By Anna David
Why the women’s lib crowd is going all gooey over the Hollywood heartthrob.
It’s not hard to love Ryan Gosling. Chiseled but not too pretty, seemingly devoid of body fat yet not overly sculpted, he finds time to save British expats who look the wrong way while crossing the street and breaks up fights between street vendors and their customers. When he’s not acting like a real-life superhero, he acts in movies. And those movies, while not always excellent, routinely show that the Canadian is one of the best working actors today. But Gosling has carved out a legion of fans among a group not particularly well-known for its fandom. Feminists.
This is not to say that he has aimed to appeal to feminists (a fact which, of course, only adds to the appeal). He has simply shared what’s on his mind — and what’s on his mind happens to make everyone swoon.
It all started when, in December 2010, word got out that “Blue Valentine,” the much-heralded gritty drama he made with Michelle Williams about a young couple whose relationship falls apart amid a thousand withering glares, was going to receive an NC-17 rating. The heartthrob was rightfully irritated by the news and, rather than doing the PC thing by keeping quiet and smiling at the premiere, he talked in promotional interviews about how the movie was receiving a harsher rating because of a specific scene where he performs oral sex on Williams. He then pointed out that when a woman performs oral sex on a man in a movie, the ratings board deems that R-worthy, but if the genders are reversed, the rating is stricter.
“ ‘Black Swan’ has an oral scene between two women, and that’s an R rating,” he told the World Entertainment News Network, “but ours is between a husband and his wife, and that’s NC-17?” Women across the nation were overcome with adoration — before we even saw the scene under discussion.
“It was kind of cool for him to break it down that way,” says Danielle Henderson, 35, a gender and women’s studies graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. Henderson started a Tumblr blog called FeministRyanGosling last October — purely as a study tool, though she thought it would make “about five friends laugh.” A riff on the already popular F – – kYeahRyanGosling blog, FeministRyanGosling consists of photos of the heartthrob with comments about, among others, Bulgarian-French philosopher Julia Kristeva and early-1900s political activist Emma Goldman laid across his visage.
Jezebel got wind of Feminist-RyanGosling the day after Henderson started it, and the rest is — at least in the world of blog-to-book deals — history: Henderson’s book, “Feminist Ryan Gosling: Feminist Theory as Imagined From Your Favorite Sensitive Movie Dude,” is being released Tuesday.
As for Gosling’s appeal, Henderson says, “He laughs at himself, he’s very good at his job, he says nice things about people and he cares about social justice: He’s a Darfur activist and wears Obama shirts.” Indeed, his comments about the women he’s dated (“Rachel [McAdams] and my love story is a hell of a lot more romantic [than the love story in ‘The Notebook’]”) and his political actions. (He’s writing a screenplay about Darfur and has spoken on Darfur panels in Washington, DC.) indicate that he’s concerned with far more than box-office scores or romancing starlets. (While he does date actresses, the choices he makes — from McAdams, 34, to Sandra Bullock, 48, to current flame Eva Mendes, 38 — have hardly been of the Kardashian or Lohan ilk; they’ve all also been older than the 31-year-old Gosling.)
Plus, he wants to be a daddy — an involved one. Unabashedly so. “I’d like to be making babies but I’m not, so I’m making movies. When someone comes along, I don’t think I’ll be able to do both, and I’m fine with that. I’ll make movies until I make babies,” he said last fall.
Yet perhaps the best unintentional p.r. boost Gosling got was in December 2010, when Josh Horowitz from MTV News asked him to read aloud the entries on F – – kYeahRyanGosling. Gosling, looking so flaxen-haired that he almost seemed to be bathed in gold, gave each entry a hilarious introduction before bursting into giggles. So precious is he in the clip, in fact, that it tugs on nearly the same heartstrings as a video of a kitten chasing a string. And the fact that he ended the interview with a joke that he was going to make a movie based on F – – k- YeahRyanGosling, followed by a manly “You know how I do” and simultaneous bro slap chased all kitten thoughts away.
Amelia McDonell-Parry, the editor-in-chief of the women’s blog the Frisky, knows that video well. A self-admitted Gosling obsessive, McDonell-Parry summarizes his popularity among intelligent, independent women like so: “He already had dreamboat status before he started making feminist-minded statements, but when he did, it’s like you suddenly had an intellectual justification for worshipping him.”
Her own interest in the actor grew so enormous, it should be noted, that her co-workers actually put her on Ryan Gosling restriction — where, for two months, she wasn’t allowed to read or write anything about him. But the Gosling diet didn’t do much to quell her crush.
“I still really like him,” she says before admitting that she once ran 11 blocks, to Whole Foods, when a friend texted her that he was there. Although she was “too nervous to actually say anything” when she saw him, McDonell-Parry admits that her admiration is based as much on his behavior as his beauty. “If he suddenly took up with a Ukrainian model that didn’t speak English,” she admits, “I think I’d be over him.”