On New Year's Eve Joanie and I saw "Drive", the Ryan Gosling movie wherein he as a Hollywood stunt driver who earns extra money being the wheel man for robbers and gets pulled into a really shady deal. Gosling's character doesn't talk much and in certain circumstances is prone to excessive violence in response to the violent characters around him.
On the trip home Joan pointed out that despite Gosling performing the role of the strong, silent type you could read his emotions, as opposed to the opaque Daniel Craig, who we'd seen in "Cowboys & Aliens" a few days previous. I tended to agree with her, but I also wonder how much of the reading of emotions in actors is brought by the viewer. That is, if you don't like Daniel Craig then his strong, silent character is wooden and empty. If you like Gosling, his strong, silent character offers the viewer a vast palette of seething emotions that are repressed but which you, the viewer, can read.
(I generally tend to measure my own trending towards leading actors by how much I'd want that actor to portray me in any biopic that I imagine being made about me. I could see Gosling portraying me, but not Craig. Having said that, in the past I could see Harrison Ford, Denzel Washington, George Clooney and Jet Li as portraying me.)
There was a recent article in Salon calling Gosling this year's "thinking girl's crush".
And in pondering this article, and Gosling's performance, I was trying to suss how much of a leading man's popularity is dependent on his roles, on the zeitgeist of the times, on his beauty, on his talent. There's a scene in "Drive" where Gosling's character stomps a man to death in an elevator in front of the leading lady, and after the rush of adrenalin I was thinking, "Gee, that's not the thing to do in front of a woman you want get jiggy with." But these days, as opposed to thirty years ago, leading men's quirkiness seems to allow for flourishes of psychopathic violence. (The stomping did turn off the leading lady in the movie, but that didn't stop Gosling's character from doing the "right thing" in this evil universe, as strong, silent types tend to do in films like this.)
At any case, here's that article. Follow the link to read it all.
Hey, Girl: In case you hadn’t noticed, Ryan Gosling may be this year’s king of pop culture. He’s certainly this year’s king of the Internet meme: Ryan Gosling is a feminist, works in publishing, teaches rhetoric and composition, works as a librarian, studies public history, goes to law school, and still finds time to be romantic. In real life, he fights crime, hangs out with Eva Mendes, and has very nice abs. It’s no wonder Gosling was recently named Time magazine’s Coolest Person of the Year, an honor that may appease the people who were so aggrieved by Gosling’s failure to be named People’s Sexiest Man Alive this year that they held a protest.
While I’ve not quite reached that level of obsession, I understand their fascination. Who wouldn’t swoon for a man who turned Benedict Anderson into a pickup line, understood intersectionality, and swore his devotion to the proper use of the Oxford comma? I’ve encountered The Crush in women who pride themselves on not paying much attention to celebrities, women who don’t go for blonds in real life, even women who don’t go for men in real life.
The point of a fantasy is, of course, that it’s not real life, and most forms of The Crush involve some amalgamation of the “real” Ryan Gosling — a very talented, very pretty actor, who seems thoughtful about his career choices, capable of laughing at himself, and appropriately complex (twisted enough to empathize with the more alarming characters he plays while remaining far enough removed from them that we can tell he’s only acting) — and the invented Ryan Gosling of the Internet meme, an artsy, decidedly bookish man with a devotion to literary and social theory, a sharp critique of capitalism and patriarchy, and a serious weakness for studious ladies. The proliferation of fictional Goslings is in part a function of the Internet’s tendency to perpetuate itself, but it seems to me there’s also a complicated permutation of fantasy happening here, one that makes sense for a generation of women raised to be wary of fantasy, and that makes even more sense in a year that’s been as rough on fantasy as 2011 has been.
It’s worth pausing here to note that with the exception of “The Notebook,” which remains the anomaly in his career, Ryan Gosling’s cinematic oeuvre does not exactly scream “romantic kiss in the library stacks.” His best-known roles include a self-loathing Jewish neo-Nazi, an awkwardly styled and socially challenged man who falls in love with a blow-up doll, and a drug-addicted middle school teacher who is inappropriately dependent on one of his students.
Gosling’s 2011 films include “Blue Valentine,” a bleak portrait of marriage that could convince the most hopeless of romantics that no matter how adorable and in love you are, your marriage could well end in excruciating disappointment and desolation; “Drive,” a stylishly bloody movie in which he plays a getaway driver who’s handy with a knife — convenient if you need to be rescued from murderous criminals, but not exactly ideal boyfriend material — and “The Ides of March,” in which he plays an increasingly unscrupulous political operative in a movie that emphasizes the degree to which politics treats young women as disposable.