Matt Damon: Sexy or Twaspy?

Matt Damon is the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’, according to People magazine.

Perhaps it’s time to cruise the graveyard.

I don’t mean to be cruel — honest — but Matt is preppy, not sexy. The two things are not necessarily antagonistic, granted. But in Matt they are.

Yes, I know, it’s ‘all a matter of taste’. But my taste is the right one. OK?

It’s true I’ve never quite forgiven him for the film that launched his career, the intensely irritating Good Will Hunting in which Damon, an Ivy League drop-out, plays a maths-genius janitor — at an Ivy League college (and makes us sit at the feet of Robin Williams talking through a full beard for two hours). But then, why should I? He wrote it.

So here’s a list of entirely objective reasons why he isn’t the Sexiest Man Alive:

  • He has too many teeth for a human and reminds me of American Werewolf in London when he smiles, and not in a good way
  • His nose is much too big, especially in profile when it takes up most of the widescreen
  • His chin is bigger than Jay Leno’s
  • His body is just there, like a trick you scored at the end of the night before the lights came on
  • He has mildly, wryly interesting lips, but they look like they have been transplanted from someone else’s mouth; possibly a housewife from Knots Landing
  • He has nice blue eyes, but they look like they’re by the same manufacturer who makes GI Joe’s
  • He has facial timeshare going on with Mark Wahlberg — but Wahlberg seems to wear it better and cuter

When he arrived on the scene all those years ago, Matt’s greatest physical asset was simply that he was bland and young and twinky/WASPy (twaspy, anyone?). Now that he’s no longer so young (he’s 37) his flaws are predominating, as they do (and I should know). But somehow without turning him into an adult or even a ‘character’ — even when he plays a middle-aged father, with lots of latex, as in the later scenes of ‘The Good Shepherd’.

Like most of his generation of male Hollywood actors, including Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, and his buddy Ben Affleck, Matt’s essentially a cruisette — a Tom Cruise clone. An All-American narcissistic male film star that never grows up because a) we don’t know what a man is any more, and b) the brand must go on forever and be forever desirable. Cruise’s stellar and sustained success from the mid 80s onwards meant that the male Hollywood leads that came after him would be fashioned in his miniature image. (Damon’s actual height, like penis-size on dating sites, is something of a contested issue: it seems to be somewhere between 5’9″ and 5’11” — I suppose it all depends on where you measure from).

But unlike Tom, cruisette Matt doesn’t have blue-collar credibility, his narcissism isn’t aspirational — and has never quite matched Cruise’s high-wattage on-screen tartiness. Perhaps because he didn’t have to strive as much as Cruise, he’s soberly professional. Though of course, this helps make the cruisette more palatable to some than the wacky Scientologist original.

As for his acting — yes, we finally get to that — it’s true that Matt’s better than most of his Hollywood contemporaries, but that doesn’t make him sexy. This is Hollywood, after all. Acting is what you do when all else fails. Besides, Matt’s best at roles like The Talented Mr Ripley and his Mission Impossible/James Bond vehicle The Bourne Identity — playing a man who has no identity. That’s far too close to the truth of modern masculinity to be ‘sexy’. Interesting, yes. Shaggable? I’ll text you later….

Perhaps what people — or People — find ‘sexy’ about Damon, apart of course from his success, is his on-screen masochistic streak, as wide as his many-toothed smile. In the Bourne films his character displays an almost insatiable appetite to be tortured and humiliated and treated like meat — which perhaps stems from his need to find out who he is at any cost, his psycho-reprogramming by his CIA Bad Daddies, or perhaps his need to please us, the audience (Who is Bourne? Why, he’s our punk!).

Admittedly, I too derive some pleasure from seeing preppy Matty, adrift in Europe like some Ivy League Gap Year student who’s mislaid his passport, get it, both ends. But it’s not very erotic. It’s just revenge.

The re-booting of the James Bond franchise last year with Daniel Craig in the lead role was strongly influenced by the success of the Bourne films, which of course were themselves an updating of the Bond concept. (Craig’s Bond is, in postmodern stylee, a copy of a copy of a copy.)

But Craig’s on-screen masochism is as filthy and sexy as Damon’s is antiseptically, twaspily clean-cut. Bond has a tight foreskin; Bourne has Wintergreen-flavoured scar tissue.