A weird combination of pretty and grotesque

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Great 19th Century novelists seemed to think that physiognomy is real, and Steve Sailer suggests they had a point:

For example, the Movie Star vs. Rock Star polarity can be illustrated with famous actors. Tom Cruise’s square-jawed conventional handsomeness makes him an obvious prototype of movie star looks. And Cruise’s impressive competence at repeatedly delivering pretty good movies over an enormous span of time suggests that he really is as competent at his job (starring in movies that make at least $100 million) as he looks. I presume that Cruise is more or less the CEO of Tom Cruise movies, and he tends to deliver like a good CEO delivering another year of increased earnings per share.

In contrast, Johnny Depp, of the high cheekbones and delicate jaw, came to Hollywood in 1979 to be a rock star, a not unreasonable ambition due to how much he looked like numerous 1970s rock stars.

Rock stars tend to start as delicate, artistic, high-cheekboned, not terribly masculine heterosexuals who drive young girls wild. (How many burly rock singers have their been? The singer in Smashmouth, and probably some country rockers. But the classic rock band frontman is wiry.)

The youngest girls tend to go for the boy band practice boyfriend types like The Beatles in 1964, while the slightly older ones tend to go for the leering, concupiscent Rolling Stones in 1965 types. Tom Wolfe wrote in the mid-1960s about a Rolling Stone concert:

The five Rolling Stones, from England …, are modeled after The Beatles, only more lower class deformed. … The girls have Their Experience. They stand up on their seats. They begin to ululate, even between songs. The look on their faces! Rapturous agony! There, right up there, under the sulphur lights, that is them. God, they’re right there! Mick Jagger takes the microphone with his tabescent [emaciated] hands and puts his huge head against it, opens his giblet lips and begins to sing … with the voice of a bull Negro.

The classic rock star look is often a weird combination of pretty and grotesque, like Steven Tyler of Aerosmith.

But to be/stay a huge star, you need male fans. The young girl audience isn’t loyal. There is always somebody new. So rock stars often butch up their acts: Springsteen as working man, Petty as redneck, Strummer as Kiplingesque soldier of fortune.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    “with the voice of a bull Negro”

    Wow! Just wow!

    Should we dig Wolfe out of his grave and put him in a garbage dump?

    And what should we do to people who have the wanton temerity to quote him?

    I think I am going to go into hiding, just for noticing.

  2. CVLR says:

    Sailer may substantially overestimate the degree to which Cruise’s success is based on his looks.

  3. Saskatchewan says:

    There have been a few bands with large men who sing and act like large men, for example Bachman-Turner Overdrive and their close relative The Guess Who.

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