In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. Seattle Squeeze: New Urban Living
  2. Checking In
  3. Ben Aronson's Representational Abstractions
  4. Rock is ... Forever?
  5. We Need the Arts: A Sob Story
  6. Form Following (Commercial) Function
  7. Two Humorous Items from the Financial Crisis
  8. Ken Auster of the Kute Kaptions
  9. What Might Representational Painters Paint?
  10. In The Times ...

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Lynn Sislo's Back | Main | Free Reads -- The Man Who Made the Interstates »

July 11, 2003

Prettyboys Straight Guys Like

Friedrich --

The handful of reviews of the new "Pirates" movie I've looked at all say that Johnny Depp gives a very perverse and bizarro performance. Neat! I'm ready for it! Realizing that I'm actually looking forward to seeing what he's done, I found myself reflecting: how odd that I can stand Johnny Depp at all. He's a prettyboy, and guys (at least of the straight-and-banal category I semi-belong to) generally dislike prettyboys (let alone prettyboys with cutesy names). Is it out of jealousy, a feeling that things are just too damn easy for them, or a suspicion of pansiness? Something else?

But here I am, a Johnny Depp fan. Loved his performance in "Gilbert Grape," thought he was fab and hilarious in "Don Juan de Marco," and was even happy to watch him on "Inside the Actors Studio." Why? He has a little humor and class (even if he doesn't go in big for self-parody) -- is that it? There's something about the way he conducts himself as a prettyboy that I admire and approve of as a guy. But I'm not sure what.

There aren't many other such. I squunch up my face, pretend to be a film encyclopedia -- boy, I sure can't remember the names and dates the way I once could -- and, and ... Hmm. Cary Grant. I'm not talking about the handsome brutes (Clark Gable, for example) guys dig, I'm talking about dreamboats who are so good-looking that they make your hetero-reptile male brain want to conk 'em one -- but you like 'em too much to do that.

Who else? Would Val Kilmer qualify? I liked a couple of his performances (Jim Morrison, Doc Holiday in "Tombstone") a lot, though he seems to have gotten lost in some self-pleased, self-mythologizing egozone in recent years. Tyrone Power? Errol Flynn? I'm not sure I could say that I like Alain Delon, but there he is, awfully pretty and I don't dislike him. Mastroianni certainly -- he's so weary and impotent how can you resist? Offhand, I'd say that Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner wouldn't qualify -- there's something a little too beefy and roughed-up about both of them. Would you agree?

I'm sure I'm overlooking lots of actors who qualify. But here's this morning's challenge: prettyboys who straight guys like. And how to explain the ones who qualify? Why do some prettyboys win us real-guy clods over and not other prettyboys? I mean, I'm not generally the kind of moviegoer who goes to movies just because a male star is in it -- I'm not your typical American Clint or Arnold fan. Yet I'll actually watch a movie just because Johnny Depp or Cary Grant is in it.



posted by Michael at July 11, 2003


We must be psychically (or psychotically) linked. I ended up going to see "Pirates of the Carribean" yesterday, which was probably the best of the summer movies I've seen, almost entirely owing to Mr. Depp's performance and role. He is presented--eyeliner, false eyelashes, bandanna and all--as so ridiculously dark and romantic a figure that a certain degree of androgyny is implied. But he sees himself as such a larger than life figure (when he's about to be hanged he corrects the omission of his rank--"That's Captain Sparrow," he sighs) that his only possible sexual orientation is narcissism. The film equips him with any number of ex-girlfriends and puts him in the presence of a very good looking heroine, but it is obvious that no one could possibly compete with him for his own affections. All of this played for laughs is quite an accomplishment for a popcorn movie, especially since it allows for some great sarcasm from the extremely good looking female lead, who plays a character with masculinized overtones (she's quite the woman-of-action) but isn't doing the narcissitic thing. The downside is that Orlando Bloom, who plays the straight-arrow "hero" who captures the heroine's heart is--despite being as good looking as Johnny Depp--rather washed out and cloddish in comparison, to the dismay of my teenaged daughter, a fan.

The fact that all this derives from a theme park ride is something I'm still trying to get my mind around. Does that mean that the people behind this film did an improbably great job, or that the creative teams behind all the other summer blockbusters are a bunch of maroons?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 11, 2003 1:02 PM

Brad Pitt.

I really want to dislike him, but the guy can act!

Posted by: Gil on July 11, 2003 6:08 PM

Reminds me of a scene from the "Family Guy." (A really funny cartoon in the 11:30 time slot on the Cartoon Network.) Peter Griffin, the Homer-like patriarch, is sitting in the car with three of his very straight buddies. We cut to them in mid conversation. The topic, which takes the viewer a couple of seconds to figure out, is is "If Johnny Depp cheated on you, would you leave him or forgive him?"

Posted by: MH on July 11, 2003 7:30 PM

I know what you mean, I've been a Depp fan since "Gilbert Grape." "Dead Man" is a real treat, too.

I also agree with Gil about Brad Pitt. It's embarrassing to admit to liking this guy as an actor. I think it was the movie "Kalifornia" that first caught my eye. And "Fight Club" was also a wonderful surprise.

Posted by: Mark on July 11, 2003 8:41 PM

Brad Pitt? Real guys like Brad Pitt? It's going to take me a minute to digest that one ... Ok. Well, come to think of it I liked him a lot in "Thelma and Louise." He had a kind of slyness that my Inner Real Guy approved of. He lost me, though, once he went into his greasy-hair Mr. Cool phase. But that obviously works for some people. Did y'all enjoy "Ocean's 11"? All the suave and cool carrying on and horsing around?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 11, 2003 9:30 PM

Just came from the theatre after seeing "Pirates". Very good action, a good little ghost story (which I always like) some good almost wholesome entertainment. It's so nice to be entertained without the stack 'em up and crash 'em car scenario.

Of course, JD is a pretty face (but not TOO) and quite the scene stealer.(Many shades of Keith Richards--which I read he based the character on) All in all two thumbs up. Why wouldn't guys like him--he's a cool pirate! As far as pretty boys go--Val Kilmer? puhleeze! Not from this girl's perspective.

Posted by: iris on July 11, 2003 9:35 PM

How bout Daniel Day Lewis??

Posted by: annette on July 11, 2003 10:22 PM

Brad Pitt is excellent -- see "Se7en".

Johnny Depp is pretty good, but he ain't too pretty, not based on what I've seen.

Could yall review a movie that's been out for more than 24 hours? Otherwise, I suck and I hate that.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on July 11, 2003 11:05 PM

According to Us magazine, in addition to Keith Richards Mr. Depp's other inspiration was Pepe Le Pew. I wonder if he told the Disney people that.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 11, 2003 11:57 PM

What is it with Orlando Bloom and the teeny bopper crowd? I'm taking my 13 year old daughter to see it this afternoon so she can stare at him and sigh. And the girl in it is the same one from Bend it Like Beckham, another teeny bopper movie which was pretty good, actually.

I liked Johnny Depp in "Ed Wood" tho he definately wasnt pretty in that movie.

Posted by: Deb on July 12, 2003 10:00 AM

Daniel Day-Lewis? Good one, thanks. Another prettyboy I don't mind. And again I wonder why. Any theories here? I wonder if it has something to do with a very stupid and primitive feeling of "Heck, if I were that pretty, and I were an actor, and I were straight, that's pretty much how I'd like to think I'd carry on." Ie., not preening, not getting myself beaten up in order to win masculine credentials -- instead, just letting the prettiness speak for itself and then getting on with the job. Deal with it, world. Or maybe it's just the sheer improbability of any man being that pretty, being an actor, and being straight -- maybe my primitive mind just marvels at this.

There are people who don't think Johnny Depp is pretty? Really?

Oh, hey, a nominee for a prettyboy who seems to annoy the bejezus out of most straight male moviegoers: Richard Gere. I've semi-enjoyed a couple of his performances ("Internal Affairs," "Unfaithful"). But mostly I look at him thinking (for no rational reason at all), "You ought to be ashamed of yourself." That's another good category: prettyboy actors who piss off straight male moviegoers. Robert Taylor. Who else?

Pepe lePew? That's brilliant. Maybe that's another reason why I like Johnny Depp -- weirdo, oddball, extreme acting choices. Interesting too that he picks cartoon characters sometimes and then goes all the way with them. Reminds me of Nicolas Cage, back in the early years when he was fun to watch. He'd often base his performances on cartoon characters, or on characters from silent movies. Did anyone see his vampire movie, I forget what it was called? Really far-out, whacko performance that he evidently based on "Nosferatu." Brilliant. Not that he's a prettyboy, god knows.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 12, 2003 2:11 PM

"Pissed off" is not my general reaction to Richard Gere...

But, you WERE talking about straight male moviegoers.

How 'bout Denzel Washington??

Posted by: annette on July 12, 2003 4:39 PM

Common thread - all the guys mentioned in the Blowhard post and comments are BIG QUEENS. I think M. Blowhard comes close when he says " "Heck, if I were that pretty, and I were an actor, and I were straight, that's pretty much how I'd like to think I'd carry on." Carry on being the key phrase.

Depp and his ilk have a powerful willingness to be present.

Anybody can be a big queen - straight men, ugly old women, bald fat men. Anyone who has the inner oomph to carry on like that. Surely, in your own life, you can think of someone who for no discernable reason is loved by all except those jealous of the love.

Markie Mark seems to be headed this way.

P.S. "and I were straight" - don't you have a wife and kids? Or am I confusing Blowhards again?

Posted by: j.c. on July 13, 2003 1:08 AM

Michael Blowhard:

I don't follow acting as closely as you do; has there ever been a recognized acting theory that supported the use of cartoon characters as acting models? It almost seems like a weird survival of Victorian stage acting (which I strongly suspect was a lot more entertaining and moving than serious believers in "The Method" would have you believe.)

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on July 13, 2003 2:04 AM

"P.S. "and I were straight" - don't you have a wife and kids? Or am I confusing Blowhards again?"

I think you are confusing Blowhards, but the one you are referring to constantly posts about thongs, bikinis and movie actresses he adores. I therefore think your confusion is particularly hilarious. WHAT does a man have to do these days??

Posted by: annette on July 13, 2003 11:07 PM

j.c. and annette

FvB has a kid in middle school--that was the wonderful teletubbie picture he posted awhile back plus he painted the cow stool for the little one to use getting up to the sink in the bathroom. And MvB always refers to The Wife so I think we can safely assume that both are straight males.

Posted by: Deb on July 13, 2003 11:47 PM

Thanks to Deb and Annette for standing up for my straighthood, such as it is. I was typing away, talking about "if I were" pretty and an actor, and I was thinking, Gee, if I were pretty and an actor I'd amost certainly be gay -- after all, how many pretty men who are actors aren't gay? So I thought I had to specify "and if I were straight" ...

Ie., lousy writing, lousy audience sense. Gracias, chiquitas.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 14, 2003 12:10 AM

Depp moved to Hollywood in the late 1970s to be a rock star, and indeed he looks like a lot of semi-androgynous heterosexual rock stars of the early 1970s: Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, David Bowie, several Rolling Stones. That whole glamour rock style went out of fashion and rock stars ever since 1990 or try to look like regular guys who work in skateboard shops or whatever. (E.g., Kurt Cobain was frail and had beautiful eyes, but he tried to look like a lumberjack.)

I think a big cause is the increasing sensitivity of the public's gaydar. We don't believe that anybody can preen about like Jagger, Bowie, or Tyler and be straight. (Of course, those guys are now married to fashion models, so our gaydar appears overdeveloped nowadays.)

Anyway, we like to think of ourselves as being ever so tolerant of homosexuality, but the evidence -- such as the intentional slovenliness with which the men participating in dating shows dress -- suggests that straight men are today terrified of doing any of the civilized things that would suggest they might be gay.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on July 14, 2003 2:33 AM

Steve -- So true that Depp's looks and glamor are circa late '70s. I'd had no idea he ever wanted to be a rock star, thanks for the info. As for the general public's gaydar, it's fascinating to see lots of people begin to develop some, isn't it? Even if most of their evidence seems to come from TV. To this inhabitant of Greenwich Village (ie., I've got pretty good gaydar, for a clunky straight guy anyway, and it's based on lots of actual in-person experience), most Americans still seem pretty clueless. They also seem pretty clueless about how much gayness -- in the form of design, semi-camp humor, pop culture, etc -- they're being fed on a routine basis these days. I wonder if they'd be pleased if they knew? For example, the aesthetic of almost the whole stable of Conde Nast magazines is tres gay. I'm making notes for a posting I'll probably never get around to writing on the topic. Good title, anyway: "Straight Camp" -- about the way that even frat-boy publications are informed by a lot of gay aesthetic-and-design values these days ... Do the frat boys know?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 14, 2003 3:45 PM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned an obvious guy film guy--Pierce Brosnan! Do guys accept him as 007? Personally, I prefer Sean Connery, definetly NOT what you would call a 'pretty boy'.

Posted by: iris on July 14, 2003 6:02 PM

Oh lord, now I have to mention that, in certain circles, Kurt Cobain was not only know as frail and beautiful but also rumored to enjoy wearing women's clothes. Loads o' speculation about his orientation from day one.

Saw the pirate movie today and felt like, despite all the smack hes talked on the TV, Depp probably based the character mostly on things hes done to entertain his children. Charming idea. Deeply unsexy, however.

Posted by: j.c. on July 15, 2003 5:04 AM

The following has little to do with the post...more to do with some comments! My apologies.

But, I'm ever confused at how the "average American" gets continually chastised for not being knowledgeable enough about the gay male.

Frankly, the gay male doesn't appear overly interested in the life of the average hetero least not in my experience. Are we going to criticize gay men for this? Not me, it's not my place. It's like the fact that I can go to a restaurant here in TN called SPOOKIES, run only by blacks, and order chit-lins...of all things. But heaven FORBID it if I, a white person try to open a restaurant by the same name do the same thing. In other words, it's a double standard.

I was rubbing shoulders at a resort in Florida last month with what appeared to be the male tourists from end of "Gay Days" at Disney. At the pool, trotting around in my swimmie suit, I was practically scowled at by all the gay posers. (and jeez were they posing) I'm assuming that I appeared fully unpalatable to most of them although a few looked at me with confusion in their eyes. I must have looked out of place...95% of the fellas there were clearly gay. It all left me feeling like an unwanted part of society. Hmm...fair's fair? I suppose, but they don't know me.

I'm just a little frustrated by some of the comments here. Who gives a %$#@&* that I'm not fully informed on the gay lifestyle? And who cares that they are completely unconcerned with mine? Surely I'm missing something here. Somebody set me straight!

Posted by: laurel on July 15, 2003 8:15 AM

Laurel, the gay lifestyle is a complex phenom. Notice how Michael is uncomfortable with his.

Is today the day we amend the site description to:
In which two graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy Ivy educations while the peanut gallery posts pointless smack about underwear and Hollywood.

Posted by: j.c. on July 15, 2003 2:59 PM

I wandered in here by accident; can I put in my 2 cents worth?

First of all, from this female's perspective, most of the guys you have bantered around as "prettyboys" don't even come close. DDL? I think he's an awesome actor and enigmatic in his way, but certainly not "pretty." In fact, just the opposite. Brad Pitt is pretty, I suppose, but just not my taste. Johnny Depp is pretty and an awesome actor and so cool he can get away with playing mincing drag queens and pirates of questionable sexual orientation. He can pretty much get away with anything he does on screen because he always makes it worth watching.

I think the girl/woman (don't want to insult anyone here!) who said gay men don't care about straight women has probably not known very many of them. Many of my closest friends over the years have been gay, and there is less rivalry with them than there is in many female friendships, plus you don't have to worry about them hitting on you! And you get to go shopping and talk about guys all day long--what's not to like?

Oh, and one last thing--Johnny Depp is deeply sexy. It's a scientifically proven fact.

Posted by: cassady on December 18, 2003 12:06 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?