I wrote about PEOPLE’s annual Sexiest Man Alive issue three weeks ago in a post about George Clooney, after he and Julia Roberts joked about him being named SMA for the third time. Which was then followed by me wondering whether or not Glen Powell was ready yet for the SMA title. And then this question – because I’m that asshole who quotes myself:
“[But] should Glen Powell be the Sexiest Man Alive before Chris Evans who has never, ever been the Sexiest Man Alive?”
People have been predicting Chris Evans for years. Last year Page Six went so far as to report that it would be Chris and then ended up eating sh-t when it was announced as Paul Rudd instead. Turns out Page Six was a year early.
Here’s me quoting myself again from that post three weeks ago:
“If Chris Evans wanted the title, PEOPLE would surely give it to him, no question. Is he finally ready for it or will he continue to pass?”
We know the answer now. It was… inevitable (ha!). Chris Evans is ready. Chris Evan finally said yes. And what’s he saying yes to?
Well, for starters, as I say every year, the SMA is a commitment. When you agree to it, PEOPLE asks for exclusives. There has to be an interview and there has to be a photo shoot. And if you can’t bear to do either, the offer is off the table. Because for the magazine, what’s the point of just naming someone who doesn’t want to fully participate?
So here’s Chris participating in a photo shoot for the MiniVan Majority and answering questions about being sexy:
Is it corny? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Not always. The point is to not take it that seriously and there was a time when Chris took his celebrity too seriously. (This is why Leonardo DiCaprio would never do this.) When he was still committed to Captain America and there was endless talk about when he’d be done with his MCU obligations. When it seemed like he was working through his professional angst about being trapped in a superhero box.
Now that he’s had some distance from Steve Rogers and has been able to make his mark away from Cap’s shield, fresh off a great performance in The Gray Man, in which he looked like he was having so much fun being a dick; now that he’s found his sense of humour again…
Chris is ready to accept the proposal. Especially since there’s now so much comedy involved with the whole tradition.
It was a really smart move last year for PEOPLE to collaborate with Stephen Colbert and The Late Show for the announcement. Prior to Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel had the honours a few times, and Jimmy Fallon too. But Colbert commands a different kind of respect from people in Hollywood. All of them are funny in their respective ways but Colbert’s brand is much more satirical than the others. His political commentary is perceived to more sophisticated. His Sexiest Man Alive coverage, then, is much more tongue-in-cheek. He’s as much openly making fun of it as he is celebrating it.
For Chris, then, to have his confirmation presented this way, like a comedy bit, is a lot more palatable, it takes down the cheese factor. He gets to be in on the joke. And it was a big joke on Colbert last night, starting with John Oliver and then including Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Chris’s latest co-star, and also the Sexiest Man Alive in 2016.
This is a win for everyone. Colbert and PEOPLE got two big movie stars for the price of one but also, for Chris, sharing the spotlight – and with a dude that almost no one can argue with – makes the whole process way more enjoyable, less embarrassing, if he was still worried about all that.
And then, of course, there’s the message at the end, the opportunity, on this critical day, to send a reminder, which also tracks with the kind of work outside of Hollywood that he’s been doing over the last few years.
My point is that this rollout was really well-produced, strategically produced to service multiple brands and boost all stakeholders involved. This was never going to hurt Chris Evans but the Show Your Work goal here was to do it in a way that not only doesn’t hurt, but helps his overall public image beyond people just thirsting for him. And ultimately found a way to wear the crown in a way that checks all the boxes for him.
There is, however, a bigger conversation to be had about the Sexiest Man Alive overall. If we’re talking about “man” and “sexy”, choosing Chris Evans upholds the status quo. Another white, cis, straight SMA has been crowned as the symbol of masculinity at a time when we’re trying to move away from rigid definitions of masculinity.
I mean, it’s not like anyone is out here expecting PEOPLE Magazine of all publications to lead the way in progressing beyond these increasingly arcane social and gender norms. They are, after all, catering to that MiniVan Majority audience. But it’s also worth thinking about what is sexy for the rest of the PEOPLE who are occupying a bigger and bigger place in our culture.
Also attached - Chris on set of Red One with Dwayne Johnson this week in Atlanta.