A forensic examination of the current state of male objectification
I’ve not watched The Bear. Or the US version of Shameless.
Hence, I’ve been semi-bemused for some time by social media pushing semi-naked photos of the Brooklyn born actor Jeremy Allen White, 32, down my throat.
I don’t know anything about his actoring chops, and should find out, but aesthetically he is pleasing enough, in a second tier OnlyFans bottom sorta way. That said, I didn’t really ‘get’ him and his floppy curls and, um, angular face.
I guess I wasn’t the target market. Which is the case with everything now, except for life insurance and prostate cancer.
But in the last few days JAW has been rammed into every orifice going, no poppers – having appeared in his undies in Calvin Klein’s latest spornographic campaign. ‘That Jeremy Allen White Calvin Ad That Broke The internets!’ etc. etc.
The celebrated-hyperventilated ad is though worth taking a close look at, to assess the current state of male objectification-gratification.
It features JAW in what looks like his gym kit (shorts, sneakers, and white vest) walking along a Manhattan street, then entering an old high rise, running up the stairs and onto the roof then, with a skyscraper sunset backdrop, stripping off down to his white Calvins to do some improvised ‘functional fitness’: climbing on superstructure, doing chin ups that allow the camera to zoom in on his cotton-clad packet.
Pausing to goon into the camera with his goggly green eyes. (Yes, I know they’re technically blue, but they seem more than just ‘blue’ – and besides, blue doesn’t alliterate with ‘goggly’).
Then continue up to the apex of the building where, naturally, a red couch is perched. Here JAW stretches out – up, up, up towards the cobalt blue sky, shot Riefenstahl-style from below, like a shredded skyscraper, or human-shaped erection, catching the dying rays of the NYC sun.
Before falling onto the couch, blissfully exhausted, forearm flung over his all goggled-out peepers, as semen-semantic white doves flutter around him, up into the evening sky he pierced earlier.
As in, I think, every single frame in this ad, JAW’s mouth on the couch remains open. It signals breathlessness and sexiness, of course, as well as an invitation for another round. But it does lead me to wonder if he has a sinus problem.
It also seems relevant to point out, given the towering way the camera shoots him, that JAW is 5’7″. But hey, that’s advertising.
Relatedly, it may be a trick of the light, but in the final, post-coital scene on the couch, JAW’s pants appear to have been packed. The bulge seems considerably larger than in previous, perving shots of his packet.
Oh, and when I described him as a second tier Only Fans bottom, I was being kind. In the ad I can find no arse to speak of let alone gasp over and trust me I looked. And before you call me superficial and shallow – which is anyway redundant – it’s a Calvin Klein underwear ad.
The soundtrack to all this is the powerful 1963 ballad ‘You Don’t Own Me’, sung by a 17-year-old Lesley Gore. Sometimes described as an ‘early feminist anthem’, it’s use here in a sepia-tinted ad objectifying a young man is deliberately ironic.
You don’t own me
I’m not just one of your many toys
You don’t own me
Don’t say I can’t go with other boys
And don’t tell me what to do
Don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display ’cause
You don’t own me
JAW is just one of our many visual boy toys today. And we’re certainly not saying he can’t go with other boys.
It was back in 1992 – when JAW was two years old – that Calvin Klein effectively inaugurated the current era of male self-objectification with his pumped Marky Mark campaign, when Wahlberg was just 21 years old.
The poster campaign was a genuine, seismic sensation at the time (which I wrote about in my first book Male Impersonators), in a way that JAW, CK, and advertisers in general can only dream about now – JAW’s Tighty-Whities will be forgotten about next week, superseded by some other male sleb’s spornographic sluttiness.
The 1992 MM Calvin Klein TV ad looks comically defensive today (“the best protection against AIDS is to keep your Calvins on!”) and Kate Moss wandering about to remind everyone that Mr Wahlberg doesn’t go with other boys. The 1990s was very anxious about male homosexuality – it was the decade when young American men put “no homo” on the end of every sentence so that no one thought they were homo.
Which is part of the reason, of course, why Marky Mark’s sluttiness, however defensive, had such an impact.
In the intervening three decades, male tartiness has gone “so homo”. It has totally dropped the defensiveness and is no longer out to prove anything. Except its worthiness of your attention.
And your money.