While promoting his new film Priscilla, in which he stars as Elvis, Elordi revealed to Jimmy Fallon that his first celebrity crush was Pitt as Achilles in the 2004 epic Troy.
“That’s a beautiful man,” Elordi told Fallon. “There’s just no denying it.”
Fallon seemed delighted by the admission, cackling away before saying, “That’s so funny”. The audience laughed too, but what exactly was so funny about it? Maybe Fallon was surprised that Elordi should name a man in response to his question; perhaps he was expecting Elordi to reel off a list of female romcom stars.
The talk show host’s response was par for the course when a straight man professes admiration for the appearance of another man, a kind of default defusing mechanism lest anyone should read too much into things.
Elordi, who is only 26 and part of a younger generation that is far more comfortable in their sexuality, and far less homophobic than previous generations, has shared other celeb crushes before. In a 2021 interview with W Magazine, he said that his first cinematic crush was Orlando Bloom as Legolas in The Lord of the Rings.
“I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is perfect’,” Elordi said. “He was so pure and fine.”
So, why do we feel the need to cloak the straight male gaze, when it’s directed at other males, in humour? Why is it so unusual for a man to openly admire another’s looks? Well, as progressive as some sections of our society have become, homophobia still persists. Many men would still think twice about complimenting another man’s looks for fears of being misunderstood. That is a shame.
Another factor that might be at play is the fact that males are often competitive with each other and that can extend to appearance. Many men might secretly admire other man’s looks (and their bodies) in an aesthetic, non-sexual fashion, yet would be loath to issue a compliment to a potential competitor. This can be particularly true of younger, more insecure men. I can remember feeling jealous when girls talked about other guys’ looks at university. It was usually accompanied by a socially conditioned tightening in my chest and feelings of enmity towards the target of their desire.
At that point I lacked the aesthetic appreciation for male beauty that comes with age, mostly because as boys growing up, we’re not socialised or conditioned to recognise or appreciate it. Instead, it’s something you are vaguely aware of—I think as a young boy I knew that Harrison Ford was a handsome man but I needed female validation to confirm my hunch. In the ’90s, after his shirtless scene in Thelma and Louise caused every girl in my high school to lose their mind over Pitt, it was relatively easy to see what the fuss was about. The severe gradations in his torso appeared to be the work of a master sculptor, his golden hair spun in a loom and his jaw and cheekbones the work of a divine hand—sorry Jacob, but ’90s Brad shits all over Brad from Troy.
Still, while classic heartthrobs like Brad–and today, the impossibly beautiful Timothée Chalamet–are easy to recognise and appreciate as aesthetically pleasing specimens, ruggedly handsome dudes have always been a problem for me–Pedro Pascal would have utterly perplexed me as a younger man. Back at uni again, I would often be surprised at some of the choices of the girls in my dorm. “Him? You think he’s good looking?” But once he’d been validated by the women around me, I was then able to see what they saw: dimples, a lopsided smile, cute curls etc etc.
Later, as my confidence in recognising male beauty increased, I was able to develop my own particular preferences, though sometimes my choices were rooted in insecurity and my own physical shortcomings. As someone whose hair began thinning in my teens, thick lustrous locks have always been an object of desire for me. I would often pick out guys with thick thatches of hair and ask my female friends what they thought of him. Sometimes they approved but other times they’d shrug their shoulders. I was so caught up in the density of the dude’s follicles that I’d overlook the fact that facially he was a bit of ‘plain James or Jason’. Projecting your insecurities onto objects of attraction is probably common, we all want what we don’t have—which is perhaps why Brad is such a common pick for guys as well as girls. The guy is/was solid in so many areas. Whatever weakness you have, from a wobbly chin to a retreating hairline to a boxer’s nose, Brad probably does not share.
I do remember when I became comfortable in expressing my admiration for other guys’ looks. It was when my best friend, Strath, started doing it. Strath had a great eye for beauty in all forms and when he started praising the physical characteristics of dudes around campus, I found it liberating and began to do so myself. Sometimes though, this too, was rooted in insecurity. I would overly praise a guy’s looks in front of another friend, David, who was not at all comfortable in assessing his fellow man, so as to highlight my comparative progressiveness.
Other times I did it in front of female friends as a form of virtue signalling and do remember being complimented for it by one female friend who said, “It’s so cool that you guys talk about other guys like that. None of the guys in my hometown would ever do that”. Mission accomplished.
All of this is to say, that recognising another man’s beauty has for a long time been complicated and fraught. It’s perhaps not surprising that Elordi, a beautiful man in his own right—I once took a selfie with him at an event and felt all of my deficiencies, especially height (dude is 6’ 4”) brought into sharp relief—is secure enough to point out his fellow stars’ beauty. I suspect it will become more and more common. And one day it won’t be a joke. It won’t be funny. It won’t be perceived as ‘homosexual’. It’ll just be a statement of fact.
Beautiful men through the ages
An enduring pin-up; for many the epitome of male beauty.
Gorgeous face and hulking physique. A sound choice.
The eyes have it.
Long popular with the ladies, after John Wick a lot of guys have jumped on board too. Aging fantastically. No one looks better in a well-cut suit.
Made grey hair cool.
Stole hearts in Titanic—yet to give them back.
Hair, eyes, moves, absolute dynamite all-round package.
Michael B Jordan
Whether starring in The Fantastic Four or Friday Night Lights, Jordan always brings it.
Has there ever been a more conventionally attractive man?
One of the prettiest men ever to grace the silver screen… cheekbones!