One idea of male physical perfection is the romance novel cover model. It’s the swashbuckling hero, stripped to the waist, wrapping himself around a fair damsel, her frills and ribbons swirling up around him, licking his bronzed, hairless torso. It’s the tamed savage, all leather straps, shells and feathers, towering magnificently over his prize, one ham-sized hand firmly grasping her arm, the other gently touching her chin as she, on her knees, reaches desperately up toward him, her hair a wind-swept tangle nearly as long as his.
There’s enough there to excite the dreams of a young boy for years into his adolescence — whether he wants to be the hero … or to receive the hero’s ill-fated, undying desire. It was rivaled only by the box-cover underwear models lining the rows of men’s department store intimate apparel aisles. (I never wore the stuff. I always had the simple Fruit of the Loom numbers. Instead of the triumphantly muscled gods of Calvin Klein and Jockey, I had a few guys in fruit fetish wear.)
It was enough to take Fabio all the way to the top of a margarine ad empire.
Recently this dream has been playing out on the walls of the New York subway. In all their half-naked, air-brushed glory, Hollywood hotties Eddie Cibrian, Jerry O’Connell, Ivan Sergei and Jason Lewis are doing their best to out-Fabio each other, tenderly grasping their respective leading ladies, in a collection of posters for a series of Lifetime movies based on novels by Nora Roberts.
I don’t know anything about her or her work, but the art direction of the posters tells me all I really want to know.
The films themselves are probably decent, perfunctory, uncomplicated TV movies. But the candy-colored posters are ridiculous caricatures. And the assault of all four of them taken together, which is how they appear in the subway, makes the whole thing look a little like a joke. On the Web site, we learn further that erstwhile hot mamas such as Cybil Shepard and Faye Dunaway also co-star. Could it get any gayer? It’s like accidental high camp.
But this is “television for women,” after all. The images above are all arms and chest. Not a single nipple shows. And no gay soft-core porn, however accidental, would be caught dead without a couple of Susan B. Anthonys peeking through.