Relationships

How Can People Name Paul Rudd* the Sexiest Man Alive Over the Obvious Choice?

This franchise is in trouble.

US actor-comedian Pete Davidson arrives for the 2021 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 13, 2021 in New York. - This year's Met Gala has a distinctively youthful imprint, hosted by singer Billie Eilish, actor Timothee Chalamet, poet Amanda Gorman and tennis star Naomi Osaka, none of them older than 25. The 2021 theme is "In America: A Lexicon of Fashion." (Photo by Angela WEISS / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
C’mon now. ANGELA WEISS/Getty Images

Update, Nov. 10: People has announced that it in fact chose another hilariously dated and wrong person, Paul Rudd, to be the Sexiest Man Alive. I apologize to Chris Evans for dragging him into this.

In choosing Rudd, People managed to make this even worse. Justice for Pete. The original post is below in full for posterity.

After completing its annual survey of the worldwide hunk landscape, People magazine has tabulated the results and chosen its “Sexiest Man Alive” for 2021: It’s Captain America emeritus himself, Chris Evans. Page Six broke the news Thursday, and while People would not confirm the pick (“We don’t comment on speculation,” a representative from the magazine told Slate in an email), consider it a fait accompli: Those magazines with Evans on the cover are absolutely in production as we speak.

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And to that fact, all I can say is: How has no one burst into the People printing plant and yelled, “Stop the presses!”? That’s what happens in the movies when huge news breaks after an issue’s already been put to bed—and news with immediate, sweeping implications for the ranking of this planet’s sexy men has unquestionably broken over the last few days. I trust you’ve heard about Pete and Kim?

Last week, Saturday Night Live comic Pete Davidson and reality star/entrepreneur/influencer Kim Kardashian held hands while riding a roller coaster at Knott’s Scary Farm, a California theme park decked out for Halloween. Maybe you could chalk that up to a show of platonic support on a spooky ride (or an attempt for Kardashian to wrest a little of the spotlight back from her sister Kourtney, whose recent engagement to and cavorting with Travis Barker had become a bit of a spectacle). But then Kardashian flew to New York and joined Davidson for a pizza date in Staten Island, all but confirming that this pairing is romantic in nature.

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Naturally, it’s all anyone can talk about. Page Six, which has been in fine form, is now calling Davidson “the Warren Beatty of his generation.” (Hope you had fun while it lasted, Cousin Greg.) In the past five years, Davidson has been linked to a string of beautiful, accomplished women—Cazzie David, Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale, Margaret Qualley, Kaia Gerber, and Phoebe Dynevor. Each time he’s spotted with a new flame, discussion turns to his mysterious charm, which continues to befuddle some even as it’s obvious to others. Yet even with such an already storied relationship history, adding Kim Kardashian to that list takes his legend to another level.

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That there has been a precipitous shift in the pecking order of sexiest men is self-evident. If People stands by the editorial integrity of the SMA franchise, that really ought to be reflected in its list, printing deadlines be damned. Just look at the optics: Everyone is in a tizzy over this one guy’s unlikely sex appeal, and People, which wants to be considered the premier arbiter of such things, swans in with some other guy? A total embarrassment.

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Incidentally, I asked the People representative if Davidson is included at all on the list. Though the cover star gets all the attention, typically the issues contain a list of additional sexy men, the Steve Kornackis and Dan Levys and such. The magazine was mum, sharing only that after the cover star is officially announced on this coming Tuesday, the rest of the men—Evans’ sexy prom court, if you will—will be announced on Wednesday. But I demand justice for Davidson, and justice is putting that lanky, goofy man on the cover, stat.

Now, I know this is unlikely for a multitude of reasons. Obviously, Pete Davidson is too edgy for People magazine. But I do think this fits into the broader problems with the Sexiest Man franchise. People’s picks, which used to attempt to choose “the guy of the moment,” an editor once explained, have become increasingly subject to publicist negotiations, going not to the sexiest star but the sexiest star willing to put up with the whole rigmarole. (Here is where I admit that my dark-horse prediction for this year was Ben Affleck: Everyone loves a comeback narrative, and I bet he would have done it!) In her snap-analysis of Evans’ selection, Elaine Lui, aka the esteemed LaineyGossip, explained, “The SMA had lost some of its specialness when it seemed like PEOPLE was just giving it to any male coach on The Voice and David Beckham, suggesting that maybe the movie stars were done with it altogether.” It’s rebounded in recent years, landing Idris Elba, John Legend, and Michael B. Jordan all in a row, but notably, all of them at least a year (sometimes a few years) after they felt much like “the guy of the moment.” Evans is not a bad pick by any means—he’s a huge improvement over 2017’s SMA, Blake freakin’ Shelton, for example—but would you say that he was 2021’s guy of the moment? (Amusingly, according to Page Six at least, he was in contention for the title last year but took himself out of the running after a certain accidental dick pic leak.) There is one guy of the moment right now, and we all know who it is.

Sadly, instead we’re witnessing another missed opportunity for an increasingly hoary print publication to prove its relevance. So much for an S.M.A. with B.D.E.

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