Hotness is in the eye of the beholder…or is it?

So, I was thinking about hotness. It’s kind of an occupational hazard, when you work with people as effortlessly beautiful as soap stars. (Okay, there may be some effort involved, but I’m pretty sure the original canvas is still way better than that of the Average Jane like me.) Constantly bombarded by images of dazzling smiles or a lush sweep of hair or a six-pack that has nothing to do with Natty Light, I find myself utterly fascinated by what constitutes “hot.”

Obviously what’s considered attractive varies across the world; standards of beauty are different and people’s brains (a truly dizzying organ) process features and body types differently. One only has to look at paintings by Peter Paul Rubens from the late 16th/early 17th century —they even coined a word, fer cryin’ out loud —and then glance at the average cast of America’s Next Top Model.

But I think it’s probably safe to say that there’s an “objective hotness” and a “subjective hotness.” Objective hotness is where everyone (read: society, the media, etc.) can agree that this person fits some  kind of modern beauty standard. Even if you don’t personally think they’re sexy, you get why they’re considered handsome or beautiful. Subjective hotness is more like…you find someone attractive but none of your friends do…or there’s something about this person’s personality that trumps the placement of their nose or the number of rungs on their washboard. Subjective hotness, I think, has a more chemical component to it than an aesthetic one. You feel it in your bones.

Can someone be both? I don’t know. I’m still working that out. If I was a research scientist, I would devote copious amounts of time to the issue. (And it would be such a hardship, wouldn’t it? LOL.)

But let’s talk examples! Because that’s the fun part! 

I think actors like Daniel Craig and Clive Owen are subjectively hot. They have blunt, irregular features, personifying a ruggedness and, I think, speaking to something more primal than “pretty.” Pulling out the “Wowza!” factor depends on what role they’re playing, the type of photo shoot, etc. Similarly, the perception of Robert Pattinson‘s hotness is incredibly tied up in him playing Edward Cullen in the Twilight franchise. It just happens to help that he has those mysterious eyes and a delicate mouth. But he doesn’t do a darn thing for me, whereas Craig and Owen do tons.

And then you’ve got people like Shemar Moore or John Abraham, who are built like Adonis and have had modeling careers along with ones on the screen. They fit a, pardon the repetition, model. Someone looks at them and goes, “Oh, I get it.” That’s the guy you want wearing your jeans or your Hugo Boss suit, because he will draw a gaze towards him.

But you know where things get tricky? Where the line between objective and subjective gets blurry? Women, of course. This isn’t like the Rubens era, where you can say with any kind of assurance, “Zaftig women are the epitome of sexy,” or declare that “Blonde is beautiful.” I mean, just look at Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks. She’s a pale redhead like Julia Roberts, and yet you don’t see people talking about Julia’s cup size! (Disturbing trufax: When you Google Christina, the first two suggestions that come up are “christina hendricks measurements” and “christina hendricks cup size”). Male-oriented publications like Maxim tout Hendricks as hot, while more female-oriented ones have to pair the observation that she’s attractive with the suggestion that she’s “non-traditional,” or “not the Hollywood standard,” or some other such apologist nonsense…which drives me insane because while Hendricks isn’t an A cup, size zero, she’s still “TV Beautiful.” These days, the “fat girl” on a television show or in a movie amounts to a size 8 or a size 10, and implying that Hendricks’ curves practically make her the Goodyear Blimp is just stupid. But women judge each other pretty harshly, and then the media follows suit.

Just take a look back at this year’s Vanity Fair‘s “New Hollywood” issue, where we saw that their perception of Hollywood beauty was a bunch of waifish white girls, all of whom had a similar (almost indistinguishable) palette. Men, I think, are given so much more leeway to be hot and come from different age groups, different physical types and different ethnicities. And men themselves also give beauty standards more leeway. I mean, here I am divvying people up into categories and trying trump up some kind of informal analysis, but the average straight guy tends to just leave it at, “So-and-so is hot. Don’t ask me why.”

So, maybe that’ll how I’ll end this entry, by taking a page from Maxim and suggesting we all just sit back and enjoy the view…

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