Thursday, March 22, 2012

Friday Fun: The Ryan Gosling Obsession

When Bradley Cooper was named People Magazine's Sexist Man Alive this year, angry protesters swarmed People's headquarters (okay, there were only about 15 protesters, but still). According to oneRyan's "left arm alone makes him the Sexiest Man Alive. Hello, look at his abs!" Ryan is also the subject of the "Hey Girl" meme, which started with a single tumblr that inspired multiple off-shoots, like feminist Ryan Gosling, typographer Ryan Gosling, and biostatistics Ryan Gosling (featured at left). What can explain this singular obsession? What is it that sets Ryan apart?

1. His Feminine Side. According to a writer at Time Magazine, Ryan is "tough but emotional." He'll protect you (he recently broke up a fight in Manhattan), but he has a soft side too (he takes Ballet classes and sings with children). The appeal of this balance is reflected in research on attraction, which suggests that, contrary to popular belief, women don't necessarily always prefer super-masculine men. One study found, for example, that a majority of women in wealthy western countries like the US preferred men with feminine facial features (think Johnny Depp, as opposed to Vin Diesel). According to evolutionary perspectives, highly masculine features such as a strong jaw are presumed to be signs of strength, health, and better reproductive potential, but they are also linked with fidelity difficulties. The researchers reasoned that women in countries with better health care would be less concerned with virility and more concerned with caregiving potential. During ovulation, however, attraction to masculine features increases, as do wandering eyes. Some scholars go so far as to argue that women may cheat on their sensitive spouses with hunky guys at their most fertile points in order to maximize both the health of the offspring and the quality of its care. An alternative strategy is to find someone who is both hunky and sensitive, which may be why Ryan is in such high demand. 

2. Humility. Despite being venerated by half of America, Ryan Gosling thinks he's "weird looking" and he laughs bashfully when reporters bring up his heartthrob status. This, of course, just makes people love him more. Although research supports the cliche that confidence is sexy, a healthy dose of humility may be even sexier: research suggests that people feel more attracted to and less threatened by those who display moderate levels of modesty. Ryan's demeanor may also make him appear more approachable and real, allowing his admirers to more easily indulge in their fantasies of one day becoming Mrs. (or Mr.) Ryan Gosling.  

3. Good Old Conformity. One of the basic principles of social psychology concerns the powerful influence of the opinions and preferences of our peers. Is it possible that Ryan might be like that JTT look-alike in your middle school who everyone had a crush on but no one actually knew? This is not to say that Ryan is undeserving of the admiration he receives, but rather that his God-like status may be driven to some degree by the power of social influence, and the fuel of social media. But no need to give up your obsession - experts consider moderate celebrity worship to be a "healthy past-time," even if there's no hope for a Notebook-esque romance with Ryan in the near future. 


DeBruine LM, Jones BC, Crawford JR, Welling LL, & Little AC (2010). The health of a nation predicts their mate preferences: cross-cultural variation in women's preferences for masculinized male faces. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 277 (1692), 2405-10 PMID: 20236978

Tangney, J. (2000). Humility: Theoretical Perspectives, Empirical Findings and Directions for Future Research Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19 (1), 70-82 DOI: 10.1521/jscp.2000.19.1.70


  1. hi juli, i forgot to post the link in my failed comment above. this is an interesting (mostly the pic posted by a reader in the comments section...) related article. is gosling-fatigue on the horizon??

    1. Yeah that picture could definitely go either way... But apparently he just saved someone's life, so it's okay.