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Hollywood’s Marmite Men


Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you will have at least heard about THAT Barry Keoghan scene…if not seen it for yourself in (the rather Marmite movie) Saltburn. In fact, there are two scenes making the headlines and he’s driving people wild. Although, good wild or bad wild? It seems Mr K’s popularity is causing a debate, sparking conversations about the evolving standards of beauty and sex appeal in the entertainment industry.

Fans of Saltburn and in particular, Barry Keoghan, hail him as a heartthrob. Ulrika Johnson publicly shared her fascination with Keoghan’s looks, calling them ‘beguiling, exciting, and captivating.’ She even admitted, ‘I can't deny being stirred inappropriately by his presence on screen.’ And, unsurprisingly, social media exploded. While many totally agreed with these descriptions, many did not share the same perspective. For the multi-award-nominated actor is what some might call unconventional by Hollywood’s old-fashioned standards. Despite this, Barry Keoghan’s star is firmly on the rise, his talent shining bright and landing him roles in highly-anticipated movies. 

And he’s not the only one.

In 2012, an unknown actor was cast in the HBO comedy-drama series Girls, as the boyfriend of the protagonist, played by Lena Dunham. He received three nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role and has since appeared in the Star Wars sequel trilogy and earned Oscar nominations for his performances in BlacKkKlansman and Marriage Story. Yes, that actor is of course, Adam Driver, currently gracing the big screen as Ferrari in Michael Mann’s biopic about the Italian innovator. His mesmerising talent aside, Driver has also caused a stir when it comes to his looks. Is he magnetically attractive? Or is he remarkably dark and moody? Both? Whatever your opinion, he is breaking the typical Hollywood stereotype.

Matt Smith was catapulted to fame in 2010 when he was cast as the 11th Doctor in the hit BBC franchise Doctor Who. Diehard fans of the show were cruel, moaning online that Matt was ‘too ugly’ for the role, and compared his appearance to an ‘emo rock star’. Since then, the actor has gone on to star in Netflix's The Crown and HBO's House of Dragon. A fan declared, ‘The thing about Matt Smith is that he's not super conventionally attractive, but he has frankly ridiculous levels of natural charisma that make it very easy to understand the women who fall in love with the various characters he plays.’ Others, however, didn’t use their words so kindly, saying, ‘My toxic trait is finding Matt Smith attractive’.

Although it’s not just the “weird” looks getting pulses racing. There’s pixie-like sweetness, too. Timothee Chalamet recently melted our hearts - and a lot of chocolate - in the family favourite, Wonka. He’s been showcasing his incredible acting range since a young age with dramatic leading roles in Little Women, Call Me By Your Name and Beautiful Boy. Sensitive and pale with soft curls and a boyish cuteness, Chalamet wouldn’t be classed as a Hollywood hunk, yet he’s making many swoon. He comes across as rather humble and yet, his presence dominates. One fan sums it up, saying, ‘Timothee is cute and adorable with a lot of energy and charisma. Every time I watch an interview featuring him, he makes me smile’.

So, is personality finally taking precedent over aesthetics? Are we comfortable being attracted to the person radiating from the body, rather than the physical body itself? Hollywood has always presented the ideal man as being a shredded, tough hero with a suave persona and a commanding cool in moments of strife. But has there been a permanent shift? 

Benedict Cumberbatch, another A-lister who divides the room, has been labelled by the press as a heartthrob now for more than a decade, although the actor is ‘very flattered and slightly bemused’ about this status. Once upon a time, movie-star males had sun-kissed hair and a six-pack. Now, we associate that with Barbie’s fella, Ken.

Speaking of Ken, the man himself - Ryan Gosling - was once told he lacked conventional sex appeal! One of the main reasons he was cast as the lead in The Notebook was because the director said, ‘I want you to play this role because you’re not like the other young actors out there in Hollywood. You’re not handsome, you’re not cool, you’re just a regular guy who looks a bit nuts.’ So maybe it really is Gosling’s twinkling charm and smooth personality that make him so attractive. When it comes down to what’s hot and what’s not, it surely is subjective.

Perhaps it’s about feeling at ease with who you fancy. Sure, Brad Pitt and George Clooney are pleasing on the eye, but have they become intimidating to the general public? Traditional good looks have a reputation of going hand-in-hand with a big ego and a lover on their arm who’s equally drop dead gorgeous. As pretty as this is to spectate, are we put off by feeling so entirely out of their league? It could be that we’ve stopped focusing on those who rely on their looks for appeal, and naturally, we’ve become drawn to those who allow us to see their inner-beauty instead. 

Imperfections are the new biceps it seems. Whatever they lack in symmetry, they make up for by being interesting. The small eyes and the big nose will have a story to tell, perhaps worth waking up to. We have grown up feeling insecure about ourselves, brainwashed by beauty and being told that we’re valuable only if we’re stunning. Now, in 2024, have the tables finally turned? The limelight is being stolen by talent mixed with unusual quirks and it’s causing serious excitement. It’s relatable. If this strange looking bloke can take Hollywood by storm, then maybe I’m not so bad after all. Maybe I am enough.

This all said, surely it’s time for Hollywood to recognise women in the same category - an unconventional female beauty? Hmm, not such a hot topic, right? America Ferrera made a name for herself starring in the title role of Ugly Betty, and she is far from ugly. If we can put the odd-looking men on a pedestal and fall head over heels with their cracks, chips and dents, then let’s make way for women to walk along the same path. Let’s celebrate talent. Let’s be curious, rather than judgmental. For every Barry Keoghan there’s a woman with a story to tell and a light to shine.  


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