FFE Magazine

People Magazine’s Sexiest White Man Alive: Channing Tatum


Yesterday, Channing Tatum was anointed People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. And while it’s true that 2012 was really Tatum’s year, with three successful movies at the box office—The Vow, Magic Mike, and 21 Jump Street—Tatum is part of a 26-year long tradition of anointing square-jawed white men as the hottest in the land.

Where are the Blair Underwoods, the Taye Diggses, the Morris Chestnuts? The Terrence Howards, the Jesse Williamses, the Idris Elbas?

Well, they are inside, scattered throughout like chocolate sprinkles on a vanilla ice cream cone. And if you believe People magazine’s official line, it is what’s inside that counts.

A representative for the magazine wrote, in part, via email: “People Magazine is sensitive to representing people of color in its pages; our Sexiest Man Alive issue is no exception. Every section in this year’s issue includes a diverse group of men.”

How diverse? In recent years, men like LL Cool J, Eddie Cibrian, Usher, Drake, Vin Diesel, John Cho, and Mario Lopez have been featured.

“They’re pretty much the only black men who Hollywood deems worthy of being able to carry a big-budget movie as its lead,” said Johnson. “Other top black actors such as Sam Jackson, Morgan Freeman, and Laurence Fishburne do consistently great work but they’re rarely regarded as get-the-girl-type leading men—or perhaps more likely they just don’t fit People’s definition of sexy.”

People also missed a big opportunity in 2010 by not choosing Old Spice spokesperson Isaiah Mustafa—a man who arguably really was the sexiest man of the moment, striding into women’s living rooms topless and riding a white horse, and turning tickets into diamonds. Instead, he was relegated to the “25 Chests To Be Thankful For” spread.

People magazine and other old media outlets, as Coen pointed out, could stand to take a few risks, and they might actually change social mores in the process.

It becomes a chicken vs. the egg problem. She said: “Then you get into this vicious circle: studios expose audiences to white guys, audiences respond to white guys, so studios cast more white guys. But that would change if the casting were more balanced. Studios expose audiences to a mixed cast, audience responds to a mixed cast, studios continue to cast people of color. I think Shonda Rhimes’s shows [Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice] are a great example of how easy it is to make that work. Visuals are very powerful, consciously and subconsciously.”

“If Idris Elba, for example, landed a couple roles in big-budget, box-office winners and had a blowout year, I can see him on the cover. He could be an undeniable choice. The stars would have to align just right, though.”

Said Coen: “They could put a panda on the cover and it’d probably sell just as well.”

“If white and mixed audiences can listen to and follow and even swoon over black musicians like Trey Songz or Chris Brown, then why can’t they just as easily find common ground and connect to a wider variety of black actors on the screen?” said Johnson. “American moviegoers and mag buyers should be given more credit.”

The Daily Beast || Tricia Romano – Nov 15, 2012 4:45 AM EST



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