Good-looking vs. Attractive (A Deconstruction)


That goddam Brandon has already done it better than I could ever dream of (and on demand, no less), but a promise is a promise.

And so I submit for your approval (or not) the poor little foundling post, dressed up and paraded before you like an awkward tween at the orphanage on Potential Parents’ Day…

As we both love the flexibility that self-employment allows, The BF and I spend most of our weekends in, working on various individual pixel-pushing projects*. (Frequent readers of communicatrix-dot-com will notice the reappearance of several post images and the blogroll, down right; very frequent and/or obsessive readers will notice the repair of numerous dead/broken links buried deep in the bowels of the blog.**)

To reward ourselves, [when time and work allow]*** we knock off at 8…9…10…and curl up in bed with adult beverages and a MacGuyvered viewing apparatus (The BF, unlike your well-cabled communicatrix, does not own an actual TV). On the menu a couple of weekends [several months] ago was Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) a juicy Ben Hecht-penned noir directed by Otto Preminger which has the added distinction of being the second pairing of Laura (1944) co-stars Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews****.

They’re pretty hot, those two. It doesn’t hurt that they’re lit and dressed and shot with the kind of care you only find in commercials these days (or from film directors who came up through commercials); the studios had an investment to protect in their stable of stars, and it shows. The actors also have an undeniable chemistry, which neither the studios nor anyone before or after has been able to manufacture.*****

But would they be stars today?

That was the question The BF posed, specifically about Andrews. Because when you take him apart, Dana Andrews, while pretty gosh-durn attractive, is not really all that good-looking. He’s rugged and manly and has some kind of presence, which always sells, but not the sort of good looks and/or magnetism and/or undeniable ability to let people ‘see’ him that the highly-valued stars of today seem to have.

, end of stump post,

There’s a thing you learn early on if you’re an actor, or someone who has occasion to be around a lot of actors, like a casting director, producer, agent, director, and you pay attention. There are people who are mesmerizing until they act and people who are just the opposite. Kind of like real life, but you don’t ordinarily run across such a staggering quantity of good-looking people in real life, unless you live in Los Angeles and confine yourself to a handful of zip codes.

That attractiveness in an actor is what people call star quality, and people have it at all levels and in all forums of acting, from blockbuster movies to Equity-waiver stage productions to plain old scene study class. Common wisdom dictates it’s something that cannot be taught, but I believe you can learn yourself to be the most attractive motherfucker on the planet if you are willing to internalize one very simple, zen-koan of a lesson:

Need nothing.

Before you reject the notion as absurd, reflect a bit. It explains why we can find both a saint and an utter dickhead equally attractive. It even explains why we might find a saint less attractive, if the saint is not acting selflessly but out of some deep-seated need for regard and the dickhead is a true dickhead.

This is a varying degree thing, there are many arenas of need and many levels of need within them. There is also the truth that most of us bring some kind of need to every relationship or encounter, and as a friend of mine says, when you find someone with that matching luggage, you’re off to the races. (Actually, my friend doesn’t mix her metaphors, but I digress.)

The best advice I ever got about acting (and I’ve gotten a lot of great advice) was to note the people your eyes are drawn to onstage, and reflect upon why. In Sidewalk, there’s something very present and truthful about Tierney and Andrews compared to a lot of the actors, many of whom (if I recall correctly) deliver their lines in the style of the day (read: varying levels of technical skill, not much “truth”). I think it’s what makes them compelling, what makes most people compelling, versus not so much. They’re relaxed and secure (read: not needy) enough to let it hang out there, in a way that other people aren’t.******

Long after I’d recovered from my severe Crohn’s onset and but before I was able to understand how it had changed me, I had many people tell me how much more attractive I was post-onset than pre-, and not just in comparison to the ashen and skeletal me that was released from the hospital, but to the young and dewy me of my 20’s and 30’s. Mostly, I just thanked them (genuinely, it was flattering and also very, very touching to me for some reason). But my closest friend and writing partner and I discussed it at length, over a period of time. And what it came down to was this: I was easier to be around now; I was more relaxed and playful and fun more of the time.

When I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. While I’m no ogress, I’m no beauty, either, and it was always the funny/goofy/smartypants me that seemed to draw people in. And, conversely, it was the neediness that kept them away. Ironically, my biggest need was to be loved for who I really was, and of course I knew that someone was inherently revolting. Once I’d been to the dark well…well, I lightened the fuck up. Gave myself a little credit. Stopped taking myself so seriously. And realized that I need nothing, nothing nothing nothing, so much as I needed to accept the truth every minute of every day.

I used to wonder who would love me when I was old and ugly, or if I got smashed up in a car accident or carved up in one of the many knife fights I like to engage in. Now I don’t wonder anymore. I will love me, totally and completely, good-looking or bad: me. Everything else I trust to come from there. It vanquishes surprising amounts of fear.

And that, I hear, is very, very attractive…


Photo © Fack to Bront via Flickr.

*And having sex. Lots and lots of sex.

**I originally thought to rewrite this or even excise it, but the desire for carbon-dating won out. Besides, I was hurt and wanted you all to feel BAD for not even noticing all the work I put into setting things right on this blog. Which is still rife with busted-ass links. For the record.

***I’m sort of digging on this whole “here’s how it was, here’s how it’s gonna be” re-jiggering, so I’m going to bracket changes until I get to the totally new stuff and leave everything else as is. IT’S LIKE WATCHING HISTORY IN ACTION, PEOPLE!!!

****Do you know, I barely remember this now? It’s a little-known fact that I have a mind like a steel sieve. So I make a great audience for old jokes, but don’t ever, ever ask me to remember the combination to that locker we stowed the $50 million in.

*****Believe you me, first person who can orchestrate chemistry makes a million-bajillion dollars.

******Another great example of this is the difference between megawatt contemporaries Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both are very adept at the histrionics, but there’s always something about Davis that’s magnificently compelling, as opposed to Crawford, whose best performances (I’m thinking of Mildred Pierce and Autumn Leaves) can’t touch Davis’s (All About Eve, The Little Foxes, Jezebel, etc.). Aside from the obvious havoc it wreaks with truth-telling, control freak-dom always has the stink of need on it.


  1. I just spent last night mulling over why I was so eager to please (plug for my recent post). And here you are — answering the question like an Oracle. I’m not sure what to do with the information right now. Maybe if I watch “Where the Sidewalk Ends” I’ll get some inspiration about my next step —

  2. thank you. The part on your acting advice was particularly interesting. It was suggested to you to pay attention to those your eyes were drawn to. Could that understanding be applied to your hearing, sense of touch or smell? I might apply this to my hearing. Pay attention to what soothes or perhaps what stimulates my hearing. The only thing of difficulty though is not being able to distinguish levels of noise. Unlike the eyes, ears cannot open or close naturally providing a barrier against stimuli. Earplugs shut out everything while hearing aids increase ones hearing.

    I wonder if a hearing aid exists, to decrease noise or to make sounds separate from eachother.

    Communicatrix thank you for sharing your insight. Your posts have a way of making me think.

  3. Thanks so much for this, Communicatrix. I agree completely. While ‘good-looking’ is – subjective – at least, ‘attractive’ is ATTRACTING. Draws one to it. Real is HOT. Knowing who you are is HOT. Being fully alive is H-O-T. Even people who don’t ‘know’ this react to it. I feel like a litmus test in this way – because I’m one, um, moody girl. And I think too much. I swear my phisical being must go through a Molecular Shift when I get the hell out of my head and feel alive again. Sometimes it’s the changed reaction around me that alerts me that I’ve been asleep! Again! Aaaaargh!

    And – I must be horridly out of (every) loop – but WHO is that ‘Mr. Cameron’ photo you chose? Known? For what?

    I could barely read the post.

  4. thank god i went first. you actually answered the question. and i think in my first draft i actually wrote, ‘the most important thing, however, is to make others love you, so as to cover up the fact that you hate yourself. that’s some good looking shit, right there.’

    oh, and ps, smart, good-looking people intimidate me, so whenever i finally get the chance to meet you in real life, please try to dumb it down a little. LOVE ME DAMMIT

  5. BF – ah, the ’40s. Did I miss my era, or what?

    Neil – we are all eager to please; some of us just hide it better. Also, if you are going to plug your stuff, add a linky!

    annie – call me. I need to have you call me “genius” in person.

    vanesica – my pleasure. sometimes I think the whole reason I did the acting thing was to enrich my blogging experience.

    Maral – why do I get the idea *you* are hot? maybe a communicatrix pinup calendar is in order

    brandon – I love it when you are falsely modest. that shit is HOT!!!

  6. Hi there ~ I found your site through Brandon.

    And, WOW. What a well-composed deconstruction. Very good points, all of them, and I must say that I have been thinking of this topic and your ideas since I read this a few days ago.

    Great photo as well. He’s my kind of man, I can tell…

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