Aug 17, 2011
Readers, do you subscribe to the belief that a man can be too good-looking?
I was reading an excerpt from Rob Lowe's critically-acclaimed autobiography, "Stories I Only Tell My Friends" recently, and he believes that his good looks kept him from having the kind of film career in his youth he had hoped for. Indeed, it's easy to believe that Rob's beauty could have been an obstacle. (The modified mullet and shark tooth earrings weren't doing him any favors either.)
There are lots of different kinds of good-looking men (as there are different kinds of good-looking women) but the kind of good looks that seems to cause the most trouble, not only for the man himself but, if he is an actor, for his audience too (keep reading), are the ones considered "pretty."
It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes a handsome man pretty, but we know it when we see it. Tyrone Power is a classic example of this phenomenon, and based on what I've read about his life, he suffered for it, both professionally and personally.
Power died young after a life of considerable self-abuse. He was only in his mid-forties -- and considerably less pretty.
When you think about the most popular male movie stars of classic Hollywood cinema, they're generally not the best looking (and this holds true for the women as well, imo: think Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Claudette Colbert) -- the more rugged actors held on the longest and are best remembered, men like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney, and Spencer Tracey.
Some actors started out as beauties -- Gary Cooper and John Wayne come to mind -- but aged rapidly into rugged-looking, craggy-faced heroes worshiped by men and women alike.
A lot of this "curse of the beautiful male" thing has to do with homophobia: there's a sense that a beautiful man is likely to be homosexual or -- due to his almost feminine looks (long lashes, bright, light eyes) -- not sufficiently masculine. Americans like their men to look like men. Actually, I think it's that heterosexual American males like their heroes to look more rugged for fear of being labeled homosexual themselves. It's all a bit headache-inducing.
Of course, the fact that many beautiful male actors are now known to have been -- or consistently rumored to be -- gay (or its mid-Twentieth Century equivalent), doesn't help matters. Tyrone Power, Montgomery Clift, and the late Farley Granger come to mind. Even in the gay male community, many put a lot of value on being "straight-looking," i.e., traditionally masculine. (Clifton Webb need not apply.)
What is a beautiful man supposed to do? Facial hair seems to help -- or does it only call attention to precisely the features they're trying to hide? (Think Johnny Depp and Zac Efron.)
I've often read that teen idols are usually of the pretty type because young girls find them less sexually threatening (subconsciously, of course). This would apply to everyone from Troy Donahue to Ricky Nelson (remember him?) to Justin Bieber.
When these teen fans grow up, however, they prefer Clark Gable.
Friends of the man-loving persuasion, how do you like your men?
Do you have a preference for the iconic strong, silent type? Are you uncomfortable around a man who might be considered prettier than you are? Do you have nothing but empathy for Joanne Woodward (who wasn't exactly homely but she was no Paul Newman)?
Are you suspicious of a man who's too good looking, either because you think he's likely to be stuck up, or the constant target of the attention of decorators, florists, and male sewing bloggers? (And he might like it.)
Can a man be too beautiful?