Last Tuesday, before the world changed, I handicapped potential candidates for PEOPLE Magazine’s 2016 Sexiest Man Alive and predicted, quite confidently, that it would be Dwayne The Rock Johnson. This Tuesday PEOPLE Magazine confirmed that their Sexiest Man Alive is indeed Dwayne The Rock Johnson. I’m good at this game. To be good at this game, you have to understand PEOPLE Magazine and its readers. You have to remember who the selection is for. It’s not for you because you love Mr Robot and Rami Malek. It’s not for you when your fave is Paul Rudd because he’s so cute and funny. It’s for the MiniVan Majority, a powerful majority, a majority PEOPLE cannot alienate, which is why their coverage last week was produced from their new satellite office inside the anal cavity of the Trump family.
Like many of you, I like The Rock for probably the same reasons you like The Rock: he’s charming, he doesn’t take himself too seriously, he’s really, really nice. But the reason he’s the SMA is because he is 100% MiniVan Majority approved. And yes, it’s amazing that he’s the first not-white choice since Denzel Washington TWENTY YEARS AGO. But is it though? Or is saying that it’s amazing part of the problem?
PEOPLE was criticised for their normalisation of Donald Trump following the election. They followed that up by revealing their Sexiest Man Alive and the reaction I’ve read to it being The Rock has been quite positive. So now the magazine gets to redirect the backlash they’ve received, quickly navigating the conversation to a place that’s more flattering for their brand… while perched on the broad shoulders of a man of colour. And that’s not to take anything away from The Rock himself and what he’s accomplished with his career and how he’ll exploit this in return to further his own ambitions – he should, absolutely he should. But just 7 days ago, PEOPLE Magazine used its considerable influence to anoint a person who has repeatedly attacked women and minorities, and now, in a stroke of fortunate timing, as The Rock was no doubt chosen well before the election, when many could not have imagined the eventual outcome, they’re benefiting from a member of one of those insulted communities to clean up their reputation. And now that they’ve crowned The Rock this year, does that mean that they can go back to the same-old same-old next year? Justin Timberlake is waiting.