Handsome, handsome is dying.
People will define “handsome” differently. For the purposes of this piece, I define handsome as a mutually enriching balanced combination of beauty and projected innocence.
Once upon a time, men wanted to project an innocence. I am not idealizing another age and I have no illusions about the virtues of our grandparents, concupiscence being what it is. But some things were different in the back then. First and foremost, many handsome men, whatever the state of their souls, still wished to project a public innocence and virtue. And that combination of beauty and innocence is what I define as handsome.
By nature, generally when women see this combination in men it brings out their better qualities, their best in fact. That special combination of beauty and innocence, the handsome inspires women to protect and defend it.
Young men today do not seem to aspire to handsome, they prefer to be regarded as hot. Hotness is something altogether different. When men want to be hot instead of handsome, they must view themselves in a certain way and consequently women view them differently as well.
As I said, handsome inspires women’s nobler instincts to protect and defend. Handsome is cherished. Hotness, on the other hand, is a commodity. Its value is temporary and must be used. It is a consumable.
Nowhere is this handsome deficit more obvious than in our “stars,” the people we elevate as the “ideal.” The stars of the fifties surely suffered from the same sin as do stars of today. Stars of the fifties weren’t ideal but they pursued a public ideal different from today.
The merits of hotness over handsome is easy enough to understand, they made an entire episode of Freaks and Geeks about it. Who can forget how handsome John Francis Daley’s character of Sam Weir was at the beginning of Freaks and Geeks. Beautiful and innocent if somewhat of a geek. But his desire to be desired by cheerleader Cindy Sanders leads him to throw away all that is valuable in himself by wearing a sparkly jumpsuit in the vain hope of getting the attention of a girl. In the process, he destroys her innocence and thus destroys the handsome. What we are left with is hotness, and a little bit of awkwardness.
Hotness is a consumable. A consumable that consumes as it is consumed but brings no warmth.
Most men don’t want to be handsome anymore even if they understand what it is. It is ironic that billions of years of men’s complete dominance and control of the culture has succeeded only in turning men into a commodity. Something to be used up and thrown out.
Of course women play a role in this as well, but men should know better and they once did. Once upon a time you would hear boys talk about kind of men women date and the kind they marry. You don’t hear things like that anymore.
But here is the real truth. Most women prefer handsome over hot. Even back in 1999 grade I hated the “hot” Same Weir and felt sorry for him that he had to debase himself in such a way. Still do.
Our problem is that society doesn’t value innocence anymore, real or imagined. Nobody aspires to innocence anymore. Nobody wants to be thought of as innocent, the good boy. They want to be hot, not handsome. And when I say “nobody” I really just mean men.
I still hope that handsome comes back, although I think it not likely any time soon. For every Justin Beiber, there are a hundred The Situations, or Taylor Lautners, or David Beckhams etc.
Boys, please, bring back the handsome.