BREAKING! Cranky old man confronted by an idealized male physique in the form of Daniel Craig's James Bond, experiences hurt feelings over the fact that the universe doesn't revolve around his self esteem, writes whole big column about it. A waahmbulance has been called to the scene.
In a column for the Washington Post, Richard Cohen laments the "new sex appeal" of Bond in Skyfall, which is exemplified by Craig's chiseled pecs and gym-forged body. Cohen, you see, is upset that the old fashioned sexiness of men onscreen no longer pervades. Rather than just schlumping around and sucking in their stomachs during non-close up shots (I SEE YOU, JOHN WAYNE!), male movie stars nowadays are expected to — gasp — try hard at the gym and maintain themselves if they want the sort of looks necessary to be a sex symbol. Of Craig, Cohen whines,
Nothing about him looks natural, relaxed - a man in the prime of his life and enjoying it. Instead, I see a man chasing youth on a treadmill, performing sets and reps, a clean and press, a weighted knee raise, an incline pushup and, finally, something called an incline pec fly (don't ask). I take these terms from the Daniel Craig Workout, which you can do, too, if your agent and publicist so insist. Otherwise, I recommend a book.
Yikes. Lots to talk about there. First, I'm tired of bitter nerds insisting that everyone who makes an effort to remain physically fit (and by "fit," I don't mean tiny and waifish; I mean vigorous and capable of lifting something that weighs more than a venti skinny vanilla latte and climbing a few flights of stairs without running out of breath) must be some kind of thick-skulled neanderthal. Enough. That kind of judgment is often just an excuse for laziness. There's no tradeoff between exercise and wanting to learn about the world; if anything, those two things enhance each other. But I digress.
Cohen cites as a counterexample to The Bond that Ruined His Self Esteem a character from Hitchcock's North By Northwest that sounds suspiciously like a guy who would remind someone of Richard Cohen, in Richard Cohen's wildest imagination,
Like Bond, Thornhill pulls off some amazing physical feats - his mad frantic escape from the crop duster, the traverse of Mount Rushmore - and like Bond he wears an expensive suit. Unlike Bond, though, when he takes it off we do not see some marbleized man, an ersatz creation of some trainer, but a fit man, effortlessly athletic and just as effortlessly sophisticated. Of course, he knows his martinis, but he also knows how to send out a suit for swift hotel cleaning. He is a man of the world. He is, in short, a man of a certain age - 55 at the time, to be more or less exact.
These are the wounded musings of a man who is hurt by the fact that James Bond no longer reminds him of himself, of a person who feels entitled to a male societal ideal that grows old when he does, that is always within the realm of his aspirational best. Now you're telling me I have to work in order to maintain myself enough to be James Bond?! This is a travesty!
Look — as a woman, I perfectly understand how it feels to confront unrealistic expectations of physical perfection. And, clearly, presenting men with a singular expectation of physical perfection and constantly punishing them for not conforming closely enough to it would be bad. But that's not the world we live in. The world of pop culture today is one where Kevin James' love interest can be played by Salma Hayek, but where George Clooney will always and forever be completely out of Melissa McCarthy's league. People's Sexiest Man Alive issue tends to feature a boring white dude on the cover every year, but the pages beyond the obligatory spread of Channing Tatum wincing at the camera are filled with cheeseball shots of men of all races, ages, sizes, and proclivities. Try to find that level of diversity amongst the women in the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, or the Maxim Hot 100. Or any click-through underboob slide show on the Huffington Post.
So, you know, I'm sorry Daniel Craig's pecs make Richard Cohen feel sad about the state of masculinity. I really am.
I would like to offer Mr. Cohen the world's tiniest violin as a token for how bad I feel that men like him are no longer get to swim through seas of twentysomething pussy simply by virtue of being a male who has managed to make it to his mid-40's (or later) without dying or gaining Marlon Brando weight. I'd like to offer my condolences over the fact that a character in a film that is supposed to be physically formidable is played by a person who appears to be physically formidable rather than just a guy who appears to be magic. And I feel super bad that Richard Cohen apparently never got to frolic through the Sean Connery fantasy land that old James Bond films promised men who are now in their 50's.
As the piece goes on, it becomes clearer that what Richard Cohen really wants is for society to promote the sort of sex appeal that Richard Cohen fancies himself to have in droves, "a sex appeal won by experience and savoir-faire, not delts and pecs and other such things that any kid can have." Basically, a guy who doesn't exert any effort, but who still gets to sleep with 23-year-old editorial aides, like the editorial aide that Richard Cohen allegedly hit on back in 1998. Only in this righted alternative reality, she'd say yes, instead of a hearty Dr. No.