All Heart, No Libido
May 4, 2014 10:17 AM   Subscribe


 
On Rock Hudson: That ideal of the totally masculine yet totally sensitive man was the product of a gay man and his gay manager — two men with the objectivity, the very lack of stake in the game, to understand just how to cater to what women wanted, which was all love, all promise of passion, with little actual sex itself.

Or in today's terms, "Something I can watch with the kids."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:36 AM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


As usual, I deeply appreciate Anne Helen Petersen for putting the actions of the studios and the stars in context: they're doing this seemingly odd action in continuation of a system that has worked well over the past 50-75 years, and here's the roots of that tradition and how it's gone wrong/well. She also doesn't shy away from calling Hollywood on its crap.

Celebrity gossip with brains is the best celebrity gossip (see: Fug Girls et al.).

As for Efron, I was going to point out the relative success of his HSM co-star and former flame Vanessa Hudgens (she was in Spring Breakers) but actually it appears he's got more going on than she. Petersen touched on this in the article, but it'd be interesting to see her do a side by side comparison of teen idol stars partnered as couples to see whether the man or woman had better ultimate success navigating the idol-to-grown-star path.
posted by librarylis at 11:46 AM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sin City was the smartest thing Elijah Wood did after LotR. Same goes for Daniel Radcliffe doing Equus.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:02 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Anne Helen spoke at Webstock this year on the value of celebrity gossip.

[Disclaimer: I'm involved with Webstock.]
posted by maupuia at 12:17 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess I'm going to have to read Scandals of Classic Hollywood, that was great.
posted by edeezy at 12:23 PM on May 4, 2014


This was a fascinating article, thanks for posting it. (I can tell I'm somewhat old by not recognizing many of the newer stars names, or at least their performances.)
posted by maxwelton at 12:43 PM on May 4, 2014


Same goes for Daniel Radcliffe doing Equus.

Yes, but what he was doing during Equus...oh my.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:13 PM on May 4, 2014


There's a great female equivalent of this article, about Jennifer Lawrence and the history of 'cool girls'.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:27 PM on May 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


Some suspicious assumptions about gender are being called on to support this piece. I don't really buy that women, teenage or otherwise, want sexless love interests, or that girls are more frightened than boys are by the messy physical realities of sex. I also don't buy that there's something unrealistic or immature about desiring a man with androgynous looks, who's gentle and vulnerable, who "thinks you're special," as if those are traits men in the real world can't be expected to possess.
posted by milk white peacock at 2:02 PM on May 4, 2014 [35 favorites]


'When a girl is first confronting her attraction to the other sex, it’s terrifying. The thought of the sexual act itself, all that physical action and mess, is terrifying. What you do want to think about is romance'

Um, maybe I'm a grotesque outlier, but in my personal experience, that's nonsense. Reminds me of something out of Freud's more misogynist writings...
posted by The Toad at 2:11 PM on May 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


s/(girl is|woman is)/I was/g
s/(boy is|man is)/I saw one who/g

Projection for the win!
posted by smidgen at 2:29 PM on May 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Some suspicious assumptions about gender are being called on to support this piece. I don't really buy that women, teenage or otherwise, want sexless love interests, or that girls are more frightened than boys are by the messy physical realities of sex. I also don't buy that there's something unrealistic or immature about desiring a man with androgynous looks, who's gentle and vulnerable, who "thinks you're special," as if those are traits men in the real world can't be expected to possess.

Do you think that the boyish, almost feminine features of many make teen idols are just a coincidence, then? I'm sure there's some 13 year olds out there with cut out pictures of Gerard Butler and Hugh Jackman on her walls, but Robert Pattinson and One Direction seem to have the bulk of the marketshare in the demo (or they did a couple years ago, maybe now it's different). It seems to have been that way for 60 years at least -- I mean, can you think of a burly bearded dude at any point in that time who qualified as a "teen idol"? Because most of the issues of Tiger Beat I've seen have featured much more androgynous looking dudes.


One might posit that it's not that the teen idol reads as sexless and feminine and therefore non-threatening, it's just that 13 year old girls tend to like dudes who are or look 16, not 26. That mere youthfulness is what's desirable about them, and any teenager would respond to that. But there doesn't seem to be quite an equivalent phenomenon for cis straight boys; no intermediate, tiger beat for dudes with youthful, not quite mature women. Instead it's straight on to Maxim and porn, as far as I can tell.
posted by Diablevert at 3:29 PM on May 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


One might posit that it's not that the teen idol reads as sexless and feminine and therefore non-threatening, it's just that 13 year old girls tend to like dudes who are or look 16, not 26.

Since girls reach puberty at a variety of ages and experience it in a variety of ways, I think it's much more complex than this. But the "wholesome teen idol" celebrity appeals mainly to pre-pubescent, late childhood girls more than to sexually maturing teenagers.

And that squares with my own experience and that of many women I know. When I was 6, 8, 9, I had crushes on Davy Jones, Bobby Sherman, etc. By age 10, 12, 13, I had totally sexual crushes on adult men like Elvis Presley, Bowie (who said androgyny is sexless?), Sidney Poitier, Roger Daltrey, Cat Stevens, Marvin Gaye, etc.
posted by FelliniBlank at 3:44 PM on May 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think there's no apparent equivalent for boys because "extremely youthful, pretty, delicately formed, and non-threatening" is already pretty much the norm for mainstream depictions of sexually attractive women.
posted by milk white peacock at 4:58 PM on May 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


We should consult the latest issue of Non-Threatening Boys magazine.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:00 PM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Do you think that the boyish, almost feminine features of many make teen idols are just a coincidence, then?

Funnily enough, the article about Jennifer Lawerence makes the point that the "cool girl" teen idols are doing the same sort of thing as the boys are in reverse--selectively taking on attributes of masculinity in order to appeal to a broader audience. I don't think it's as simple as 'girls like nonthreatening guys', both boy and girl stars may selectively adopt non gender normative behaviors to broaden their appeal.
posted by _cave at 5:01 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The women in porn and Maxim already run young-looking and girlish enough to be comfortable for teen boys. There's a reason that the "barely legal" category of porn is one of the most popular.
posted by Selena777 at 5:06 PM on May 4, 2014


Some suspicious assumptions about gender are being called on to support this piece. I don't really buy that women, teenage or otherwise, want sexless love interests, or that girls are more frightened than boys are by the messy physical realities of sex.

I gave her some leeway here as she was largely talking about a time in history when expected gender roles, especially for women, were very different. Then again people seldom if ever seem to feel the way that society tells them they should.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:17 PM on May 4, 2014


I'd say the Teen Idol actually plays a pretty important social role.

Society spends a lot of time teaching girls that men don't really have emotions, and if you think they do, you're a clueless idiot setting yourself up for a fall. Men: They only want one thing. They're just not that into you. They have two emotions: humor and anger. But it would be a problem if girls actually believed that so wholeheartedly that they were afraid to get into heterosexual relationships. Enter teen idol movies, which have a different subtext -- Men: Human, Much Like Yourself. (Actually way more realistic than the opposite. Teenage boys get an undeservedly bad rap.) As long as the major trend of culture is towards the Beefheart McStonyface model, the opposite image will have a lot of power precisely because it's rare and girls are so, so relieved to see it.
posted by ostro at 5:30 PM on May 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't really buy that women, teenage or otherwise, want sexless love interests, or that girls are more frightened than boys are by the messy physical realities of sex.

Keep in mind that this sort of media - boy bands, Disney television franchises, etc - are aspirational, so we're talking preteens aspiring to teenagerdom - many girls have breast buds by 8-9 and menarche at 9-12, that's the start of puberty. Those girls for the most part are not ready to openly process complex sexual feelings even though they may already be dealing with those feelings (and unwanted sexual attention) privately. It's fine for them to not be ready for the messy physical realities of sex at 12 years old.

Whether or not boys are being shortchanged is a separate conversation. I would agree that boys don't seem to have that gentler sort of training-wheel market that girls do. After quizzing my husband just now, I came to this conclusion: girls get this targeted marketing at 9-13, boys get it 17-24 (or 18-32, really). Girls get lady-training-wheels as preteens, boys get man-training-wheels as late adolescents and twentysomethings.

That's incredibly depressing for both sides.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:23 PM on May 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


I don't really buy that women, teenage or otherwise, want sexless love interests, or that girls are more frightened than boys are by the messy physical realities of sex.

Completely agree: I think this is less about 'what women want' and more about 'what women are allowed to want'. And agree with Lyn Never that these figures are being marketed to tweens -- children, really, not full blown adolescents.

One other thing that struck me: the argument that there was no 'adolescence' as a category before the 50s is a common one, but it's not really accurate. In both medieval and Renaissance culture, there's a category of 'the young' who are socially and sexually active, but who don't have full adult status: students, apprentices (including the boy actors who played the female roles and who probably had a very similar beauty to the teen idol), young servants who traveled to the city to work for a decade before going home to marry and start a family, the youth who were sent away to be raised in another household in the Medieval period. They are adolescents. There's plenty of complaints about them too: they drink. They knock up the maids. They fall in love with the butler. They pilfer from the takings to buy expensive clothes. They skive off to the theatre in the middle of the day. They're rowdy. They're lazy. They do, at times, profoundly stupid things which no adult with any sense would ever do. They spend the money you send them for books on hookers and beer. They try their damnedest to ditch the chaperone you've encumbered them with. They write transparently obvious begging letters. They're pretty obvious 14 to 21 year olds, no matter what label you stick on them.
posted by jrochest at 10:46 PM on May 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


"I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting—Hark you now! Would any but these boiled brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty hunt this weather?"

-Shakespeare, A Winter's Tale
posted by quincunx at 4:59 AM on May 5, 2014 [9 favorites]


I long, and even lust, for something that is nearly unattainable these days: the lug with a barrel chest.

Now by “lug” I don’t mean a thick-necked dumbbell like Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) in Raymond Chandler’s “Murder, My Sweet,” or the mouth-breathing defensive tackle who can’t count to nine, or the thick, sick atrocity exhibitions of Tom Leykus or Tom Arnold. I mean the leading-man, barrel-chested lug as objet d’amour.

The very thought fills me with the intoxicating eroticism of pie crust, beef and a sweaty Burt Lancaster in a white short-sleeved T-shirt. Examples of the lug? Robert Mitchum, William Holden (especially in “Picnic,” where more attention was paid to his chest than to Kim Novak’s), Dana Andrews, Cornel Wilde, Sterling Hayden, Aldo Ray and thick Brit Oliver Reed, who made all those nuns go batty in “The Devils.”…

Men are now being raised to be harder on the outside and softer on the inside. Strutting around with that shoulder-to-shoulder walk, men are supposed to be tight-lipped (the ubiquitous threat of sexual harassment) and tight-abbed. How perfectly dull. How perfectly depressing.

No wonder Bud White (Russell Crowe) was such a tremendous turn-on in 1997′s “L.A. Confidential.” Director Curtis Hanson made him meat up in the 1950s way; Crowe ate a lot of steak and watched Aldo Ray and Sterling Hayden movies. He didn’t train with a kickboxer or get a “body by Jake” — he porked out and studied how Hayden or Ray would walk through a door (doorknobs serve no purpose; you just shove it open). Consequently, he allowed women (and men) the pleasure of watching one of the most insanely sexy performances in cinematic history.
Roll Out The Barrel
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:21 AM on May 5, 2014


Agree that this is a tweener thing. Honestly, for a lot of us from 9-12, it was less complicated to be in love with horses. Boys that age are alien, snotty creatures, men are too old, and the whole business is just annoying anyway.
posted by emjaybee at 9:33 AM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]


The Believer: Confidentially Yours, Anne Helen Petersen
Crucially, Confidential didn’t cover just Hollywood stars. The decision to put Marilyn Monroe on the cover of an early issue helped boost sales, but the magazine’s content comprised equal parts stars and general-interest celebrities: politicians, government officials, singers, and socialites. At the same time, the fan magazines, whose singular focus had been Hollywood stars, began to cover teen idols, television personalities, and Jacqueline Kennedy. The lines between fan magazine and scandal rag were blurring, but so, too, were those that had long separated the high-, middle-, and lowbrow press. A blatantly pornographic magazine like Playboy was suddenly posturing as “gentleman’s journalism”—and the New Yorker was profiling Marlon Brando, a major Hollywood star.

This profile, entitled “The Duke of His Domain,” was penned by Truman Capote and published in the November 9, 1957, issue. Capote met with Brando in Kyoto, Japan, where he was filming Sayonara, and spent several hours drinking and conversing in Brando’s hotel suite. Over the course of the interview, Brando ate, pontificated on his childhood and the state of Hollywood, ate some more, and repeatedly told Capote not to believe a thing he said. It’s a tremendously compelling read—and an absolutely damning piece of celebrity journalism.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:43 AM on May 9, 2014


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