There’s still time to bring sexy back

Scott Feschuk on how Ryan Reynolds can salvage his term as the Sexiest Man Alive
There’s still time to bring sexy back
CP; ISTOCK; Getty Images; Photo illustration by Taylor Shute

There’s a big fuss every November when People magazine names its Sexiest Man Alive. Then the hype fades. No one bothers to monitor how His Sexcellency is coping under the pressure of this illustrious yet challenging office. No one except me, that is. Warning: intrepid journalism ahead.

We are past the midway point of Ryan Reynolds’s term as Sexiest Man Alive. What began amid such promise—with speeches filled with words like “hope,” “change” and “buttocks off which you could bounce a nickel”—now lies in sexy, sexy tatters.

Sensing weakness, rival contenders are already massing for this fall’s gruelling sexiness primaries—raising funds, filming attack ads (“Reynolds: soft on camouflage fleece!”) and putting on their shirts, so as to be better able to sexily remove them.

Taking a cue from Sarah Palin, Matthew McConaughey has embarked on a tour of America’s sexiest historical sites, including the birthplace of Tom Selleck’s moustache and the nondescript diner where George Clooney first winked. Painted along the side of McConaughey’s bus: a reproduction of the very first letter to Penthouse Forum and a way-cool wizard guy with a unicorn.

Meanwhile, an upstart candidacy by 1990s heartthrob Richard Gere—author of the seminal Contract with America’s Pectorals—flamed out almost immediately when Gere admitted on CNN’s The Sexuation Room that he still owns a pair of parachute pants.

Few would deny that the Reynolds administration began with great promise. He rallied youth with his pledge to forge a New Sexiness, unencumbered by chest hair. He was praised for instituting a National Mullet Registry that doubled as a census of North Dakota. And he skillfully imposed a three-day waiting period on the acquisition of a KFC Double Down.

But Reynolds was slow to introduce aggressive stimulus to reignite American sexiness in the face of Kirstie Alley’s appearance on Dancing With the Stars. A damaging photo emerged in which he, as a nine-year-old boy, wore a fanny pack. And his choice for Vice-Sexiest Man Alive—the charismatic Alec Baldwin—boomeranged when the actor was found to be a pawn of the Spanx lobby. In some cases, Reynolds has simply been buffeted by bad luck: his effort to confer a lifetime achievement award on the first-ever Sexiest Man Alive backfired when Mel Gibson claimed Jews were responsible for all the world’s backfat.

Whatever the cause, opinion surveys now indicate there hasn’t been a Sexiest Man Alive this unpopular since 2002, when Pierce Brosnan accidentally put on an acrylic sweater.

The underlying trends don’t offer much hope. A recent study found that while a majority of people in the U.S. believe that most Americans are fat, only 40 per cent think that they themselves are overweight. How can Reynolds encourage a sexier lifestyle among those who either fail to accept or are too covered in fudge to accurately gauge their immensity?

At the same time, the gulf has increased between the sexiest Americans and those who share most of their DNA with a Baconator. According to statistics from the Organization for Seduction Development, a full 90 per cent of American sexiness is now controlled by just two per cent of the population. It would take a typical family of four a full 25 years to achieve the sexiness of a single hair flip by Beyoncé. And yet the fit and attractive continue to press for deeper tax breaks on broccolini and flattering lighting.

Meanwhile, Reynolds’s efforts to deliver on his progressive agenda have been hampered by the Glenn Becks of the world, who believe America must return to the roots of sexiness as represented by its founders—a strict affinity for lambchop sideburns and ample girth. Unsurprisingly, Beck has already thrown his considerable influence behind the long shot Sexiest Man Alive candidacy of David Crosby.

There’s still time for Reynolds to salvage his term in office. He can reassert his sense of purpose by declaring Vince Vaughn’s torso a sexiness disaster area. He can sign into law the proposed bill banning the sale of sweatpants and chalupas. And he can scale back his international pursuits: Americans don’t want to know what he’s doing to reduce suffering for those in Africa—they want to know what he’s doing to reduce suffering among people who are looking at Jack Black. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to do all this while wearing short shorts.