Jessica Helfand | Essays

Be Careful What You Wish For

What happens when you combine People's Sexiest Man Alive with GQ's Hottest Babe? They get married!

Then they split up.

Sad but not so very surprising, and it didn't take a Wiklileaks potboiler to make it front page news, either. While Time Magazine blamed it on too much hotness, most news sources have been rather respectful or maybe they're all just bored. MTV recently quoted Scarlett Johansson (above right) referring  to her husband Ryan Reynolds (above, left) as "that Canadian I live with". 

Touching, isn't it?

It's fascinating from a design standpoint to witness what happens when public displays of perfection just spectacularly self-destruct, and begs the question: aren't designers guilty of a similar crime? Much has been written about the tautology of media culture, about the degree to which we both consume and contribute to this vicious cycle. While we're typically dealing with inanimate objects, don't designers on some level embrace a parallel pursuit of a kind of aspirational perfection? Don't we critique ourselves on our search for flawless form, for ideal beauty? Isn't design about being hot and sexy enough to convince someone of something? To persuade? To sell?

So there you go: the sexiest boy meets the hottest girl, and what does it get you? Bupkis. 

Then again, why even bother looking at the pictures when you can google Gawker and see the rise and fall of the American celebrity marriage in one click? 

Comments [6]

There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of perfection in design. If you are not striving for perfection some form, what ARE you striving for?

The problem here is a definition of terms. I see nothing perfect about the pairing of an over-hyped, under-talented celebrity couple, nor in my work do I see the pursuit of 'sexy' (in the most canned, labeled and mass-produced sense) as 'perfection'.

So in that sense, I suppose I agree.

Well, to the point above, I say striving for physical perfection IS a problem in design if there is no underlying spark of an idea that makes it more than just eye candy.

Sometimes too perfect is boring (right, Ryan Reynolds? Right, functional modernism?) in design and in life. Scarlett Johansson is beautiful, obviously, but she also comes off as self-aware and a little oddball, so there's something meatier, quirkier and more intriguing about her as a celebrity. (did you ever see the movies she did when she was a child?? Remember 'Manny and Lo'??). I always thought she was too good for him.

Maybe Scarlett Johansson as a design methodology isn't bad.
Julie Teninbaum

A similar metaphor playfully considered here --

Be Careful What You link to:
A Freudian slip, also called parapraxis, is an error in speech, memory, or physical action that is interpreted as occurring due to the interference of some unconscious ("dynamically repressed") wish, conflict, or train of thought.

What is it called when you link to the wrong page?
When you click on the link GQ's Hottest Babe you get People's Sexiest Man Alive.
Carl W. Smith

Carl: Thanks. There's that tautology for you!
Jessica Helfand

"Curiouser and curiouser!" as a famed Englishman once wrote "the country itself, as its own map."
Carl W. Smith

Jobs | May 25