago the British newspaper The Guardian named Dr. Anthony Fauci – Fernando Simón’s homologist in the United States, 80, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States and the kindest and most ubiquitous face of the pandemic in that country – on his Instagram profile. sexiest man alive in the world, in a clear nod to the magazine’s list People.

Actually, a petition on Change.org I had already asked People that he was named the sexiest man alive in the world. He maintained that his iron will to prove the truth and stand up to power (that is, Trump’s dabbling in denial) was sexier than anything else. The magazine ignored it: it named Michael B. Jordan, revelation actor of Black Panther, whose abs and biceps were as ironclad as Fauci’s will.

And what about beautiful women for People, then? To talk about them we have to go to the other iconic list that the magazine publishes annually, that of The 50 most beautiful people in the world (Michelle Pfeiffer was the first). This list is supposed to be mixed and on occasion a man has been chosen (sometimes men who are also the sexiest, such as Harrison Ford or Brad Pitt, who have appeared on both lists), but they have almost always been women . For People, the term for women is beautiful (beautiful) and no sexiest.

In the inaugural number of this series of reports, published in 1990, the text opened with a mixture of photographs by Meryl Streep, Clara Bow or Sarah Bernhard with captures of the pictorial works The birth of Venus of Botticelli or The three graces by Reubens. For González, the comparison between the beauty of women on the screen and the beauty of classical painting is “quite ridiculous.” “In both cases, these female representations are mediated by a dominant masculine and patriarchal context that does not render innocent whoever looks or whoever believes. What we need is more women creating and reflecting others in all the diversity of who we are. Let us not forget that when we admire beautiful things We do it crossed by social, historical and aesthetic parameters that are not accidental ”.

A big screen in Times Square, New York, projected the cover of People magazine in November 2013 with singer Adam Levine, chosen that year as the sexiest man.
A big screen in Times Square, New York, projected the cover of People magazine in November 2013 with singer Adam Levine, chosen that year as the sexiest man.Cindy Ord (Getty Images for People)

In the text, in addition to concessions to art, some history lessons could be found: “In the seventeenth century, when famine was common in Europe, rich merchants wanted their wives to reflect the abundance on their tables, but now because we are inundated with cheap and greasy food, it is the poor who are usually burly, while the well-to-do sweat in the gym ”. It was an excuse like any other to put thin women (Cindy Crawford, Meg Ryan, Courteney Cox, Julia Roberts or Nicole Kidman) on the cover with some concession to more Martian beauties (Jodie Foster in 1992). The first black woman came 7 years after the first black man on the sexiest list: Halle Berry in 2003, when she won the Oscar for Monster’s Ball. In those lists of beautiful (but without crowning them) mature beauties like Audrey Hepburn (in 1990, three years before her death) and even leaders (like the Brazilian Fernando Color de Mello), something that could never be seen in the list of the sexy.

Only one year the magazine awarded the title to the sexiest woman: it was in 2014, during the first gala of the People Awards (which were not given again). The image of the model Kate Upton showing an award for being the sexiest is still striking if we bear in mind that that same night, by her side, the Nicaraguan activist Nora Sandigo picked up one of the most heroic woman. Of course, after the election of Upton there was a supposed cause: the model was being scrutinized for gaining weight. The title of sexy it did not come without an air of vindication, even if it was bestowed on a woman unanimously considered attractive by anyone who looked. “Own ranking already part of a criterion of sexist inequality, so any marketing attempt to incorporate non-normative bodies seems to me to be pamphlet ”, points out González. “The really transformative thing would be to see those bodies in any advertising space and make normality something palatable. It is not about incorporating other bodies to these rankings, but rather to stop classifying women and their beauty exclusively by a criterion of physical appearance. The beauty of people is measured by many parameters beyond their appearance ”.

The overwhelming majority of white men chosen as the sexiest in the world caused 'People' magazine to receive much criticism.  In 2018 Idris Elba was the second black man to top the list (the first was Denzel Washington in 1996).
The overwhelming majority of white men chosen as the sexiest in the world caused ‘People’ magazine to receive much criticism. In 2018 Idris Elba was the second black man to top the list (the first was Denzel Washington in 1996).

It is possible that in 2021 the sexiest lists will already be an anachronism: this competition takes place every day and at all hours on social networks. Normative beauty is listed on Instagram, sculpted bodies earn likes for their mere exposure, without a speech or an alibi, and being hot can become a lucrative profession that attracts brands. Already in 2003, before social networks, the illusion of being the sexiest person on any site was transferred to anonymous names when it became a short-lived contest with dire reviews on NBC called Are you hot? (Are you hot?), With ex-model Rachel Hunter and the handsome Falcon Crest, Lorenzo Lamas, as part of the jury that had to choose the sexiest man and woman in the United States.

PeopleIn any case, it does not give up the beauty lists and continues to create new ones: since 2019 the publication chooses the cutest baby alive in the world. In 2019 the title went to Benjamin Allen, son of host and producer Andy Cohen. In 2020, for Wyatt Morgan, son of fellow presenter Anderson Cooper. Again, the sign of the times: both are gay men who had their children through surrogacy. The cutest baby of 2021 hasn’t been chosen yet. Perhaps, like certain consciences, it is being born now.

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