The questions that Hamm faces, from whether he should just invest in some Calvins to whether he should be flattered by the attention, are ones actresses have fielded forever. It’s a framing that acts as if the problem were the kind of underwear starlets and their stylists were picking out, rather than the photographers who zoom telephoto lenses in on their crotches. It says that if people get a glimpse of your body once, they’re entitled to speculate it about it forever, and you’re a prude for reminding people that you’re more than the sum of your junk.
What makes Hamm different from, say, Anne Hathaway, who had to weather discussion about the appearance of her nipples in her Academy Awards dress, is that Hamm isn’t used to being objectified. He has outrage left to burn, rather than being exhausted by endless appearance-based prying and insane body standards.
This is surely connected to a shift in the public’s understanding of male sexiness. This began in the 1990s, as Calvin Klein recruited Marky Mark’s abs, as Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber changed the presentation of the male body in photography (influenced by Robert Mapplethorpe), and as women became more empowered and gay men became more public. I wrote a cover-story on this for TNR in, er, 1988. This is male objectification turned back on the male. Alyssa is kind to empathize. But after all that women have had to endure over the centuries, a little payback isn’t so terrible a thing. And Jon Hamm simply cannot look bad. But I miss the beard.
(Photo: Actor Jon Hamm arrives at the Premiere of AMC’s ‘Mad Men’ Season 6 at DGA Theater on March 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. By Jason Merritt/Getty Images)