Forget blue eyes and blonde hair, rigid Hollywood's new romantic heroes are now dark-eyed, lean men with the guy-next-door vibe
Anyone in the mid-20s and above knows exactly how the description of a heartthrob would be like in the early 2000s. Think blue-eyed jocks, flaunting sleek blonde hair and a muscular body. Among a plethora of famous faces we swooned over, we can name Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Heath Ledger, Ryan Gosling, Chad Michael Murray, Zac Efron etc. Fast forward to 2019, TV crushes from the top our heads include names like Noah Centineo, Cole Sprouse, Gavin Leatherwood, Kit Harington, Ansel Elgort and few others. Most of them with dark eyes, and dark hair, and lean body type.
The evolution of leading men from those who looked nothing less than a Greek god to those who have a casual guy-next-door vibe can be attributed to the changing demographics of our country. Tyra Burton, a senior lecturer of marketing at Kennesaw State University and developer of undergraduate Entertainment Marketing course tells MEA WorldWide (MEAWW) that "with the increase in minority populations, we are seeing a call for more diversity."
TV and pop culture have always served as a mirror to society and as of today, with an "increased focus on the concept that #RepresentationMatters," the idea has spilled into pop culture, hence directing and influencing the choices of casting directors, adds Burton.
"When your target audience is a young demographic which is ethnically diverse, 46% non-white and 20% Hispanic projected by 2020 that audience wants to see actors that look more like themselves," Burton further states.
Noah Centineo's followers increased by millions after the premiere of 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before,' and same can be said about Gavin Leatherwood, after his breakout role in 'Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.'
Burton further believes that in a world of millennials and Gen Z the concepts of gender roles and identity are more fluid, hence allowing for more character diversity and the ability to step away from jock stereotypes for guys.
"In the same vein, we are seeing female characters that are stronger such as Sabrina from the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and more reminiscent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy had a love-interest in David Boreanaz that fit more of today's dark-haired, dark-eyed type," concluded Burton, who has also designed classes on gender and sexuality in pop culture for the Honors Program.
However, Andrea Braithwaite, Ph.D., associate teaching professor, faculty of Social Science and Humanities, Ontario Tech University tells MEAWW that the description of today's heartthrobs are just "different character types" and "not diverse casting choices."
"Noah Centineo, Gavin Leatherwood, and Cole Sprouse are just white guys with brown hair, so this isn’t much of a change in casting. When we think about how long we’ve relied on the description “tall, dark, and handsome” to describe male heartthrobs, we can see that this look has always had its own romantic resonance," she added.
Given how rigid Hollywood has been with the stereotypes of what is aesthetically pleasing, the world of television and entertainment is undergoing a gradual change. Braithwaite added that despite the scenario, more diverse casting choices are making inroads with 'The Good Place,' where William Jackson Harper (as Chidi) and Manny Jacinto (as Jason) are the male love interest options.
"This is a slow process, however. As history has shown, Hollywood standards of attractiveness are hard to change, and not the only (or even a good!) barometer of what people actually find sexy!" she concluded.
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