The Perfect Mandate: Obama & Becks (& the Media)

David Beckham, global poster-boy for met­ro­sexu­al­ity, sport­ing an Edwardian beard, had a hot date with Obama at the White House today.

Though he had to bring his team-mates along as LA Galaxy were being hon­oured with a recep­tion after win­ning the Major League Soccer Cup, America’s equi­val­ent of the Premiership.

After list­ing the soc­cer star’s achieve­ments, intro­du­cing him josh­ingly as a “young up-and-comer,” and adding that, “half your team­mates could be your kids”, Obama quipped (almost fluff­ing the line): “It’s a rare man that can be that tough on the field and have his own line of underwear.”

Or as rare as a GQ Commander in Chief?

Contrary to recent reports, Obama is not the first gay President. He’s the first met­ro­sexual President. Or as I wrote in Metrosexy:

A well-dressed mixed-race, poly­glot male who makes the Free World wait on his gym visit every morn­ing. A man whose looks are reg­u­larly praised – par­tic­u­larly by male jour­nal­ists. A man who won the Demo­c­ra­tic nom­i­na­tion in part because he was much pret­tier than his more expe­ri­enced female oppo­nent. His wife Michelle is very attrac­tive too, of course – but in some ways Obama is the first US Pres­i­dent to be his own First Lady.”

Which makes the Beckham and Obama’s hot date quite a his­toric occasion.

I can’t quite decide though whether Obama’s own rampant met­ro­sexu­al­ity makes his bitchy remark to Beckham about his under­wear funny or a bit… pants.

Becks Obama The Perfect Mandate: Obama & Becks (& the Media)

Metrosexual Smoothie

Burger King have come a long way from their ‘man­them’ anti-metro back­lash days of the mid Noughties in which they lit­er­ally sang the praises of fatty food.

Now their ads star the ulti­mate met­ro­sexual smoothie, David Beckham, who is given the kind of soft-focus, mouth-watering treat­ment in this ad that used to be reserved for their ‘man-food’ Whoppers. Beckham is the ‘excit­ing thing’ hap­pen­ing at Burger King.

And he really does have a very appet­ising, seduct­ive smile. Even his ter­rible act­ing is appeal­ing. There is also some­thing charm­ingly sub­missive about the way he pleads for his order. No won­der the female server is transfixed.

Like BK’s new menu, which includes freshly-made low-calorie fruit smooth­ies, chicken strips and ‘snack-wraps’ — or what might once have been called ‘girl-food’ — Beckham is part of a push to rebrand BK, whose sales have been plum­met­ing. Even back in the Noughties, ‘man­them’ was an attempt to make a manly vir­tue out of BK’s accel­er­at­ing obsol­es­cence. Clearly even that approach isn’t work­ing any more.

The ad rams home the rebrand­ing of BK by play­ing up the omni­sexual appeal of the met­ro­sexual pin-up. The middle-aged male man­ager also finds him­self cap­tiv­ated by Becks’ beauty mid­way through say­ing ‘I am sorry David we make them fresh every time with… fruit.’ It’s unclear whether the man­ager is actu­ally a ‘fruit’ him­self or just another straight man who finds him­self strangely drawn by Beckham’s beguil­ing looks. Probably the lat­ter as he seems genu­inely sur­prised by his own response.

Beckham the equal opps nar­ciss­ist isn’t phased of course and replies, with an indul­gent smile: ‘No prob­lem, John’.

The only part that mys­ti­fies me is why any­one, male or female, straight or gay, would fan­tas­ise that the be-jeaned and denim-shirted Becks before them was actu­ally dressed as a 1960s undertaker.

Tip: Natty Soltesz


David Beckham’s Total Package — And his Fascinating Foot

On The Jonathan Ross Show last night David Beckham was the star guest. He looked great of course. But I kept find­ing myself star­ing at Mr Beckham’s foot.

Naturally, it was shod taste­fully and expens­ively — in keep­ing with his John Hamm hairdo and 60s-style black whistle and flute. But that wasn’t what drew my eye. No, it was the way it was trem­bling.

The icon of the age had feet of jelly.

Or at least, a foot of jelly. David (I think we can use first names here; in fact, I’m sure he would insist on it) was sit­ting cross-legged on the sofa, facing Ross’ chins. His face was smil­ing radi­antly, teeth and eyes flash­ing and laugh­ing. His body lan­guage speak­ing of the cas­ual grace and ease of beauty, celebrity, money. He was doing in other words all the things you’re sup­posed to do on a chat show sofa.

But his raised foot was shak­ing. Violently. And in doing so it suc­ceeded in  say­ing much more than the other end. It made me think of the pro­ver­bial serenity of swans under­scored by that furi­ous pad­dling you know is going on beneath the water-line.

There are plenty of good reas­ons to be ter­ri­fied on a chat show, even one not presen­ted by Jonathan Ross and his unac­count­able van­ity. But Becks has more reas­ons than most. He has a lot to lose. If by chance, and much against his bet­ter judge­ment, not to men­tion media train­ing, he were to actu­ally say some­thing or have, god for­bid, an opin­ion it would cost him mil­lions in cor­por­ate fees.

At one point he was talk­ing about, I think (but can’t be sure because even when you try to listen to David it’s very hard to focus), the bene­fits of his foot­ball academies for get­ting kids away from their Playstations and out­doors. But then caught him­self: ‘Not that there’s any­thing wrong with Playstation, of course,’ he added very hast­ily. And not that there’s any­thing wrong with another Sony endorse­ment deal, either.

Or maybe his foot was trem­bling because he knew that later Jonathan Ross would pull his pants down and shove his own Aussiebum   pack­aged groin into David’s fam­ous face. (No, this actu­ally happened and was even more dis­turb­ing than it sounds.)

In the ad break there was more David. David out of his expens­ive suit  and in his pants, spin­ning around, selling David, and selling his H&M ‘bodywear’.

In keep­ing with the trade­mark passiv­ity of met­ro­sexu­al­ity in gen­eral and über-metro Becks in par­tic­u­lar, the ad fea­tures much bat­ting of long eye­lashes, and arms held defence­less above the head, as the cam­era licks its lens up and down and around his legs and torso. Teasingly never quite reach­ing the pack­age we’ve already seen a zil­lion times on the side of buses and in shop win­dows — but instead deliv­er­ing us his cotton-clad bum, his logo and his mil­lion dwollar smile.

I’m here for you. Want me. Take me. Wear me. Stretch me. Soil me. But above all: buy me.

All, curi­ously, to the strains of The Animals: ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’. Is it meant to be ironic? What after all is to be misunder­stood? Don’t the images tell us everything? Even what we don’t want to know. About the total com­modi­fic­a­tion of masculinity.

Perhaps Beck’s foot could have told us, but alas it didn’t appear in the ad and was unavail­able for comment.

Beckham Shop window David Beckhams Total Package   And his Fascinating Foot


Becks Bag David Beckhams Total Package   And his Fascinating Foot

Carelessly dis­posed shop­ping bags pose a real men­ace to defence­less celebrities.


Tip: DAKrolak & Mark Rangel


David Beckham’s ‘End Result’ — Can You Handle It?

Better order some indus­trial strength lip balm and prac­tise sup­press­ing the gag reflex.

Shameless sporno star and über-metrosexual David Beckham is ram­ming his eye-popping lunch­box down our col­lect­ive throats again. This time with a media ‘offens­ive’ for his own line of men’s undies – and strangely shape­less vests – from Swedish-owned high street fash­ion chain H&M.

Becks HM undies David Beckhams End Result   Can You Handle It?

I always want to chal­lenge myself and this was such a reward­ing exper­i­ence for me. I’m very happy with the end res­ult and I hope H&M’s male cus­tom­ers will be as excited as I am.”.

It’s true, you do look very pleased to see us again, David dear. But I worry that my ‘end res­ult’ might not look quite so excited/exciting in your pants.

But Beck’s own palp­able, prom­in­ent excite­ment is entirely under­stand­able. He saw the humong­ous wads of cash Mr Armani was covered in when he brazenly pimped Beck’s designer cotton-clad tackle to the world a few years back. Becks was paid very hand­somely for his ser­vices him­self of course, but seems to have decided he can make even more filthy lucre by design­ing his packet him­self and flog­ging it to the global punter (H&M is the second largest retailer in the world).

Last year he explained:

I have had the idea of doing a body­wear col­lec­tion for some time now. The push to do some­thing of my own really came as a res­ult of my col­lab­or­a­tion with Armani. They told me that their gross turnover in 2007 was around €16 mil­lion, and after the cam­paign in 2008 it went up to €31 mil­lion, in 2008. It proved to me that there is a real mar­ket for good-looking, well-made men’s bodywear.”

Becks HM vest David Beckhams End Result   Can You Handle It?
Whether or not his fin­ished pants and vests are that kind of body­wear I’ll let you be the judge of. Bear in mind they are a lot more afford­able than Mr Armani’s. I think proud-father-of-four Goldenballs is here going for ‘volume’. Metrosexy dad­wear. Hence the emphasis he puts on comfort.

And as we’ve seen again and again in the last few years, there is def­in­itely a real mar­ket for good-looking, well-made, fam­ous, well-packaged men’s bod­ies. Advertisers, real­ity TV and Hollywood have prac­tic­ally had our eye out with them.

Regardless of his advan­cing years (he’s a fright­en­ingly well-preserved, carb-free 37 this May) and con­sequently fad­ing foot­ball career, Becks will always be fondly iden­ti­fied with that met­ro­sexual revolu­tion and will very likely get his money shot yet again.

He and his endow­ments, nat­ural and Photo-shopped, always seems to wangle a way to attract the eye. Whatever you may think of his vests.


David Beckham’s Package: Don’t Handle The Goods, Madam

After all those ads in which Becks thrus­ted his giant Armani wrapped pack­age in our faces if not down our throats, an Italian satir­ical TV show decided to do a little con­sumer product test­ing.  You know that in Italy they like to handle the saus­age and toma­toes — and haggle over the price — before they part with their Euros.

Both parties are clearly unimpressed.

For those who don’t speak the most beau­ti­ful, most musical lan­guage in the world: the rubber-gloved lady shouts at a hooded, glower­ing Beckham driv­ing off in his (ridicu­lously large) car full of mind­ers: ‘HOW COULD YOU TAKE US FORRIDE!!??’

The incid­ent has caused some anger in the UK, and some see it as out­right sexual assault.  But if you are paid very large wedges of cash to put your lunch­box on the side of buses to sell over­priced under­wear to the masses then per­haps the only shock­ing thing is that more punters don’t cop a feel of the goods.

There’s Something About Henry

A friend has just drawn my atten­tion to this teas­ing ‘Letter to David Beckham’ by Mr Rollins recor­ded a couple of years ago, warn­ing Becks when he moves to LA to play for LA Galaxy he’s not going to be so spe­cial: the town is already full of ‘met­ro­sexu­als… with crunchy hair and dis­tressed jeans and abso­lutely glow­ing skin’.  And warn­ing him that he’s not going to sell soc­cer to American kids because they when they see a soc­cer game they think ‘soc­cer… gay!’

It’s funny, and per­haps given Beckham’s Stateside for­tunes today also on the money, but the fun­ni­est part of it is per­haps not entirely inten­tional.  When Rollins talks about ‘us met­ro­sexu­als’ the gag, like the image of Henry primp­ing his crew cut under a salon hairdryer, seems to be that no one could be less metro than thick-necked, bulldog-voiced, tat­tooed Henry.  But I’m not so sure.  There’s some­thing intensely nar­ciss­istic about Henry, it’s part of his star qual­ity — and his pumped, buzz-cut mas­culin­ity does look self-conscious and a little accessor­ised.  (And I should know about access­or­iz­ing such things.)

What’s more, like many met­ros Henry’s sexu­al­ity has been the sub­ject of rumours and innu­endo for years, some­thing which he has often com­plained about — though he him­self seems to be here mak­ing josh­ing innu­endo about Beckham’s sexu­al­ity him­self.  Maybe the rumours are so per­sist­ent because he’s out­spokenly pro-gay rights (only a gay could care about the gays so much, the ‘reas­on­ing’ per­haps goes), he’s middle-aged and unmar­ried, and quite a few gay — and straight — men fancy him.  Or maybe it’s because he does look a bit ‘gay’ in that slightly car­toon­ish, slightly over-drawn, over-inked butch way.

For what it’s worth, I’m more than happy to accept that Henry the per­son isn’t homo, but Henry the per­sona does have a cer­tain queer­ness about him that just won’t quit, which is an import­ant part of what makes him intriguing to the pub­lic.  This is what I was try­ing to get at, I think, in the brief inter­view below that Rollins gave me in his modest-sized hotel room dur­ing the London leg of his 1998 Spoken Word Tour.

Tip: Topak

Henry Rollins inter­viewed by Mark Simpson

(Attitude magazine, September 1998)

Henry Rollins is not gay. Okay? Can we get that straightened out right now?  The ex Black Flag front-man, stand-up comic, author, actor, weight­lifter and lead­ing expo­nent of pen­it­en­tiary chic á la Robert De Niro in Cape Fear, may come across like the American Mishima, but he’s into chicks.  Though not that much.

There was this rumour going round,’ says Henry in his oddly artic­u­late jock/jarhead/jeffstryker way. ‘Fucking MTV called me up and asked me if I’d like to come out on some show of theirs. ‘So I’m gay, huh? I think I’d remem­ber some guy fuck­ing me up the ass!’ The thing that bummed me out about it is that when you have the ‘he’s gay’ fic­tion spread around the media about you it’s only to slander you. Everyone is like, ‘That guy, he’s a fuck­ing fag!’. But for me being gay is just such a non event. You are into what you’re into. End of story.’

Why do you sup­pose people think you’re homo?

I asked my gay friends why people thought I was gay, and they said, ‘You’re 37 and in shape. You are thor­oughly focussed. You have a great ass.’

Maybe the rumours have some­thing to do with the fact that you don’t have a girlfriend?

Well, yeah. That’s pos­sible. I don’t want a girl­friend because I don’t want to have to call someone every day. The only thing I miss on tour is my bar. I got a pre­ci­sion engin­eered York power­lift­ing bar; I miss that fucker because it feels so good! I’ve had enough girls in my time, but I’ve slowed up lately. I’d rather jack off than get into some­thing shal­low. But I think the prob­lem is that I don’t make a song and dance about the women I do fuck. I don’t go out on the town with them on my arm. I go to the bookstore.

That’s faggy.

Yeah, ‘He must be a fag—he’s literary!’

On the other hand, you are ‘gay’ in the sense that you’ve built your­self your own masculinity.

Is that a gay thing?

Not spe­cific­ally. But char­ac­ter­ist­ic­ally.

Yeah, you do get some gay guys who are like hyper-masculine. Look at that guy in leather! Hell, that’s two guys in one man! He’s really get­ting his point across. When I was in high school I was very skinny. It was a Vietnam Vet that got me into weight­lift­ing. It was the first time in my life when I achieved some­thing: I put on 15 pounds of muscle mass. In life you’ve got to have a bit of the ‘Come on mother­fuck­ers! I got some­thing for your ass!’ mentality.

Tell me about it. Do you get offers from men?

Oh yeah. Sure. All the time. And I go, ‘Well, that’s cool, but I’m not from that bolt of cloth,’ and they go ‘Really? I thought you were.’ And I go, no, no I wouldn’t kid you about that. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘Not even maybe just this once?’ ‘Nah, really I don’t want to go there.’ One guy hit me with a really great pro­pos­i­tion. He said, ‘Well, close your eyes and you really can’t tell the dif­fer­ence. And I’d do it a lot bet­ter than any chick you’ve been with.’ ‘Well, since you’ve got a cock I bet you would.’ But you know, it’s just not my scene.

Your look, the tattoos—have you done time?

Nah. But other con­victs… other convicts!—convicts come up to me. One man I’ll never for­get. Nebraska, 1988. Old school prison tat­toos. Guy walks by and goes, ‘Brother!’ ‘Scuse me?’ ‘Soledad, ’85 Right!’ ‘Er, no.’ ‘Chino?’ ‘No.’ ‘Hell, I’ve done time with you some­where…’ [in a nerdy book­worm voice:] ‘Well, no sir, actu­ally not’.

How do you think you’d fare in prison? Do you think you’d be some motherfucker’s bitch?

I don’t know man. You’re look­ing at me about eight pounds under­weight, usu­ally I’m 200, but I can’t get the lifts because I’m tour­ing so much, I think that kind of keeps me out of little bitch mode, I’m not anybody’s idea of a piece of chicken, and as far as fight­ing goes, I know a little bit about that. But in prison, I’d prob­ably be fuck­ing ter­ri­fied man.

But hasn’t your whole life been a kind of pre­par­a­tion for prison? No fam­ily life, no time off—all that lift­ing weights…

Well, other people tell me where to go because I want to go there, I let them struc­ture it for me. But yeah, I see what you’re say­ing. I went to a mil­it­ary school for seven years and that had a big impact on me. My dad was also ex-military. My Dad would say stuff like, ‘Fall-out for McDonalds’. Fall-out for your fuck­ing Happy Meal. Shit like that gets to you after a while.

A shrink would say that you have a very pun­ish­ing super-ego.

(Rollins shrugs his large shoulders)

What I mean is, it sounds as if a part of you is always watch­ing over your­self, poli­cing you –always demand­ing better.

Oh, that’s true. A lot of my work is res­ult ori­ent­ated. I’m always try­ing to do a bet­ter show, a bet­ter CD, a bet­ter book. I have to grade myself nightly. I come off the stage and I often kick myself….

I’ve heard that you were recently ‘watched over’ by someone else.

Oh yeah well, {act­ing out the scene very loudly} this guy is stand­ing next to me just star­ing at my dick, and I’m think­ing, this is cool, I can deal with this, and my bladder’s fuck­ing burst­ing but I can’t go, man! I said to myself, Watch me take a leak with this guy watch­ing me and me not give a fuck. But this guy totally took me. He won. Maybe he was some kind of urine comp­troller. Fucking crazy shit, man.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2009

Beijing Beckham

I’m still in shock after watch­ing the han­dover to the London Olympics in Beijing. Please tell me it was a bad dream and that on your goggle-box you saw some­thing much less horrifying.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson looked like he’d put on his worst suit — sorry, someone else’s worst suit — and slept in it all the way to China.  Adding to his impact, he gen­er­ally behaved like someone from a Home for the Terminally Bewildered on a rare day out.

As for the show the Brits put on, fea­tur­ing a morph­ing red London bus, hordes of annoy­ing dan­cers — it looked like a Cliff Richard film dir­ec­ted by Brent Council, but less fun.

And then the cli­max: David Beckham pop­ping out of the top of the bus like Samantha Fox out of a birth­day cake, to the tunes of ‘Whole Lotta Love’ warbled by crummy TV tal­ent show win­ner Leona Lewis in cri­nolene, stuck on the end of a pole like a dodgy Christmas decoration.

How the world went wild as he showed us his latest cos­metic sur­gery! (My tranny friend Michelle tells me he’s had his eyes done, the upper bags — and I never doubt her judge­ment about these things).  Before expertly kick­ing a ball into the wrong part of the stadium.

It was a com­plete and utter dis­aster and embar­rass­ment.  A com­edy of errors with no redeem­ing qual­it­ies whatsoever.

Welcome to London.

No, really, you’re wel­come to it.

Metro Cowboy to Play Metro Athlete

namath 250 Metro Cowboy to Play Metro AthleteHollywood has appar­ently taken note of the global pub­li­city sur­round­ing über-metrosexual English foot­baller David Beckham’s arrival in Tinseltown and decided to dust off America’s own, dis­carded met­ro­sexual sports­man pro­to­type, 1960s flam­boy­ant, fur-coat wear­ing NFL quar­ter­back Joe Namath and give it the big-screen treatment.

Jake Gyllenhaal is to play Namath — pop­ularly dubbed ‘Broadway Joe’ — in a Hollywood biopic of the Hall of Fame sports­man who was the first American foot­baller to become a multi-media phenemonon and Madison Avenue model.

In other words, the actor who played a met­ro­sexual cow­boy will be play­ing the first met­ro­sexual ath­lete. It sounds per­fect cast­ing — in a post­mod­ern way. Gyllenhaal’s inab­il­ity to con­vince as a cow­boy, or a Marine, or a blue-collar NFL quar­ter­back is just more grist to the mill of the inau­thenti­city of mod­ern masculinity.

Jake’s pretty, bottom-boy looks also under­score some­thing else: how Namath really wouldn’t cut it today as an object of desire. He just isn’t attract­ive or seduct­ive or tarty enough. He looks like what he was: a reas­on­ably nice-looking 1960s quar­ter­back in a fur coat — or pantyhose.

Joe Namath’s most fam­ous ad was this eyebrow-raiser from 1974 for Beautymist pantyhose:

Apparently Namath regret­ted the ad for nylons which brought out many of his male fans in rash, des­pite its rather heavy-handed ‘I’M NOT A FAG AND THIS IS A JOKE’ mes­sage. It may have been one of the reas­ons why America, with the pos­sible excep­tion of Dennis Rodham, failed to pro­duce another ‘Broadway Joe’. That and the fact that America is some­times a more con­form­ist coun­try than Switzerland.

If this ad were to be reprised by David Beckham today you would notice the fol­low­ing differences:

  • He would look much bet­ter in pantyhose
  • He wouldn’t say ‘I don’t wear panty­hose’. And if he did, no one would believe him.
  • He wouldn’t be wear­ing any­thing else
  • He wouldn’t laugh. Fashion, as his titanium-cheekboned wife has taught him, is a very ser­i­ous busi­ness.
  • He wouldn’t be selling them to women.

America — meet David Beckham

david beckham kit 1 187200a America   meet David Beckhamdavid beckham kit 5 187204a America   meet David Beckhamdavid beckham kit 7 187205a America   meet David Beckhamdavid beckham kit 6 187203a1 America   meet David Beckham

(The Guardian, 13 July, 2007)

America, meet David Beckham. America, meet The Metrosexual.

You’re going to be see­ing even more of both.

As most of the world already knows, today Becks is proudly ‘unveiled’ by LA Galaxy on their home turf. Brand Becks, the ulti­mate met­ro­sexual who trans­formed him­self from a tal­en­ted pro­fes­sional soccer-player with a cute smile into global me-dia, is the not-so-secret weapon in their cam­paign to seduce America into open­ing its arms, legs — and, most import­antly, wal­lets — to that obscure ver­sion of foot­ball played without crash hel­mets, Frankenstein pad­ding or artil­lery bar­rages by the rest of the world.

In case you can’t wait for the unveil­ing, you can find a selec­tion of ador­able pho­tos of Ken Doll David ‘taken’ from every deli­cious angle in his new strip in The Times of London. Or coquet­tishly meet­ing your gaze on the cover of Sports posh becks pose America   meet David BeckhamIllustrated, on a red car­pet. Or stripped to the waist on a car bon­net on the cover of ‘W’ magazine flex­ing his tits and tatts in trousers that appear to be pulling them­selves off. Oh, and that ex-ex Spice Girl wife of his is some­where in the pic­ture too.

And, of course, you can always catch Brand Beckham endors­ing major brands like Motorola and Nike. Or is it the other way around?

Spice Boy Becks is the total com­mod­ity who has totally com­mod­i­fied him­self — and turned soc­cer into his per­sonal bill­board. ESPN, the chan­nel tele­vis­ing Beck’s first game in his LA Galaxy strip on 21 July have arranged for an extra TV cam­era to feast solely on David for the dur­a­tion of the entire game, lest we miss any pre­cious moment of his spor­no­graphic body in motion — as well as mak­ing sure that they get their money’s worth. Who said that foot­ball was a game of two teams of eleven men? Or two halves? Becks is all that you could need and all that you could want. The Alpha and Omega of soccer.

ESPN are already air­ing an ad pro­mot­ing the match in which Becks leaves a heart­broken Europe for an ecstatic US, with the Beatles’ ‘Hello Goodbye’ as the soundtrack — ref­er­en­cing a pre­vi­ous ‘Brit’ inva­sion. Some are already talk­ing about ‘Beckmania’. The Beatles may have been big­ger than Jesus, but Becks is big­ger than soc­cer (which is why all those lengthy art­icles debat­ing whether he will or won’t make soc­cer pop­u­lar in the US some­what miss the point).

And after all, in the Sixties the Mop Tops suc­cess­fully expor­ted pop music back to the US, the coun­try of its birth, hav­ing taken it fur­ther and trans­formed it into some­thing even more sale­able. Becks in the Noughties is export­ing met­ro­sexu­al­ity back to the US, and in fact to the very town, which, in the Fifties, came up with the pro­to­type for it in the delect­able, Cinemascoped form of Marlon Brando, Monty Clift, James Dean, and Elvis Presley.

It was also the US that pro­duced pos­sibly the first metro sports star in the form of Seventies NFL star Joe Namath, dubbed ‘Broadway Joe’, an aes­thet­ic­ally inclined quar­ter­back who advert­ised shav­ing cream and… panty­hose. But once he retired, America pre­ten­ded he had never happened — leav­ing the field open to dandy for­eign play­ers like David Beckham.

America and Hollywood, so long at the cut­ting edge of com­modi­fy­ing mas­culin­ity, have fallen far behind. America is today con­flic­ted, fear­ful and hypo­crit­ical about one of its greatest inven­tions: the medi­ated, male sex object. Speedos, the per­fect ‘pack­age’ for the male body and Beckham’s favour­ite beach­wear, are all but banned on US shores because they are seen as ‘gay’. Which, appar­ently, is still the worst thing you can accuse a man of in the US — and the reason why the US, unlike the UK, exper­i­enced a back­lash against met­ro­sexu­al­ity, albeit a men-dacious one.

American mas­culin­ity des­per­ately needs some tarty tips on how to tart it out more. Enter Becks, the tarti­est tart in Tart-Town who rel­ishes being seen as ‘gay’ — and also rel­ishes being seen by gays (‘because they have good taste’). What’s more, he’s a jock not an actor.

Which reminds me, per­haps Becks will offer some friendly advice to his new Scientologist neigh­bour Tom Cruise. Cruise, the All-American Dream Boy gone wrong, who once wooed the world by dan­cing in his under­wear on a sofa in his 80s film ‘Risky Business’, but now jumps up and down on chat show sofas (while President Bush jumps up and down on Iraq), needs Becks more than Becks needs Cruise, who is now glob­ally much less pop­u­lar than Becks.

However much Becks may deny movie star aspir­a­tions, his Hollywood career has already begun.

Copyright Mark Simpson 2007

The Gay Bomb

gaybomb The Gay Bomb

Mark Simpson drops the Gay Bomb

(Guardian & Out magazine June 13, 2007)

Look out! Take cover! Backs to the walls, boys! It’s the Gay Bomb!

No, not a bomb with fash­ion­ably styled fins or one that can’t whistle, but rather a pro­posed “non-lethal” chem­ical bomb con­tain­ing “strong aph­ro­dis­i­acs” that would cause “homo­sexual beha­vior” among soldiers.

Since the United States Air Force wanted $7.5 mil­lion of tax­pay­ers’ money to develop it, it prob­ably involved more than the tra­di­tional recipe of a few six-packs of beer.

According to the Sunshine Group, an organ­iz­a­tion opposed to chem­ical weapons that recently obtained the ori­ginal pro­posal under the Freedom of Information Act, a U.S.A.F. lab ser­i­ously pro­posed in 1994 “that a bomb be developed con­tain­ing a chem­ical that would cause [enemy] sol­diers to become gay, and to have their units break down because all their sol­diers became irres­ist­ibly attract­ive to one another.” The U.S.A.F. obvi­ously didn’t know how picky even horny gays can be.

Despite never hav­ing been developed, the so-called Gay Bomb is a boun­cing bomb — or per­haps a bent stick: it keeps com­ing back. The media have picked up the story of the Gay Bomb more than once since 2005 — after all it’s a story that’s too good to throw away, and, as this art­icle proves, it’s a gift for dubi­ous jokes.

Mind you, it now seems to be the case that the Pentagon didn’t throw it away either, at least not imme­di­ately. In the past the Pentagon has been keen to sug­gest it was just a cranky pro­posal they quickly rejec­ted. The Sunshine Project now con­tra­dicts this, say­ing the Gay Bomb was given ser­i­ous and sus­tained atten­tion by the Pentagon and that in fact they “sub­mit­ted the pro­posal to the highest sci­entific review body in the coun­try for them to con­sider.” The Gay Bomb was no joke.

So per­haps we should ser­i­ously con­sider probing-however gingerly — what exactly was in the minds of the boys at the Pentagon back then.

The date is key. The Gay Bomb pro­posal was sub­mit­ted in 1994-the year after the extraordin­ary moral panic that very nearly derailed Clinton’s first term when he tried to honor his cam­paign pledge to lift the ban on homo­sexu­als serving in the U.S. mil­it­ary and that ulti­mately pro­duced the cur­rent “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) com­prom­ise that allows them to serve so long as they remain closeted and are not reported.

The newly sworn-in Commander-in-Chief was suc­cess­fully por­trayed by the homo-baiting right wing — and by the Pentagon itself — as a dirty pinko Gay Bomb that was ser­i­ously weak­en­ing the cohe­sion of the unit and molest­ing the noble, het­ero­sexual U.S. fight­ing man’s abil­ity to per­form his manly mis­sion. “Why not drop Clinton on the enemy?” is prob­ably what they were thinking.

The Pentagon’s love affair with the Gay Bomb also hints heav­ily that tick­ing away at the heart of its oppos­i­tion to lift­ing the ban on gays serving, which involved much emphasis on the “close con­di­tions” (cue end­less TV foot­age of naked sol­diers and sail­ors shower­ing together) was an anxi­ety that if homo­sexu­al­ity wasn’t act­ively dis­cour­aged the U.S. Armed Forces would quickly turn into one huge, hot, military-themed gay orgy — that American fight­ing men would be too busy offer­ing them­selves to one another to defend their coun­try. I sym­path­ize. I too share the same fantasy — but at least I know it’s called gay porn.

Whatever its motiv­a­tions or ration­al­iz­a­tions, the DADT policy of gay quar­ant­ine has res­ul­ted in thou­sands of dis­charges of homo­sexu­als and bisexu­als from the U.S. Armed Forces, even at a time when the mil­it­ary is hav­ing great dif­fi­culty mobil­iz­ing enough bod­ies of any sexual per­sua­sion and is cur­rently being pub­licly ques­tioned. But the Pentagon seems unlikely to budge its insti­tu­tional back from the pro­ver­bial wall.

Its top com­mander, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, recently defen­ded the policy in out­spoken terms, say­ing: “I believe that homo­sexual acts between two indi­vidu­als are immoral and that we should not con­done immoral acts.” (The good General prob­ably didn’t mean to sug­gest that homo­sexual acts involving only one per­son or more than two were not immoral.)

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a policy that even Joseph Heller would have had dif­fi­culty sat­ir­iz­ing, may be con­fused and con­fus­ing, and it may or may not be repealed in the near future, but it clearly shows that the U.S. remains dra­mat­ic­ally con­flic­ted about itself and the enorm­ous changes in atti­tudes and beha­vior that its own afflu­ence and soph­ist­ic­a­tion have helped bring about.

After all, the Gay Bomb is here already, and it’s been thor­oughly tested — on civil­ians. It was developed not by the U.S.A.F. but by the labor­at­or­ies of American con­sumer and pop cul­ture, advert­ising, and Hollywood. If you want to awaken the enemy to the attract­ive­ness of the male body, try drop­ping back issues of Men’s Health or GQ on them. Or Abercrombie & Fitch posters. Or Justin Timberlake videos. Or DVDs of 300.

Or even the U.S.‘s newly acquired British-made weapons sys­tem for deliv­er­ing global sexual con­fu­sion and hys­teria known as ‘David Beckham’.

To para­phrase the Duke of Wellington: I don’t know whether they frighten the enemy, but by God they scare the Bejeesus out of me.

Beckham the virus goes to Hollywood

So Beckham, the über-metrosexual, the pho­to­genic English ath­lete who trans­figured him­self from mere pro­fes­sional soc­cer player into global me-dia, is leav­ing Real Madrid Football Club, his home for the past three years, and is now head­ing for the City of Signs.

becks 2 Beckham the virus goes to Hollywood

Beckham became a Hollywood foot­baller years ago (around about the time of ‘Beckham the virus’, pos­ted below).  Certainly his bosses at Real Madrid seem to have found Becks more style than substance.

But in a met­ro­sexu­al­ised world style is almost everything now.  Even and espe­cially in the world of men’s sports. This is why his lack-lustre per­form­ance on the pitch dur­ing his time in Spain didn’t pre­vent his agent land­ing him a $1M a week salary at Los Angeles Galaxy — the biggest world sports deal ever.

Galaxy, like Real, have paid a hefty premium for Beckham’s unri­valled mer­chand­ising power. Galaxy also believe, to the tune of a mil­lion bucks a week, that Beckham can seduce America, so long peev­ishly res­ist­ant to the sweaty, clean-limbed — and increas­ingly coquet­tish - charms of soc­cer, and ‘open up’ a spec­tac­u­larly luc­rat­ive new young male mar­ket in the US.

Whether or not he suc­ceeds, America had bet­ter get ready for a little more soc­cer and a lot more met­ro­sexu­al­ity and Sporno. It was back in 2002 that the US was intro­duced to met­ro­sexu­al­ity and its poster-boy, David Beckham (by, erm, me: ‘Meet the met­ro­sexual’), and look what happened then.  With Becks actu­ally resid­ing and play­ing in the US the res­ults could be climactic.

beckham j Beckham the virus goes to Hollywood

America and Hollywood, so long at the cut­ting edge of com­modi­fy­ing mas­culin­ity, have fallen so far behind much of the rest of the world since the 1990s. Incredible as it may sound, American mas­culin­ity needs some tarty tips on how to tart it out more. Enter Becks, the tarti­est tart in Tart-Town.

This is why Beck’s friend­ship with Hollywood’s box-office king/queen Tom Cruise is more than just another foot­baller going celebrity chum­ming.  Cruise, the all-American Dream-boy gone wrong, needs Becks more than Becks needs Cruise who is now glob­ally rather less pop­u­lar than Becks.  Because this is about media power rather than polit­ical or mil­it­ary power, that’s to say the New Power, it’s the inverse rela­tion­ship of Bush and Blair.

Britain mean­while will envi­ously and resent­fully watch his every move reflec­ted across the pond, and start to feel like it’s miss­ing out.  And then Becks, cur­rently out of favour here, partly because of last year’s World Cup dis­aster but mostly because we don’t for­give him for mov­ing to Spain three years ago, will be back in vogue.

We Brits are fickle like that.


becks 3 Beckham the virus goes to HollywoodBECKHAM, THE VIRUS

He’s one of the most fam­ous humans who has ever lived — even though he’s not that cute, not that smart and not that great a soc­cer player.

By Mark Simpson

[Originally appeared Salon, June 28, 2003)

It ha(n’t been like this since the death of Diana. Britain has been suf­fer­ing from a national nervous break­down ever since David Beckham, hand­some icon of the Manchester United soc­cer team, announced last week that he was leav­ing to play for Real Madrid.

The Sun, the best-selling UK tabloid, set up a Beckham “grief helpline” and claims it has been swamped with calls from dis­tressed fans. One caller said he was con­sid­er­ing sui­cide, while sev­eral con­fessed that they were so upset they couldn’t per­form in bed. A man who has “Beckham” tat­tooed on his arm threatened to cut if off. “I cried myself to sleep after hear­ing the awful news,” said grand­mother Mary Richards, age 85. A London cabby, ever the voice of reason, asked, “Has the world gone mad? He’s only a foot­baller!” But he was mis­taken. A foot­baller is now the least of what David Beckham is.

In the era of soc­cer that will come to be known as B.B. — Before Beckham — the sport was a team game. What mattered was the club, the team and the player in that order. Then in the mid-1990s, David Beckham — or “Becks” as he is known in that famil­iar, affec­tion­ately fore­shortened form with which the British like to address their work­ing class her­oes — came along, flicked his (then) Diana-style blond fringe and changed the face of soc­cer. It wasn’t his legendary right foot that altered the game, but his pho­to­genic face — and the fact that he used it to become one of the most recog­niz­able, richest and valu­able ath­letes in the world, receiv­ing a salary of $8 mil­lion per year, earn­ing at least $17 mil­lion more in endorse­ments and com­mand­ing a record trans­fer fee for his move to Real Madrid of $41.6 million.

Beckham’s greatest value is his cros­sover appeal — he interests not only those who have no interest in the club for which he plays, but those who have no interest in soc­cer. He is the most recog­nized sports­man in Asia, where soc­cer is still rel­at­ively new. Possibly only Buddha him­self is bet­ter known — though Beckham is catch­ing up there too: In Thailand someone has already fash­ioned a golden “Becks” Buddha. He’s even man­aged to interest Americans, for God’s sakes. The 27-year-old, tongue-tied, sur­pris­ingly shy working-class boy from London’s East End has suc­ceeded in turn­ing the mass, global sport of soc­cer into a mass, global pro­mo­tional vehicle for him­self, repro­du­cing his image in count­less coun­tries. He has turned him­self into a soc­cer virus, one that has infec­ted the media, rep­lic­at­ing him every­where, all over the world, end­lessly, mak­ing him one of the most fam­ous men that has ever lived.

David Beckham, in other words, is a superbrand.

In recog­ni­tion of this, Becks was the first foot­baller ever to receive “image rights” — pay­ment for the earn­ing poten­tial his image provided his club — and got them, to the tune of $33,300 a week. In fact, image rights were the main issue at stake in the record-busting six weeks of con­tract rene­go­ti­ations he had with Manchester United last year; his worth as a player was agreed at $116,500 a week almost imme­di­ately. Then there’s that $17 mil­lion a year for endors­ing such brands as Castrol, Brylcreem, Coca Cola, Vodafone, Marks & Spencer and Adidas. And Becks just keeps get­ting big­ger. His trusty law­yers have already registered his name for products as vari­ous as per­fumes, deodor­ants, jew­elry, purses, dolls and, oh yes, soc­cer jer­seys. Such is the power of the Beckham brand that it’s hoped it can res­cue the for­tunes of Marks & Spencer’s cloth­ing (a high-end British chain that has become a byword for “dowdy”).

But alas, the brand couldn’t save murdered Suffolk girls Holly and Jessica, poignantly pic­tured last year in police posters in match­ing rep­licas of his No. 7 red shirt. When it was still hoped that they might be run­aways, the man him­self made a broad­cast appeal for their return. There was the Becks, eer­ily right at the heart of the nation’s hopes and fears again.

a becks festeja htop Beckham the virus goes to HollywoodBeckham has even man­aged to brand a numeral — 7 — the num­ber on his soc­cer jer­sey. A clause in his Manchester United con­tract guar­an­teed him No. 7, he has 7 tat­tooed in Roman numer­als on his right fore­arm, his black Ferrari’s regis­tra­tion plate is “D7 DVB,” and his Marks and Spencer’s cloth­ing line is branded “DB07.” He even queues at No. 7 check­out when he goes shop­ping. This is often inter­preted as a sign of his super­sti­tious­ness, but is more an indic­a­tion of his very rational grasp of the magic of brand­ing. (He may, how­ever, have to settle for the num­ber 77 when he moves to Real Madrid, as the coveted 7 is already taken by Spanish super­star Raul.)

But some­how, Beckham has not yet become a vic­tim of his own suc­cess and has man­aged to remain offi­cially “cool.” Europe’s largest sur­vey into “cool” recently found that Beckham was the “coolest” male, accord­ing to both young women and men. Beckham’s status can be attrib­uted to his diva-esque ver­sat­il­ity and his super­brand power: “Like Madonna he is very ver­sat­ile and able to rad­ic­ally change his image but not ali­en­ate his audi­ence,” says pro­fessor Carl Rohde, head of the Dutch “cool hunt­ing” firm Signs of the Time. “He remains authen­tic.” Each time he goes to the hairdresser’s and has a restyle — which is alarm­ingly often — he ends up on the cover of every tabloid in Britain. In other words, whatever Becks does, how­ever he wears his hair or his clothes — or, cru­cially, whatever product he endorses — he is say­ing, as Rohde puts it, “this is just another aspect of me, David Beckham. Please love me.” And, it goes without say­ing, buy me. And mil­lions do.

Becks’ greatest sales suc­cess, how­ever, was actu­ally on the foot­ball field — though less with the ball than with the cam­era. He’s the most fam­ous foot­baller in the world, and con­sidered by mil­lions to be one of the greatest foot­ballers of all time, but argu­ably he’s not even a world-class player. A very fine one, to be sure, but not nearly the foot­baller we are sup­posed to think he is — not nearly the foot­baller we want to think he is. Sport, you might ima­gine, is the one area of con­tem­por­ary life where hype can’t win, where res­ults, at the end of the day, are everything. But Beckham has dis­proved that, has van­quished that, and rep­res­ents the tri­umph of P.R. over … well, everything. His con­tri­bu­tion to Manchester United was debat­able. On foot­balling skills alone, he is argu­ably not worthy of play­ing for the English national team, let alone being its cap­tain. However, in the last dec­ade soc­cer has become part of show busi­ness and advertising.

beckham Beckham the virus goes to HollywoodBeckham is a hybrid of pop music and foot­ball, the Spice Girl of soc­cer — hence his mar­riage to one. He is — indis­put­ably — the cap­tain of a new gen­er­a­tion of pho­to­genic, pop-tastic young foot­balling lad­dies that added boy-band value to the mer­chand­ising and media pro­file of soc­cer clubs in the 1990s.

Beckham’s foot­balling forte is free kicks. This is entirely appro­pri­ate, since these are, after all, among the most indi­vidu­al­istic — and aes­thetic — moments in soc­cer. Unlike a goal, with a free kick there’s no one passing to you, no one to share the glory with. Instead there’s prac­tic­ally a spot­light and a drum roll. And how he kicks! “Goldenballs” (as his wife, Victoria, aka Posh Spice, reportedly likes to call him) has impress­ive accur­acy and his range is breath­tak­ing — along with his fam­ous “bend­ing” tra­ject­ory, his kicks also have style and grace. Long arms out­stretched à la Fred Astaire, wrists bent del­ic­ately upward, for­ward leg angled, and then — con­tact — and a power­ful, pre­cise, eleg­ant thwump! and follow-through. An Englishman shouldn’t kick a ball like this. This is the way that Latins kick the ball. Beckham doesn’t just rep­res­ent the aes­thet­i­ciz­a­tion of soc­cer that has occurred in a media-tised world — he is the aes­thet­i­ciz­a­tion of it. Like his silly hair­dos, like his “arty” tat­toos, like the extraordin­ar­ily elab­or­ate post-goal cel­eb­ra­tions he prac­tices with the crowd, almost everything he does on the field is designed to remind you that No. 7 is any­thing but a number.

Off the soc­cer field Becks is able to use clothes and accessor­ies to draw atten­tion to him­self. And does he. The Versace suits, the sarong, and the sequined track suit that opened the Commonwealth Games dazzled TV audi­ences and con­fused some for­eign view­ers who still thought the queen of England was a middle-aged woman. Essentially, Beckham’s visual style is “glam” — more Suede than Oasis (with a bit of con­tem­por­ary R&B pop promo thrown in). And like glam rock, which was a British working-class style run­ning riot in the dec­ade of his birth, the 1970s, Beckham, the son of Leytonstone pro­let­ari­ans, has a clear image of him­self as working-class roy­alty, the new People’s Princess (though his “super­brand” power has as yet been unable to sell us his wife, who, post-Spice Girls, remains unpop­u­lar and unsuc­cess­ful). Hence his wed­ding took place in a castle; at the recep­tion after­ward Posh and Becks were ensconced in match­ing His ‘n’ Hers thrones, and their Hertfordshire home was dubbed “Beckingham Palace” by the tabloids.

Soccer, like pop music, is one of the few ways the British are per­mit­ted any suc­cess — it is, after all, some­thing both manual and aris­to­cratic at the same time. Becks the foot­ball pop star rep­res­ents and advert­ises a mater­i­al­istic aspir­a­tion­al­ism that doesn’t appear bourgeois.

Beckham’s tat­toos — a lit­eral form of brand­ing — seem to epi­tom­ize this. What were once badges of male working-class iden­tity are now ways of advert­ising the unique Becks brand. “Although it hurts to have them done, they’re there forever and so are the feel­ings behind them,” Becks has explained. But these are not the kind of “Mum & Dad Always” tat­toos his plumber dad and his mates might have had. The huge, shaven-headed, open-armed, “guard­ian angel” with an alarm­ingly well-packed loin­cloth on his back looks more than a little like him­self with a Jesus com­plex. Beneath, in gothic let­ter­ing, is his son’s name: Brooklyn. Once his uni­form comes off at the end of a match — as it usu­ally does, and before any­one else’s — the tat­toos help him to stand out instantly, and mean that he is never naked: He’s always wear­ing some­thing designer.

becks the virus Beckham the virus goes to HollywoodBecks clearly enjoys get­ting his tits out for the lads and lasses — and oil­ing them up for the cover of Esquire and other lad­die mags. While he may look strangely under­nour­ished and fra­gile in a soc­cer uni­form, as if his ghoul­ishly skinny wife has been tak­ing away his fries, and all those injur­ies sug­gest he’s some­what brittle, stripped down he looks as lithe and strong as a pan­ther. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t do drugs. His body is a temple — to his own self-image — which he never ceases worshipping.

There is how­ever a sub­missive pho­to­philia to Becks. A cer­tain passiv­ity or even mas­ochism about his dis­plays for the cam­era, which seem to say “I’m here for you.” Hence per­haps the fond­ness for those Christ-like/James Dean-like poses with arms out­stretched (the cover of Esquire had him “cru­ci­fied” on the Cross of St. George). Even those free kicks seem to have the lop­ing icon­o­graphy of “Giant” or Calvary about them.  Truth be told, Becks is there for him, but it’s a nice thought nonetheless.

To some he is already a god — lit­er­ally. In addi­tion to the Thai Becks Buddha, a pair of Indian artists have painted him as Shiva, the Hindu god of destruc­tion. In the Far East, andro­gyny is seen as a fea­ture of god­head — and so it has here in the West as well since the Rolling Stones. As Becks tells us him­self: “I’m not scared of my fem­in­ine side and I think quite a lot of the things I do come from that side of my char­ac­ter. People have poin­ted that out as if it’s a cri­ti­cism, but it doesn’t bother me.” It’s as if when he was a teen­ager he looked at those grainy black-and-white ‘80s girl­ish bed­room shrine posters of smooth-skinned doe-ish male mod­els hold­ing babies and thought: I’d like to be like that when I grow up. Becks is the poster boy of what I have termed else­where met­ro­sexu­al­ity. His hero/role-model status com­bined with his out-of-the-closet nar­ciss­ism and love of shop­ping and fash­ion and appar­ent indif­fer­ence to being thought of as “fag­goty” means that for cor­por­a­tions he is a price­lessly potent vec­tor for per­suad­ing mil­lions, if not bil­lions, of young men around the world to express them­selves “fear­lessly,” to be “indi­vidu­als” — by wear­ing exactly what he wears. Beckham is the über-metrosexual, not just because he rams met­ro­sexu­al­ity down the throats of those men churl­ish enough to remain ret­ro­sexual and refuse to pluck their eye­brows, but also because he is a sports­man, a man of sub­stance — a “real” man — who wishes to dis­ap­pear into sur­fa­ce­ness in order to become ubi­quit­ous — to become me-dia. Becks is The One, and slightly bet­ter look­ing than Keanu — but, be warned, he’s work­ing for the Matrix.

Ultimately, though, it is his desire that makes him the super­brand that he is. Beckham has suc­ceeded where pre­vi­ous British soc­cer her­oes you’ve never heard of, such as George Best, Alan Shearer and Eric Cantona — a Frenchman who played for Manchester United and is John the Baptist to Beck’s Christ — have failed, and has become a truly global star. Partly because the world has changed but mostly because they didn’t want it as much as he did. Becks is trans­par­ently so much more needy — more needy than almost any of us is. The pub­lic, quite rightly, only lets itself love com­pletely those who clearly depend on that love, because they don’t want to be rejec­ted. Beckham’s need­i­ness is lit­er­ally bot­tom­less. Like his image, it grows with what it feeds on. He’ll never reject our gaze.

It’s there in his hungry face. He isn’t actu­ally that attract­ive. Blasphemy! No really, his face doesn’t have a proper sym­metry. His mouth is frog­like and bash­fully off-center. But what is attract­ive, or at least hyp­not­iz­ing in a demo­cratic kinda way, which is to say media­genic, is his neurotic-but-ordinary desire to be beau­ti­ful, and to use all the tech­no­logy and voo­doo of con­sumer cul­ture and fame to achieve this. His appar­ent lack of an inner life, his sub­missive, high-pitched 14-year-old-boy voice that no one listens to, his beguil­ing blank­ness, only emphas­ize his suc­cess, his power­ful­ness in a world of super­fi­ci­al­ity. That oddly flat-but-friendly gaze that peers out from bill­boards and behind Police sunglasses looks to beckham g Beckham the virus goes to Hollywoodmil­lions like the nearest thing to god­li­ness in a god­less world. People fall in love not with him — who knows what Beckham is really like, or cares — but with his mul­ti­me­dia need­i­ness, his trans­mit­ted “viral” desire, which seems to spread and rep­lic­ate itself every­where, endors­ing mul­tiple products. Becks’ desire, via the giant shared toi­let handle of advert­ising, infects us, inhab­its us and becomes our own.

The British for their part, even those call­ing tabloid papers in tears to declare their lives ruined now that Beckham is mov­ing to Real Madrid, will sur­vive shar­ing him with the Spanish for a few years. After all, they’re already proudly shar­ing him with most of the rest of the world — and bask­ing in his reflec­ted glory. No one buys our pop music any more; our “Britpop” prime min­is­ter, Tony Blair, post-Iraq, is widely regarded abroad as a scoun­drel; our roy­als, post Diana, are a dreary bunch of sods (even her sainted son William is begin­ning to lose some of his Spencer spark and glow to the tired, horsey blood of his “German” dad and grandmama); and our national soc­cer squad has dif­fi­culty beat­ing coun­tries with a pop­u­la­tion smal­ler than Southampton.

But “our Becks” on the other, per­fectly man­i­cured hand, is some­thing British the world seems to actu­ally want. Badly.


Copyright Mark Simpson 2003

This essay is col­lec­ted in Metrosexy: A 21st Century Self-Love Story.


Sporno: where sport and porn meet and produce a spectacular money shot

freddieljungberg2 Sporno: where sport and porn meet and produce a spectacular money shot

Just in time for the World Cup the July issue of the re-launched OUT fea­tures an essay by yours truly on the post-metrosexual pornoliz­a­tion of sport — or what I dub ‘sporno’.  Here’s a (breath­less) taster:

Sportsmen on this side of the Atlantic are increas­ingly openly acknow­ledging and flirt­ing with their gay fans, à la David Beckham and Freddie Ljunberg (the man who actu­ally looks the way Beckham thinks he looks). Both these thor­ough­breds have posed for spreads in gay magazines and both have wel­comed the atten­tion of gay fans because they “have great taste”.

More than this, they and a whole new gen­er­a­tion of young bucks, from twinky soc­cer play­ers like Manchester United’s Alan Smith and Cristiano Ronaldo, to rougher pro­spects like Chelsea’s Joe Cole and AC Milan’s Kaka, keen to emu­late their suc­cess, are act­ively pur­su­ing sex-object status in a post-metrosexual, increas­ingly pornolized world.

In other words: they’re not just sports stars, but sporno stars’

You can read the full essay here.