If you don’t know who Adam Driver is, what rock have you been living under? The Academy Award-nominated actor, producer and general man of mystery has been a fixture of Hollywood headlines for the past few years. He first arrived on the public scene in 2012 with his role as loveable weirdo Adam Sackler on the HBO comedy Girls.
Since then, his career has spanned every genre and medium imaginable, from blockbuster movies (Star Wars… ever heard of it?) to Broadway plays. Now, in his latest film, Annette, he plays an unhinged standup comedian with a wooden puppet for a daughter. Yes, you read that right — a puppet, and she can sing opera.
The only thing more unique than Adam’s career path is, well… Adam himself. As his fame has risen and his projects have grown weirder and wilder, Adam has become an object of Gen Z attraction and, dare I say, thirst.
At first glance (or second, or third), Adam Driver is not your typical celebrity heartthrob. Yes, at 6 foot 2 inches tall, he has height working in his favor, but unlike other tall male celebrities, he doesn’t have the washboard abs nor the perfect proportions to complement this towering figure. Not to mention, his dark, brooding features don’t exactly equate to Ken doll-level handsomeness, and his baritone voice registers more menacing than seductive.
Compare these features to the angelic bone structure and youthful vitality of Timothée Chalamet and Harry Styles and you’ll wind up with one enormous question mark. Why is this shaggy, hulking, 37-year-old man at the center of Gen Z’s lustful gaze when he seems to have completely bypassed the heartthrob rule book?
The answer is simple: our generation wants and needs a change from the typical young, unobtainable pretty boy. Having grown up in a world of manufactured social media perfection, Gen Z has a growing desire for authenticity. Other Hollywood hunks like Jacob Elordi and Tom Holland may be more “traditionally” handsome, but Adam simply feels real, and unapologetically so. He’s not a cookie cutter celebrity but, rather, a strange, imperfect mess like the rest of us.
Still skeptical? Allow me to change your mind. Let’s dive in to three case studies that show exactly why Adam is the perfect heartthrob for Gen Z.
Case Study 1: Girls
Kudos to HBO for its lack of sex scene censorship, because it gifted us with unprecedented access to Adam Driver’s awkward, weirdly mesmerizing body. The show’s graphic, unapologetically kinky scenes between Adam and Hannah (Lena Dunham) cemented Adam (both the character and the actor) as a prime example of male body confidence.
Adam Sackler is a master of dirty talk and tricks, proving that, even in the bedroom, looks are only a small part of attraction. He has a “take me or leave me” mentality towards sex that registers not as cocky, but grounded and self-aware. He’s the type of guy to be real with you about both his sexual strengths and shortcomings and, hey, maybe models nude occasionally.
The fact that Adam, as an actor, was willing to even take a role this revealing is in and of itself a major turn-on. The man is simply not afraid to take risks and put himself in uncomfortable positions (both literally and figuratively). “Without Driver in the role, Adam the character would never have become as central to the show as he is now,” Lena Dunham told Newsweek in a 2013 interview. Adam’s unbridled sexuality transformed him from side show to main attraction.
Case Study 2: Star Wars
Don’t deny it. At least a small part of you can’t resist a bad boy. May I present to you the ultimate bad boy: Kylo Ren. He checks all the obvious boxes: joined the dark side, destroyed his master’s temple, killed his dad, yadda yadda yadda. Simply put, he’s a living, breathing My Chemical Romance song with a terrifying mask and eye bags that really tell you everything you need to know.
As Kylo Ren, Adam’s “odd” features become jarring and formidable. Let’s be honest: as Supreme Leader of the First Order, it’d be pretty weird if he didn’t look like he just got in a schoolyard fist fight. His black hair and dark, wandering eyes fit all too well into a galaxy far, far away.
Not to mention, The Force Awakens and the rest of the Star Wars sequel trilogy launched Adam to leading man status and made him a certified household name. As shallow as it sounds, power breeds attraction, so it’s safe to say that this leap up the Hollywood ladder increased Adam’s sexiness tenfold. He’s proven that you don’t have to look like Ryan Gosling to be a memorable, marketable lead. Plus, his newfound A-list career freedom has helped him let his freak flag fly like never before. Which leads me to Annette…
Case Study 3: Annette
This. This is the upside-down roller coaster of a film that Adam has always deserved. More than any other project, Annette mirrors his own eccentricity and the delightfully unpredictable nature of his career. Remember, this is the man who played a 17th-century Jesuit priest immediately after voicing a Lego version of himself for a Star Wars video game.
It’s a truly special experience, then, to witness Adam (as his character, Henry McHenry) go from having a meltdown onstage to being haunted by his world-famous puppet child to (spoiler alert) murdering a guy.
The film is all over the place, just like Adam, and that’s exactly what makes it so compelling. The road well-traveled? Boring! The thorny, mountainous path that Annette coaches you up? Yes, absolutely. Gen Z has grown up with variety galore, from streaming networks to social platforms. It’s only natural that the man who embodies this kind of variety would become our reigning dreamboat.
Annette also brings out a more brutal, nearly feral side of Adam that explodes onto the silver screen. Have you ever seen someone totally snap? Just release all their withheld feelings in a burst of tears? Annette is basically two hours of Adam in that state, with some rage and grief thrown in for good cheer. If vulnerability is sexy (and it is), then this film should be shown by therapists everywhere.
With each role he’s taken, Adam has transformed his eccentricity into burning hot star power. In fact, he may not even have gotten these roles if he had boy-next-door charm or the chiseled features of a Hemsworth brother. The singularity of his look is exactly what makes him so memorable.
Gen Z deserves better than the celebrity crushes of days past. This is the generation of unapologetic individualism, inclusion and acceptance, and basic “good guys” just aren’t going to cut it. Throw in the fact that Gen Z has been raised in Instagram’s superficial shadow, and it’s no wonder that people want the quirks, flaws and imperfections that Adam showcases.
Adam Driver has single-handedly smashed the status quo of Hollywood beauty standards and shown that weirdness truly makes the heart grow fonder.