Week Seven: Star Image

Rudolph Valentino, a silent movie star, was the very first widely recognized sex object and teen idol. In her article on Valentino, Miriam Hansen discusses ways in which that idol was reviled by the mainstream press and his image as a male vamp, something both foreign and feminized. She notes this was the case because Valentino literally made a “spectacle” of himself, posing a threat to “natural and reserved American virility.” Valentino, like all idols, not only accepts the gaze of the female spectator but encourages it. She points out however, that this can also be disruptive in the scheme of things. If a woman is not just allowed but inspired and stimulated to look at her object of desire with pleasure equal to that of a man’s, then that dominance is threatened.

Nowadays, I would say Brad Pitt fits the bill as one of the few present day heartthrobs. Named the “Sexiest Man Alive” countless times by People Magazine, Pitt’s reputation has undoubtedly reached iconic status. His sex scene with Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise (1991) is often cited as the defining moment that categorized Pitt as a sex symbol. This would of course lead to leading roles in films like Interview with the Vampire, Se7en, 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, and other critically acclaimed motion pictures.  Nominated for multiple academy awards and golden globe awards, his success speaks for itself. Previously being connected with females like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, and currently now with Angelina Jolie, three of the sexiest actresses in their own regards, this sure doesn’t hurt his image either.

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