Now, I’m not the biggest Beckham fan in the world

so this post is not especially about gratuitous ogling here but about how it is happening elsewhere, which is why I haven’t posted one of the easily available photos of him showing rather more skin than he’s showing here.

Although in the abstract I appreciate that David Beckham is on the very Pretty! and Shiny! end of the human aesthetic spectrum, as well as admiring his superlative athleticism and his being by all accounts a better-than-most team captain, I don’t react strongly to him other than occasionally thinking “nice photo” (probably mostly because I’m just not that into soccer as a football code (Go the ‘Tahs!)). He is also widely reckoned by those in the know to be a pretty nice bloke in general, and IMO various reports of infidelities should be left between him and his wife to sort out.

So why do so many people mock Becks for not having the gift of the gab? And assume that this means he is intellectually challenged in general? I wonder how many of the mockers have a fraction of his spatial ability to analyse trajectories and tactics under pressure and not only respond on target himself but also shape the field of play for an entire team? (And yes, I know he’s slowed down from his best days, but he’s still extraordinarily talented).

There was an unedifying display on tabloid TV this morning, where his appearance to promote the latest release of some designer underwear bearing his name was covered, and he was mocked for his spokesmodel moments. Sure, I’ve seen more relaxed and fluent spokesmodels, but what I saw this morning was someone who has vastly improved from his virtual incoherency of a few years ago, presumably due to spending time and effort working hard on his vocal presentation skills. Was this noted by the telly folks at all? Nope.

If the TV folks had been mocking the superficial consumerism of designer-wear marketing-speak in general as not worth listening to, that would be one thing (although obviously a great surprise from a program reliant on advertising revenue) – but the clear implication was that as a generally-acknowledged superior form of eye-candy he couldn’t possibly be worth listening to. This is objectification in a nutshell.

I also have some vague thoughts swirling around about the way that Victoria Beckham is presented in the press because she is the one credited with orchestrating the way that they have commodified their public image to maximise income opportunities – that she is routinely belittled for not being as famous/talented as her husband and being “overly” ambitious, and how a similar dynamic plays out with the gossip-narratives surrounding other celebrity couples, and what role gender plays in these celebrity critiques (would a managerial husband of a talented wife be subject to the same critiques as Posh routinely receives?). I’ll leave it to you to tease that out in comments.

Categories: arts & entertainment, media

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9 replies

  1. You should have heard attempt Spanish when he was playing for Real Madrid. It was… interesting.
    An interesting comparison to make with Beckham would be Cristiano Ronaldo. Like DB he’s a very conventionally good-looking, exorbitantly well-paid, designer clothes connoisseur, as well as being a preternaturally good footballer. Unlike Beckham, he’s almost silent and unseen outside his work-universe of football, and notoriously has no regular female partner; on the contrary he’s known as a bon-vivant and pants man.
    I don’t know that Beckham was that great as England captain, BTW. Capable as an on-field leader, yes, but he was fairly indisciplined in the captain’s armband. IMO he’ll be remembered in twenty years time less for his tabloid appearances or for captaincy than for attacks from the midfield and for all those freaky, freaky goals.

  2. @ Liam:
    I’ll defer to your greater knowledge re his captaincy skills, Liam. As I said, I’d heard he was better-than-most, not best-ever in the role, and that may have been a ‘faint praise’ thing that I didn’t recognise.
    I agree, it will be all those freaky, freaky goals that will ultimately be his legacy. That’s what got his name into a movie’s title, isn’t it?

  3. Well, greatness as captain of England is a low bar.
    Oh, this is such a bittersweet post. It reminds me of when, as an adult, I finally heard my favourite footballer of my youth—Emilio Butragueño, striker extraordinaire for Real Madrid—open his mouth to speak. It was so disappointing to hear such who spoke like a genius with his feet sound so very very ordinary.
    Athletes should be seen, not heard. The more talented, the silenter.

  4. I know nothing about soccer and the fact that Becks is the only player I’ve really heard of says a lot about his fame. I think there maybe some ambivalence about him because he’s a sports star, so making him a high status male, but he’s also somewhat feminised. I was a bit surprised when I first heard him speak that his voice so so small and high pitched. He seems to care about clothes, skin care, accessories, wears hairbands. How very girly! Plus he’s seen to be ‘pussy-whipped’ by the dreaded Posh. I think this confuses people because he doesn’t fit so easily into the sports star stereotype.
    It’s beyond me how people make decisions about others’ intelligence on such flimsy evidence. It makes me think of Keanu Reeves, similarly condemned as stupid. Like Becks, he’s beautiful rather than handsome in a manly sort of way, a la George Clooney. Neither does he say much. This means he gets called ‘dumb’, which is an interesting semantic move, combining the meaning of ‘dumb’ as mute and dumb as ‘stupid’, such as being a ‘dumb blonde’. So I think in both cases, they maybe considered stupid precisely because their images are feminised to some degree.

  5. Go the feminised man then. Give me Becks or Keanu reeves over a more ‘manly’ George Clooney or whoever, Any Day of the week. If girls are so obviously falling over themselves in lust w.r.t. guys like Becks and Keanu, is it male jealousy that prompts lesser men to pick on the one thing they can think of to try to dent these demigods? These gorgeous guys (and I’ll admit I like them for their looks alone, much in the same way that men drooled over Anna Kornikova) are criticised as being ‘feminised’ when they satisfy the main ingredient in current masculinity of attracting legions of female fans… what is that? It has to be pure, irrational, illogical envy.
    And, I mean, who cares if they have anything of use to say to anyone? They’re stunning to look at, and they have a talent. We don’t expect anything more of beautiful women (well, men don’t expect them to suddenly whip out their degree in physics). Why can’t we just be happy in the knowledge that there exists some drop-dead gorgeous men out there, – why do people have to tear them down (same goes for women). Looks are largely a genetic lottery, as are smarts, atheletic ability etc. We don’t all go backstabbing actually Lotto winners when they win their cash – no, we go, hey they’re so lucky, *sigh* wish it were me. We don’t start questioning their intelligence or looks or whatever it is we think they lack… People are strange…
    Sorry..rant over.

  6. I think that pairing sums up really well how much you just can’t work out what people are like from their public image. I hadn’t ever given either of them much thought, but when I saw Ali G’s interview with them, I loved it. All 3 shone like I have never seen them shine. Ali G gives me the irrits because he is belittling the people he is talking to, but the Beckhams knew who he was, so they bounced off him, or just laughed. It was funny. They were funny. I think a good sense of humour can be as good a giveaway of smarts as the gift of the gab.

  7. *and I’ll admit I like them for their looks alone, much in the same way that men drooled over Anna Kornikova* – yeah and you were even able to choose an adult as the object of your lust unlike the fifty year old men I heard banging on about A.K when she was 14.

  8. unlike the fifty year old men I heard banging on about A.K when she was 14….
    Yeah, predatory lasciviousness from older men makes me sick. I always thought there was something seriously wrong in the head with such men, and that it was a perverted male thing (which I will never be able to understand – i.e. how you could be sexually attracted to a member of the opposite sex who was young enough to be your child), but then Madonna turns out to be a dirty old woman with her 22 year old model ‘boyfriend’. Whats particularly disturbing though are the men who date/marry very young women who are around the same age as their kids…. I remember seeing an interview with Billy Joel and his new 23 year old Wife (he’s late 50’s), and it was remarkable that he had trouble looking Oprah in the eye… definately there was some sheepishness there, if not shame, indicating he knew what he was doing is socially dodgy, if not downright sleazy… yuck yuck yuck… (IMO – but hey, I guess if its legal ppl can do whatever the hell they want).

  9. @ Evergreen:
    Whoa. There is a huge difference between having a significant age gap in a consensual adult relationship and the creepy ogling of a teenage girl.
    I grant your point that an exploitatively sexist pattern exists with serial monogamy a la Donald Trump with ever younger partners, where it has a flavour of trading in the old model for a new one. Not every relationship with a significant age difference is like this.

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