Did you ever think about the gender orientation of teen heartthrobs?

Noah Brand over at No, Seriously What about the Menz? has posted an interesting little ditty about the gender bending/ feminiszing orientation of about 100 years of male teenage heartthrobs and the consistent gender policing of the masculine and  heteonormative backlash that ensues in response to these teens. The article is entitled Twilight, Bieber and Valentino.

The ideas that Noah is presenting have always fascinated me – in particular I have wondered why ‘feminized’ or ‘feminine’ men are regularly the fixture on the covers of teen fan magazines and other teen focused media directed at young girls. My thinking and pondering is two-fold – what makes these ‘feminine’ boys typical heartthrobs for teen girls, i.e what is the attraction, and when and why does the shift occur that leads women to pursue or desire traditional or hegemonic masculinity – which is violent and controlling? In some ways, I wonder if these young men look ‘feminine’ to us because they are so young – which ties into the whole idea that as men age they become distinguished – or rather they become more ‘masculine’? Clearly, I haven’t got this figured out but I have thought about it a lot — and  so has Noah over at NSWATM. Mostly, I’m interested in how the switch occurs  – wondering why women – even feminist women –  are attracted to the construct of hegemonic masculinity and define their sexuality in response to it –  (see bell hooks essay, “Seduced by Violence No More”) – when at some point they were attracted to softer, sweeter more compassionate images and ideas. And at the same time I wonder if the softer, sweeter ideas are the products of  a feminine gender identity – the whole Disney princess bit? How will we ever know?

Drifting from the intellectual banter… when I was in middle school I had a thing for two teen heartthrobs, Fred Savage – who I’m sure y’all remember from The Wonder Years – and Noah Hathaway – who was Atryeu in The Never Ending Story.  Early on in grad school, I came across a copy of The Never Ending Story in a five dollar bin. Without a second thought, I bought it.  (Side note: I also bought a copy of Space Camp that day – quality film, y’all.)  Anyway – I got home excited to watch – popped in the DVD and promptly felt like a pedophile. Tis same thing occurred when I re-watched The Wonder Years. Both Noah Hathaway and Fred Savage were kids in these productions, but as I grew my memories of them grew with me. In other words, I remembered men – but they were barely pubescent teens.  Take a look:

Weird, right?

Who was your heartthrob in middle school? Have you taken a look lately? Because I think you’ll find that your tastes have matured and somewhere along the way… Which clearly, we’re thankful for – but when we went from lusting after teens to lusting after men did we also incorperate hegemonic constructs of masculinity into our desire?


2 responses

    • What makes Bieber feminine to you? I guess what I am saying is how do we draw the boxes of feminine and masculine and what does that have to do with attraction? Are women all born loving makeup and fashion and men all born loving football and beer – No. SO, what is the nature of feminine with regards to Beiber? Clearly, I get why people see him as ‘feminine’ but how do we recognize this identity as part of the masculine spectrum and clearly sexually desirous to women – particularly those his own age?

      And how do we allow others to recognize that desire need not be born of the stereotypical gender extremes?

      Furthermore – I didn’t know JTT came out! Good for him. And Taylor Hanson, who ‘seemed’ the more girly of the two you noted, is heterosexual with a wife and a baby (maybe more than one) and still very famous in other parts of the world — http://www.hanson.net — check them out!

      I guess what I’m getting at is girly is not equal to gay and manly is not equal to hetero. People come in all flavors.

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