By Anne T. Donahue
I wanted to be psyched about this year’s Sexiest Man Alive for two reasons. The first, because the title is absolutely bananas, and every time it happens I can’t believe we live in a world where it still exists. And second, I love getting mad. It was a joy to see Blake Shelton unveiled to the shock of most people on my Twitter feed because I live for uniting under the banner of “Really? Him?” (“Is he funny or something?”). Some of you may think it’s mean to debate the merits of what makes one sexy, but because the person named is always objectively good-looking, rich, and famous, he is therefore completely fair game in terms of roasting.
This year, People chose Patrick Dempsey, and I’m mad about it. Not because of anything Patrick has said or done (though I heard he was a nightmare on Grey’s Anatomy), but because this choice is so boring and so dated that making fun of it isn’t even a good time. The first joke I thought of when I saw the news? “What year is it? 2005?” And I immediately wanted to push myself into a locker and yell “Dweeb!” because that’s not even a joke, it’s something Joey Gladstone would say in a chipmunk voice on Full House.
Why did this happen? Who allowed it, and who do we look at confusingly while holding them accountable? I understand the SAG/AFRTA strike likely saw a number of eligible gentlemen turn down the honour (“honour”), but I also understand that to choose Patrick Dempsey is chaotic. Why now? For what reason? And what does “sexy” even mean these days, because I don’t even think I know. Handsome? A person with a symmetrical face? Someone who can say “It’s a beautiful day to save lives” without irony? I’m genuinely asking. What is the criteria here?
And should we still have said criteria? Do any of us really look to any magazine as the tastemaker of dudes we’d like to look at and imagine being held by? Don’t we, as a people, know a little better? Have we not learned that taste is subjective? That what’s sexy to one is the least possible thing to another? Could People not at least have chosen someone so polarizing that we’d be forced to click and read and share because we couldn’t believe that in the year of our lord, 2023, they chose ALF?
Maybe that’s why I’m really mad: I’m so bored of this. Of all of it! I’m bored of being bored by universal taste, and I’m bored that the Sexiest Man Alive is consistently a guy with Hollywood-calibre good looks that obviously has heard he’s handsome a couple of times. I get that the magazine goes deeper into “hottest funny-dude” or “hottest man getting hit by football,” but all of it is such a slog. Give us controversy! Give us the California Raisins, holding their associated instruments! Give us Kermit the Frog wearing tweed! Give us Steve Buscemi as the best man in The Wedding Singer when he himself becomes a wedding singer! Give us a grimacing Willem Dafoe! Give us something, I beg of you. Because we’ve been given nothing with this.
If we’re going to be distracted by something stupid, at least let’s commit to the bit. At least let’s all enter into an agreement that the Sexiest Man Alive is going to be one of pop culture’s most controversial appointments, and as a result, we – as humans consuming said media – will discuss it until we turn to dust. I can’t discuss Patrick Dempsey because, with all due respect, I could not care less about Patrick Dempsey. He’s fine. As in: he’s okay. He’s doing well. He doesn’t need me or any of us to care about him, and I’m sure he doesn’t even really care that he’s been dubbed a Sexy Man because he’s probably heard it a time or two. What are we supposed to do with Patrick Dempsey, anyway? Talk about how we all used the term “McDreamy” and meant it circa 2005? Admit that we all saw Sweet Home Alabama in theatres at age 17 and chopped our hair off like Reese Witherspoon’s because we thought we could carry it off? Is that how we’re supposed to handle this? Because I refuse.
So I say “no more!” to Sexiest Man Alive as we’ve come to know it. I urge People to take risks. Redefine “sexy.” Consider, at least, Aiden wearing that terrible jacket in And Just Like That. Hell, leave Aiden out of it. Name the jacket. Ruffle our feathers. Make us doubt your sanity. Leave us begging you for any semblance of rhyme or reason. Because if you’re going to make a chaotic choice, please: earn it.
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