For those of you not living in the lone Tora Bora cave lacking Wi-Fi and a satt-phone, People just named Matt Damon “Sexiest Man of the Year.” This is amusing if only that Matt can no longer be poked by his Ocean‘s pals George and Brad as to their sexiness superiority creds, but it also provokes a thoughtful question, namely… “Hrrrmmm??!?”
Matt Damon is many lovely things: a fine actor, a film star regularly described as modest and easy to work with, a seemingly private man (see: “Bennifer”) who has not only avoided rehab and sex tapes but actually married a bartending single mom. In short, the kind of guy you’d love to have as a son, to work with, and decidedly, to marry. But sexy?
Historically, People has chosen men who — if not genuinely “bad boys” — came across as, at the least, marginally naughty. A little mysterious. And obvs, HAWT. (Think Clooney, Johnny Depp, even the ancient covers of Burt Reynolds, wherein you knew, snarled in that Brillo pad of chest-pelt, lay some deliciously nasty secrets.) Even Matt McCounaghey, whom I’m meh on, had a wicked weed jones, an impressive torso and an Airstream (so Rockford Files! So ’70s-hott James Garner!).
So whence the shift? Is People‘s (and their largely female readership’s) traditional interpretation of “sexy” morphing, from the bad-boy-you’d-love-to-do-but-would-ultimately-do-you-wrong to a guy who’d appear on bended knee, adopt your kid, tell you pregnancy only made you more beautiful and uncomplainingly spoon-feed you in your still-shared Craftmatic Adjustable Bed? And if so, what does that say about American women? In a time of economic insecurity, gross societal divisions and domestic fear manufactured and transmitted by the parsec, has the “new sexy” become. . . the Nice Guy?
Salon responds today with its own Sexiest List, which apart from reading largely like a progressive/green spank bank (Sean Penn? Billy Parrish? IRA Fucking GLASS?) names as its “hottest” one Jon Hamm, erstwhile Don Draper of AMC’s “Mad Men.” Of Hamm and his brilliant show, the piece hints that the mysteriousness of both the character and the actor himself serve as panty-melters. But it continues:
“Hamm has glossy movie star good looks, great bones and a killer smile, made riveting by Draper’s pain and artifice. He’s the unhappy adman selling happiness. He’s in on the big con, and yet he’s not, entirely; in fact, he’s dying to believe in what he’s selling. He’s the misfit Organization Man, an elitist egalitarian; he makes conformity seem sort of brave and sexy.”
Really? Conformity is the last characteristic I’d find sexy about Hamm’s Don Draper — and lawzy but I do find him so. Don is plagued by his past, and lives in perpetual paranoia of that history’s exposure to his peers. Concurrently, he vigorously generates an altogether separate source of chaos: his compulsive, even aggressive, womanizing, and its threat to Don’s storybook 1960 sanctuary, the home he shares with the sweet-but-troubled Betty and the son he’d lop a limb to protect. The writers also make much work of Don’s mistresses as fully-realized women who use and coddle Don according to their own needs, and through them, one can see the Don that, in the coming era, might have been; that is, absent the agreeable, girdle-cinched hostess Betty and instead with a woman of the decade emerging: powerful, independent, and disinterested in his status or approval. Through his women, we see the Don that should have been, and thus our disgust at his behavior dissolves in grief at his societal trap. And that’s what makes Don Draper (and through him, his manifestor) sexy: his complexity, his mystery, his combustive sexual cravings and, most powerfully, his weakness.
In that vein (and in addition to Hamm), I’d like to make my own list of Sexiest Men Alive:
- Daniel Craig
- Clive Owen
- Julian McMahon
- Tom Ford
- Ryan Adams
- Joaquin Phoenix
- The Clooney, obvs
- Michael C. Hall (as Dexter)
- Kelly Slater
- Tom Brady (a cad, sure, but a smokin’ hot one)
- Justin Trousersnake
- David Beckham (though certainly dumb as a box of toenails)
And natch, Michael, my own straight Tom Ford (after a few V&Ts and under questionable wattage).