Sexiness: Good for America (but not the key to a post-racial nation)
When Old Spice first brought Isaiah Mustafa on board for what are, totally objectively, the best commercials ever made, I was really confused. REALLY confused. Blending in with Superbowl Commercials, Mustafa and his Old Spice writers created such an accurate, mocking picture of masculinity in football ads that I didn’t catch the irony. Yeah, whoops.
Since I’ve figured out what was going on, though, all I’ve wanted is two tickets to that thing I love.
I’m on a horse!
In case you were curious, the Old Spice caption text on the video on YouTube reads:
We’re not saying this body wash will make your man smell into a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.
Sort of makes you want to ram a Dodge Charger into a brick wall.
Tricia Romano at The Daily Beast seems to think that Isaish Mustafa’s “inherent sex appeal” is good for America. Well duh it’s good for America. That man is HOT. Who DOESN’T need more sexy men?
But Ms. Romano also seems to think that “The choice of a black man as the desired sex object for a national advertising spot aimed at mainstream America, which is to say white America, is particularly perfect right now.” She goes on to imply that a sexy black spokesman will bring about a post-racial America.
After the break: good for America? DUH. Ending the racial divide? Er. No.
Basically, Ms. Romano is saying that because a bunch of women and men think that Isaiah Mustafa is the most attractive man on planet earth, “other ad agencies, casting agents, film and TV directors, will be open to the idea that their lead character or spokesperson can be of any race, and don’t just cast a de facto white guy.”
Congratulations, ladies and gentleman. You picked a black guy as someone hot, and now the world’s problems are solved!
Alright, maybe I’m just too young to really know anything about this. But there seem to be a lot of problems in Ms. Romano’s article.
First she says, “Mustafa is being judged purely on his talent, his good looks, and yes, his immaculate abs.” Okay so he’s being judged on his talent AND OH MY GOD HE IS SEXY. Also talent: “The former NFL player possesses an electric charisma and a self-deprecating sense of humor that only serves to make him even more likable.” In fact. Ms. Romano is SO focused on talent that she follows up that paragraph with this little diatribe:
He’s not “hot for a black guy,” he’s just hot. He’s hot enough to make celebrity lesbian Ellen DeGeneres giggle like a school girl when he visited her set, causing her to beg him to recite his Old Spice lines.
Ellen isn’t alone—gay men love the Old Spice Man, as much as straight women apparently do. An AfterElton.com staffer picked Mustafa as one of his 10 hottest men, writing, that Mustafa “almost makes me want to buy some Old Spice. Almost.”
He’s hot enough to make Tyler Perry—who, after telling him that he got the part in an upcoming movie, Colored Girls, on Oprah—nervously beg Mustafa to put his shirt back on.
He’s hot enough to be named by HollywoodLife.com, the Bonnie Fuller-helmed mainstream gossip site, as their official “Fourth of July Holly-Hunk.” (He gratefully accepted that honor in a YouTube clip, while awarding himself the world’s giant trophy, and sweet talking the writer, Lindsay).
He’s hot enough that a California-based producer/director Johannes S. Beals asked him to propose to his girlfriend for him in the Twitter stream, without worrying she’d leave him for the pitchman. (She said yes.)
Oh, is he…I’m sorry, did you say he was hot? ALRIGHT ALRIGHT, I KNOW. I HAVE EYES. AND ALSO HORMONES THAT MAKE ME ATTRACTED TO HOT MEN.
I’m just not sure why she thinks that sexiness suddenly means that we’re going to have a “domino effect,” and suddenly black men are going to get cast everywhere.
I guess I’m just interested in the fact that Ms. Romano thinks that a hot man is going to lead to progress. A hot woman, meanwhile? Pshh. “Perez Hilton didn’t put a skimpy outfit on Miley Cyrus,” she says. Therefore, it’s totally Hilton’s prerogative to post pictures of Miley’s crotch online, she argues. Sure, Ms. Romano acknowledges that any normal 17 year old might be a sexual being, but she’s sure as hell judging her for it.
Even if Ms. Romano’s iffy sex logic doesn’t bother you, consider how many sexy black men are already famous in American society. We’ve got sexy black soccer players (Tim Howard is technically half and I’m not sure how he identifies), sexy black actors, sexy black college athletes (his eyes in the Verizon Center at Georgetown Hoyas basketball games were a highlight of the ’08-’09 season, given the mediocre basketball), sexy black platinum recording artists, and, oh yeah, a sexy black president.
Yet, there are still more African American men in prisons than white men or women. There have been two African Americans on the Supreme Court, ever. And there have only ever been SIX African Americans in the 100 body U.S. Senate – including Pres. Obama and fucking Roland Burris, who, in case anyone forgot, will no longer be a Senator once he is replaced by IL Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias or Rep. Mark Kirk in January.
Yeah, clearly, sexiness has led to great things.
I don’t want to undermine how great it is that all of us are looking past race and able to appreciate all the sexiness in front of us. I think that’s awesome. The World Cup, in particular, was a chance to appreciate multi-cultural sexiness. But I just don’t think it’s enough anymore.
Again, maybe I’m too young to really get it. Maybe I’m just thinking this because I don’t know what it was like before it was standard for a white Jewish girl to think a black former football player is gorgeous.
And sure, “It would have been just as easy for Old Spice to hire some blonde no-name actor with a chiseled chin and a nice tan.” But I think if Isaiah Mustafa’s viral attractiveness were going to create any substantive changes in the entertainment industry – or anywhere, really – Usher would have gotten there first. He has three (I think) multiplatinum albums, a good voice, a gorgeous body, and tremendous talent for dancing. But as Ms. Romano reminds us, “roles for minorities in general had decreased 2 percent from a high in 2007,” despite the fact that “minorities” are decreasing in actual “minority” status. Apparently, “The statistics showed minority performers play a mere 27.5 percent of parts in film and on television,” which doesn’t really seem sufficient, given the breakdown of this country and the “minority”-related narratives we haven’t even bothered to explore yet (I’m waiting for someone to really tackle illegal immigration in a move).
SO YES: let’s celebrate Isaiah Mustafa because he’s hot, has drop-dead timing, and is using his assets to make fun of sexist Superbowl commercials. But lets not overreact here: sexiness is not the key to a post-racial America.