This week, your friend and mine, noted Chekhovian scholar Channing Tatum was named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. And it’s surely to his credit. He’s a thick-necked tough guy who is surprisingly funny (21 Jump Street was not an uninspired bore like I feared it would be) and who, based on the press I’ve seen and read, seems affable and grounded. Most importantly, the dude can seriously dance. Let’s be honest: he could be missing some teeth and have a nose more malformed than Owen Wilson’s, but being able to move the way he can would still place him head and shoulders above other nominees.
When I read about Magic Mike’s latest (only?) accolade, I had to wonder what kind of esteemed company he would be joining. My cursory research isn’t the most reassuring for fans of Mr. Tatum. Heavy is the head that wears the sexy crown.
For one thing, this title does not guarantee career longevity. Let’s look at the previous winners of this illustrious prize. People‘s first number one fella, named in 1985, was Mel Gibson. Sure, he still had Lethal Weapon and Braveheart in his future; but where’s Mel now? Still doing penance for pissing off Jews and women, the people who respectively control and consume Hollywood.
Gibson’s successor in 1986 was Mark Harmon, who now serves solely as the voice old people like to hear in the background of their homes, as the lead on CBS’s NCIS, an acronym no one can or cares to decipher.
After Harmon came Harry Hamlin, who is most famous for being married to this.
Tom Cruise was once Sexiest Man Alive. All it got him were some hit movies and some blockbuster divorces. Nick Nolte earned the honor in 1992. You might recall Nolte’s last public appearance from ten years ago.
And if being the Sexiest Man Alive wasn’t threatening your career, it was threatening your life! Who were People‘s sexiest men in ’88 and ’91? JFK Jr. and Patrick Swayze. Case closed.
In the 90’s, People starting recognizing guys of a higher caliber. They were more than just pretty faces. But according to People, guys this good were hard to come by. Brad Pitt wins twice in five years? Richard Gere wins twice in six? Richard Gere? Come on. You’re telling me Hollywood didn’t have any other viable hotties in the Clinton era? Was the pool of contenders really so shallow as to warrant double-dipping? Or were the people of People just playing favorites?
Things only get stranger in the 21st century. Ben Affleck beat his buddy Matt Damon to the honor by five years, a turn of events I never would have imagined. Sure, everyone’s talking Oscar for Ben now, but what was the result of his Faustian bargain to nab the cover in 2002? Gigli and Daredevil, thank you very much.
Johnny Depp first won the prize in 2003, which coincided with his portrayal of Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. This means the male ideal of most women in the early aughts was a selfish drunk in eye make-up who never washed his hair or changed his clothes.
Jude Law won and faded into B-list status. Matthew McConaughey won, despite his mouth having the permanent crooked set of a stroke victim. And Mr. Tatum’s immediate predecessors, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Reynolds, are so milquetoast they’ve enabled Joseph Gordon-Levitt, all 5’9″ and 110 pounds of him, to emerge as a viable alternative.
Maybe Channing Tatum is a step in the right direction. He could out-dance you and beat the shit out of you, if he so desired. And he’d probably buy you a shot to put a little hair back on your chest after thoroughly emasculating you. If generosity, physical strength, and fancy footwork are all you need to be named Sexiest Man Alive, then I think next year’s winner is a forgone conclusion.
On second thought, maybe I don’t want that kind of bad mojo following me around.