For a long time, many aspects of the media were created for the male gaze. The sexualization of women was the backbone to money being made in many aspects of the media. However, People Magazine has set out to change that with their Sexiest Man Alive issues. Every year since 1985, People Magazine has selected a famous man to be that year’s sexiest man alive. The title comes with a cover shoot and an interview exploring the man’s life story. There are also small categories to name sexy men in specific disciplines, such as Sexiest Athlete, Sexiest TV Star, Sexiest Blockbuster Star and more. Then there are other men who don’t belong to a specific category, but still deserve to be highlighted. In short, the Sexiest Man Alive issue honors some of the best famous men in society. After all, while sexiness is mostly about looks, it takes a certain personality and charm to earn recognition. This year, with an announcement on Nov. 7, this year’s sexiest man alive is Patrick Dempsey. Most people know Dempsey from his role as Dr. Derek Shepherd, who was lovingly nicknamed “McDreamy” in “Grey’s Anatomy.” Dempsey has been off the series for years, so him being the sexiest man of 2023 looks to be an odd choice. However, with his megawatt smile, soft hair, great body, positive attitude and suaveness, is anyone going to deny that he is worthy of this title? This choice leads to many questions, like what does it truly take to earn this title? Is it a prestigious title? What does it mean for the winner and for the observers? The questions go on. While the title is supposed to be playful, it has been a part of society’s culture for so long, curiosities are inevitable.
Naturally, there is more to consider than just sexiness when it comes to choosing the Sexiest Man Alive. After all, People Magazine is a for-profit magazine; they need to get people that will sell magazines, while also being sexy. Let’s travel back to the first holder of the title, Mel Gibson. Not only would he not win it now because he is old and irrelevant, but also because his antisemitic viewpoints make him unfavorable to the public, as they should. However, we have to look at this selection from a 1985 lens. This Mel Gibson was a star actor and an action hero with an accent and was objectively handsome. Those were the qualities that earned him the title. Since then, the sexy men that have been chosen have usually been ones that everyone wants to see on the cover of their magazine at that moment. When John F. Kennedy Jr. won in 1988, he was not an actor with a big movie, but his presence was everywhere and he was the ultimate dreamboat. When Patrick Swayze won in 1991, he had just come from doing the most sensual pottery session in “Ghost” that drove women wild. In 2001, Pierce Brosnan was a hot James Bond that captivated everyone with his style and sophistication. In 2012, Channing Tatum won the title after playing a particularly sexy stripper in “Magic Mike.” The reasons for winners go on and on as pop culture’s icons constantly evolve.
Because of the idea of relevancy, Dempsey was an odd choice. He is set to be in the biopic “Ferrari” and the horror film “Thanksgiving” this year, but those roles don’t usually win someone this title. However, people are still talking about his sexiness, so his title could be chalked up to having a long shelf life. People were confused by the announcement, but they were not mad. He has often been the hot guy in films and television series, such as “Enchanted” and “Bridget Jones’ Baby” along with the previously mentioned “Grey’s Anatomy,” so calling Dempsey sexy is not unusual. He also seems to have taken care of himself, so his looks are still something to behold. Based on recent trends, it looks like the silver fox has gone back in style. At 57, Dempsey is at the older end of the Sexiest Man Alive winners. Two years ago, 52-year-old Paul Rudd held the title. There were also honorable mention sexy men like Kevin Bacon and Stanley Tucci who can hold on to their sexiness in their sixties. These days, beauty does not always have to mean youth. While Dempsey may not be the young hot-shot he once was, he has aged like wine and that could be the cover look to get people to buy a magazine in 2023.
As previously mentioned, there is more to the Sexiest Man Alive issue than the main winner. There are many other attractive men who receive recognition through categories. These are voted on online by anyone with internet access a few weeks before the magazine issue. So unlike the main Sexiest Man Alive, these winners are agreed upon by the public, so they can reflect what the public wants. For instance, this year’s Sexiest TV Star is James Marsden, who had a comeback this year with “Jury Duty.” He’s 50 years old but has boyish good looks and goofiness along with a down-to-earth personality. It should not be that much of a shock that people like him on their television screens. There is the Sexiest Athlete, which went to Kansas City Chiefs Star Travis Kelce. This win likely comes from the recent press Kelce has been receiving for his very public relationship with Taylor Swift. That does not mean he is not attractive as a strong man with a nice smile, but this poll would probably end up differently if it was done two months ago. Alternatively, the winner of Sexiest Musician was Harry Styles, who would likely win the previous couple of years as well as the next couple of years. The fans cannot get enough of him and it’s only a matter of time before he makes the cover. There is also Sexiest Grandpa, which goes to the previously mentioned Sexiest Man Alive Pierce Brosnan. The category does seem a little weird, but that just goes back to the celebration of silver foxes. Then there’s one of the more important categories, the Sexiest Pedro Pascal. It has been established this year that society sees Pascal as the new hot icon, which means he is worthy of his own category. The winner was dog dad Pedro Pascal, as people can not get enough of a cute man with a cute dog. There are many more categories, and they all demonstrate the various ways a man can be hot. They may not win the top prize, but they were picked by the fans and that is a vote that should mean a lot.
After the polls, there are the honorable mentions picked by People. These are the men that may not win the top prize, but their looks can not be ignored. For instance, there is Michael Bublé, one of the most famous modern crooners. A lot of mainstream sex appeal has come from his sensual singing voice, but his forever polished and stylish looks help too. Another Sexiest Man Alive contender is Leslie Odom Jr., who got his big break starring in “Hamilton,” was nominated for an Oscar for “One Night in Miami,” and is currently starring in the play “Purlie Victorious.” He can sing, dance, act and has great muscles. While he has not had a starring film role for him to truly break out, a deserved recognition like this one demonstrates that his time will come. Then there’s Simu Liu, who rose to fame by starring in the Marvel film “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and got even bigger by playing a Ken in “Barbie.” He is on the rise, and his suaveness and fun-loving attitude help with that rise. Two types of films where hot men can be found are Marvel films and films where men play Ken dolls (there should be more films in that latter category). Another delightful addition is Timothée Chalamet. While some people may believe he is too boyish-looking to be considered sexy, his looks have garnered him a lot of attention. The hair, face and style have made him eye candy. Maybe after he develops more mature looks, he could win the main prize. The honorable mentions are not stopping there. There are other worthy mentions like Jason Kelce, Carson Daly, Lenny Kravitz, Usher and more. The men who get these honorable mentions usually are not at the level of the main winner in terms of fame and marketability. However, they still absolutely deserve their recognition because people can not get enough of them. It would be a pretty boring magazine if it was only celebrating one man. When a multitude of men are recognized, there can be something for everyone. That is what makes this yearly issue so exciting and steamy.
Now, we will wait until next November for the 2024 Sexiest Man Alive. It could truly be anyone, as we do not know what the pop culture landscape will look like in a year. That goes for the main prize as well as the smaller winner. When it comes to fame, a lot of people will come and go from the spotlight. There could be another Dempsey situation where the winner is someone out of the blue, leading to a new pattern for winners. On the other hand, it could be more like last year where Chris Evans won. That was a winner that was very much in the spotlight. The magazine has to think about what the people want. Do they want everlasting sexiness or a sexy man of the moment? They are just thinking of what will be more likely to sell. They could also look at the reader’s polls to get an idea on what the people want as they can notice patterns in the winners. It is probably a stretch to call all of this scientific, but there are definitely some formulas that are related to sales and advertising that make it all work. After all, this title has been given for 36 years, so they must be doing something right. At the end of the day, sexiness is subjective. We probably won’t always agree with People because we all have our own opinions. However, the choice can be a fun reflection of what society is looking, respectfully, at. It is a silly title, but a magazine filled with the sexiest men of the moment can certainly be something fun to get behind.