Friday, June 27, 2008

In praise of pretty boys

Alpha males? Forget 'em. (And apologies in advance for having one of the posts I claim to despise, full of pictures of attractive men and my Youtube favorites.)

I like men who aren't afraid to wear makeup or silk or elaborate clothing that emphasizes both their masculine and feminine sides. As Jo Beverly says of Georgian men, the delicious thing is that all this fine plumage only disguised the hawks beneath ... most gentlemen routinely wore swords, and knew how to use them.

How about a man who ... isn't really a man? Or is he? How about the gorgeous Billy Crudup in a dress and out of a dress in Stage Beauty? Here's a wonderful scene where actor Ned Kynaston demonstrates what's beneath his magnificent skirts--you're much too beautiful to be a man--and an intensely erotic scene where he and Maria (Claire Danes) explore roles. I wish I could write something as sexy and beautiful as the weaving hands here.

The ultimate in sexual ambiguity of the eighteenth century was the castrato--an international superstar singer like Farinelli. Trained since childhood, and with the advantages of height and huge lung capacity, castrati could perform amazing musical feats of breath and control, rarely attempted by modern singers, although virtuoso mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux is one of the few who can handle this repertoire. When the 1994 movie Farinelli was made, his "voice" was digitally created using counter-tenor Derek Lee Ragin and coloratura Ewa Godlewska's voices as raw material--read more here.

And here's a gorgeous scene from Farinelli using that engineered voice--I love the way it shows the
very stylized stage (watch for the erectile peacock) and the typical audience behavior at the opera. It's Farinelli's London debut, at which the crowd really did shout "One God, one Farinelli," although the movie uh, embroidered the history a bit (but who are we to point fingers?). The aria Lascia ch'io pianga is from the opera Rinaldo by Handel (the gentleman with the wig)--and you'll see why the words are so appropriate for a castrato to sing:

Let me lament
my cruel destiny
and yearn for liberty!

May grief, in its mercy,
shatter the bonds
of my torment

Who are your favorite pretty boys?


Erastes said...


You won't get any complaints from me. Ambiguous males have been my favourites for many many years.

I learned recently that Beau Brummel took as much as five hours to dress and good for him! Got to look nice. I wish that men were still able to be peacocks again.

My favourites at the moment (although not sexually ambiguous) are Alex Pettyfer

and Jamie Campbell Bowen

However a young Adam Ant was delicious too.

And the chameleon - the Thin White Duke

Anonymous said...

Oh, great post! Curiously enough, I've just done one on a similar subject over on The Macaronis blog. I'm a big fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and one of the things I loved about 'Rob Roy' was the fact that the evil mincing English fop - with his lace and face powder - totally outclassed the manly highlanders when it came to swordfighting.

He was an appalling character, but I did just love that recognition that an 18th Century man was not to be taken less seriously as a physical threat just because he was parading about in makeup and a peacock silk suit :)

Jane Lockwood said...

Alexbee--oh yes! I loved the English fop in that movie far too much, and the way he posed and strutted when he fought was fabulous. Gotta go look for that on Youtube...

Hi Erastes, thanks for sharing your fave pretty boys with us.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Johnny Depp goes without saying. Billy Crudup in Stage Beauty absolutely. Adrien Brody has had his gorgeous moments. And though there are only snippets of a very young Michael York from this youtube trailer of the 60s movie Accident, I remember it... him... vividly. He also played the Christopher Isherwood character in Cabaret.

For that matter, the young Christopher Isherwood.

Frank Churchill from Emma. As I imagine Emma, anyway.

brownone said...

I have to add Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in "Interview with a Vampire".

Kate Pearce said...

Orlando Bloom as an elf, of course, eternal youthful beauty-nice

Georgette Heyer's Duke of Avon, all that strength behind the satin and lace.

Have to include the hero of Julia Ross's The Seduction as well-sigh...

Christina said...

I'm not if this qualifies, but when I was way younger, I had a odd fascination with David Bowie's character Jareth from Labyrinth when it first came out. He had just this kind of attractive evilness about him--I cannot tell you how many times I watched that movie because of him.

Tumperkin said...

Yes - love pretty boys who're all lethal underneath. In literature: Francis Lymond from Dunnett's Game of Kings series, Gervase St Erth from Heyer's Quiet Gentleman and also Duke of Avon from Powder and Patch.

In real life, Jonathan Rhys Meyer does this type exceptionally well. Johnny Depp goes without saying. Also Gabriel Gael Garcia (is that name right?).