A decade is defined by its political events, fashion trends, scientific breakthroughs, and Hollywood heartthrobs. If you were shown a snapshot of my room when I was twelve, it would be clear in what general year the picture was taken. The sultry scowls of Orlando Bloom, Jessie McCartney, and the Jonas Brothers are so 2005; this year, my celebrity crushes include the likes of Channing Tatum, Ryan Gosling, and Liam Hemsworth. Why is it that as times change, attractive stars flit in and out of the spotlight? What factors contribute to their rise and decline, and how have some managed to not fade away?
Let’s start by reminiscing on the crumpled posters in the backs of young women’s closets. In one of them, Aaron Carter smiles sweetly, but through the crinkles and rips of rejection he wonders Why don’t the ladies love me anymore? Unfortunately for him, his story is fairly straightforward: his fans grew older and his genre did not. Ten-year-old girls wished they were the Candy he desired, and young boys, including my brother, admired the studly starlet and his ability to beat Shaquille O’Neal one-on-one. But a few years later, such innocent lyrics no longer appealed to these blossoming teenagers, and in their quest for rebellion they turned from Aaron to grungier artists that they believed boosted their maturity level, like Good Charlotte and Bowling For Soup……Yeah.
Aaron did finally try to shove his way back into the hearts of the older girls, but it was too little, too late. The cheesy, straight-to-DVD film Popstar served as nothing more than a cringe-worthy blast from the past that was quickly forgotten. Aaron was a victim of the Child Star Curse—he could not separate himself from the youthful image that initially brought him fame, so he faded away. It could be argued that the Jonas Brothers fell prey to The Curse as well—they were famous for what, like two years? It was a good run, boys. However, it’s understandable; maturing one’s genre is a risky move that so far only the notoriously popular Justin Bieber seems to have done successfully (I’m willing to bet his latest song would be even more popular if no one knew it was him singing it).
While the fallen child stars have bad timing to blame, other former hunks’ lowered hottie status can be attributed to their own decisions. Whether they were choices regarding movies (Leonardo DiCaprio quickly shed the hopeless romantic role and turned to tougher films like The Departed and Blood Diamond), songs (Jessie McCartney tried out the Rhythm and Blues genre but sadly it did not catch on), or social life (Chris Brown became a little less attractive after committing domestic abuse), these men personally chose to go certain routes. Now, a tumble from Sexiest Man status does not denote failure by any means. It just signifies a career shift. Not all men enjoy being the center of female attention; many have other priorities.
Yet another category of men are the timeless gentlemen who seem to only get better with age: Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Jake Gyllenhal, and George Clooney, to name a few. I would have included Brad Pitt in that lineup but he had to go and grow that beard. These men started out young and a little goofy, and captivated women everywhere. Decades later, they have miraculously managed to hold their admirers’ attention. Part of this is luck—the years brought a rugged edge to their faces rather than a wrinkled sag. And the other part seems to be their charmingly cocky demeanors that serve as reminders of their unattainability. People want what they cannot have, especially if it looks sexy in an action movie. It also helps that these men have interspersed enough female-friendly movies into their generally darker filmographies to keep women drooling into their popcorn.
Staying in the spotlight is a delicate art. Very few can do it, and those that do deserve a little respect, in my opinion. Some potential candidates for the next generation of veteran hunks are Zac Efron and Channing Tatum. They are both riding streaks of more than five years of prime celebrity-crushdom; their next moves are crucial in determining their future standings. Of course, it’s not entirely up to them—it’s us girls who ultimately decide whose picture to hang on our walls.