The XX Factor

How Are We Supposed to Appreciate the Artistry of Moonlight When Its Stars Are Out Here in a New Underwear Ad?

Many of us are still trying to recover from Sunday night’s last-minute Oscars twist. Elsewhere in Slate, Aisha Harris implores us to focus on Moonlight’s historic win rather than the crazy mix-up. However, the stars of Moonlight themselves are making it hard to do that, because they just posed in their damn underwear for Calvin Klein.

Yes, you read that right, there are new pictures of Mahershala Ali in his underwear on the internet, and … is anyone still reading this? I feel oddly like Wile E. Coyote must when Roadrunner was standing right next to him one second ago and now all that’s there is a cloud of dust.

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Ali is joined in the campaign by his co-stars Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes, the trio that played Chiron at three different ages in the film. (I’m not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth on this day when Calvin Klein has given me so much, so I won’t say anything about how they could have thrown André Holland in there too, nope, I won’t do that.) Called “Revelation,” these black and white pictures by Willy Vanderperre are part of the brand’s spring 2017 men’s underwear campaign.

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The reaction to the photos on social media has been, shall we say, pleased. In addition to your crush Mahershala, who you may remember from inventing the color yellow last week and winning an Oscar last night, Trevante Rhodes lounging in his underwear, a pile of stomach muscles and a smile, should be illegal. How even … ? The addition of Hibbert, who is 12 and adorable, is key to making the whole thing feel less pervy: I’m not creeping on a bunch of men in their underwear, see, because one is a cute kid, and that makes this art. Or something. Right?

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These photos represent the first pieces of advertising from Calvin Klein’s new team of chief creative officer Raf Simons and creative director Pieter Mulier. Do you hear that? It’s the sound of job approval ratings and stocks and other business success indicators soaring! Mahershala Ali = how we will revive this economy. You can see more photos at Calvin Klein’s website, and, if there is any justice in the universe, soon on every well-placed Billboard in America, for surely this is why God invented billboards.

The timing for the campaign’s release is eerily perfect on the heels of Moonlight’s surprise Best Picture win (and not a total shocker—Racked points out that Hibbert, Rhodes, and Sanders all wore Calvin Klein to the Oscars). The progressive messaging of the text that accompanies the photos on the Calvin Klein site—Moonlight is called “the film of the year,” emphasis theirs, in copy that one assumes was prepared before the movie took the statue—is a little more surprising, considering Calvin Klein the man’s previously stated willingness to dress Melania Trump. Melania may be a fashion plate, but let’s see her try to look that good in boxer briefs.

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