It’s been a year full of unexpected voting decisions, but even the hardiest of souls was likely unprepared for People magazine to announce that the “Sexiest Man” of 2017 is … Blake Shelton.
If naming Shelton was a publicity stunt, it worked: Twitter users were so startled by the revelation that both “Blake Shelton” and “Sexiest Man Alive” trended for most of Wednesday, and the jokes flowed loudly and freely:
even a straight man can see there's no way blake shelton is the sexiest man alive. i dont think he's even the sexiest man named blake shelton.— Oliver Willis (@owillis) November 15, 2017
woke up this morning to news that blake shelton is the sexiest man alive. rip every sexy man in the world who died in the great sexy plague of 2017 overnight; u will be missed— I do not recall (@morninggloria) November 15, 2017
Many social media users were quick to compare Shelton’s looks to things that are — how can we put this? — not sexy:
Blake Shelton looks like the dad in a drug commercial where they list off the side effects at the end while you watch him build a birdhouse.— DeShawn (@DeShawnstantine) November 15, 2017
Let's set the record straight: Blake Shelton looks like a second-stringer on Justified who gets murdered over a horse crime.— Kaleb Horton (@kalebhorton) November 15, 2017
If Blake Shelton is voted #SexiestManAlive then Ray Black Jr. is 2017's most popular driver. For real. Blake Shelton looks like a server at a Cracker Barrel in Gatlinburg.— nascarcasm (@nascarcasm) November 15, 2017
Blake Shelton looks like a guy who gets shredded by everyone on Shark Tank for the outrageous valuation he places on his pre-revenue floating “beer cup” that he invented after his wife left him, and it doesn’t get much sexier than that.— Gabe Delahaye (@gabedelahaye) November 15, 2017
blake Shelton looks like your middle school bus driver who got fired for buying four loko for the intimidating 8th graders who sit on the back of the bus https://t.co/fQCpg4Xx2g— maggie (@MaggieShmaggie) November 15, 2017
Of course, People is routinely derided for its choice of Sexiest Man Alive, which is a transparently PR-driven exercise often jokingly equated to a “best publicist” award. As such, each year’s choice invites a wave of alternate opinions, and 2017 is no exception, with social media users being quick to point out other, sexier alternatives to Shelton:
The same people who voted in People’s sexiest alive man list are the same folks who tampered w/ the presidential elections— Corey Townsend (@JarrieBradshaw) November 15, 2017
There’s no way Blake Shelton is the sexiest man w/ Trevante Rhodes still breathing. pic.twitter.com/cd5NTcKJp4
Twitter users had many opinions on who the actual sexiest men of the year were, but a general consensus seemed to form around the triad of perennially overlooked frontrunner Idris Elba, upcoming Aquaman actor Jason Momoa, and the usual gaggle of white guys named Chris:
Forget the fact that Idris Elba should’ve obviously won. I can even think of like 5 white guys named Chris who are more deserving of the Sexiest Man Alive title than Blake Shelton.— Brohibition Now (@OhNoSheTwitnt) November 15, 2017
Blake Shelton is People’s Sexiest Man Alive because apparently Idris Elba, Chris Evans and Jason Momoa fell off the planet last night.— Jenn C (@TheJennC) November 15, 2017
But despite the jokes, there’s plenty of reason beyond the subjective nature of sexiness to be critical of People’s decision — namely because Shelton has been flagrantly and repeatedly homophobic in the past, once “joking” in a 2011 tweet that he would leave any gay man who tried to touch him beaten and bloody.
He also used the stage at the Country Music Awards for an awkward gay joke about Jake Gyllenhaal because he starred in Brokeback Mountain, and has repeatedly referenced gay panic and jokes about finding lesbians hot on his Twitter account. In the past, he’s made toxic jokes about women, including noting, in 2010, a “sick fantasy” about then-16-year-old Dakota Fanning, and has repeatedly made Islamophobic and xenophobic jokes about non-English-language speakers and foreigners around him.
Last year, after the tweets were uncovered and public outcry arose, he attempted to pass off all of his statements as comedy. Yet since then he’s gone on to openly decry “political correctness,” and last year praised Donald Trump for “say[ing] what he thinks,” without acknowledging the coded racism and bigotry that often underlies Trump’s statements.
After the news about Shelton’s new title began circulating, many began pointing out the singer’s problematic history:
I guess it makes sense in Trump's America that an Islamophobe who "jokes" about beating up gay men would be named the "Sexiest Man Alive."— Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz) November 15, 2017
For anyone who wants to shame people for making fun of the fact that Blake Shelton is “Sexiest Man Alive” (barf) remember that he’s a giant homophobe who once wrote a parody to “Any Man Of Mine” by Shania Twain that describes him assaulting men who show interest in him. FYI.— Sexiest Man Alive, Dan Blackroyd (@danblackroyd) November 15, 2017
Just in case you guys didn't know, not only did Blake Shelton tweet racist & homophobic things he also made jokes about having "sick fantasies" about Dakota Fanning when she was 16— Tatum Robinson (@TatumAlexis10) November 15, 2017
Still, some were quick to point out that it’s not the first time People has made odd decisions in its annual Sexiest Man vote. For starters, the list has historically been overwhelmingly white, with only two men of color ever gracing its cover — Denzel Washington in 1996 and The Rock in 2016. This fact, combined with backlash over Shelton, had many onlookers pointing out how problematic the list has historically been.
just a reminder that only two men of color have been picked as the sexiest man alive in 32 years, people magazine is trash https://t.co/TVDNNcCMch— adam (@brokeangeI) November 15, 2017
Not to mention how weird some of the choices have been:
Clearly, People’s Sexiest Man award is yet another public institution that needs to be dismantled and rebuilt from its sexy foundations.
Best option: Blake Shelton resigns as Sexiest Man Alive, creating new vacancy and do over. Gov appoints Idris Elba, schedules new primaries/general. New vacancy = new process.— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) November 15, 2017