Gov. Arnold a “shoe queen”?
Read why Arnold is a “metrosexual” and a self-described shoe queen.
Is new governor a dandy? Schwarzenegger macho but coiffed.
by Joan Ryan, SF Chronicle
Tuesday, November 18, 2003
No need for the Fab Five from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” Our new governor is already exfoliated, pedicured and peeled. He is already wearing the Bruno Magli’s and the custom-made shirts and the elegant cufflinks.
He is fabulously coiffed, and I’d bet my stash of cuticle cream he is no stranger to waxing.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger took the oath of office in Sacramento yesterday, he ushered in the era of the metrosexual governorship, a high- profile intertwining of modern masculinity and modern politics into one shining sensation of style, style, style! Who could be a more perfect representation of American culture than an immigrant man with a Kennedy wife, a superhero reputation, a Hollywood agent and really clean pores?
Metrosexual, for those who haven’t heard the word, is the label given to the straight, urban man who is well-groomed, well-dressed and perfectly at home at the cosmetics counter at Saks. He cares deeply about the width of his lapels and the crease in his slacks. He trims his nose hair religiously.
And nothing comes between him and his reflection.
“Arnold is totally a metrosexual,” says Michael Flocker, who wrote “The Metrosexual Guide to Life: A Handbook for the Modern Man.” He cited Schwarzenegger as an example in his book.
Indeed, the first quote in Flocker’s book comes from an interview with Schwarzenegger in the July issue of Vanity Fair: “I am a major shoe queen!”
Yet I would argue that Schwarzenegger doesn’t fit perfectly into the metrosexual mold, and not just because he wore white athletic socks with his designer suit when he met with the Chronicle editorial board last year. His crass behavior toward women, his swaggering confidence and frat-boy humor, are a throwback to a power-tools and pro-football version of masculinity. Oh, wait.
That never went away. (Think “The Man Show,” Donald Rumsfeld as a sex symbol and the happy public reception to our cowboy president’s rallying cry “Bring it on!” in the midst of war.)
Schwarzenegger can perhaps more accurately be described as a retro- metrosexual. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we’ve been dreaming about a manly leader who can make us safe. Don’t bore us with details.
Just stand there in your ice-blue power tie and assure us you are up to the task. Who fits the bill better than the Terminator?
When someone looks as polished and commanding as Schwarzenegger, it doesn’t matter in today’s political climate that he has no experience, no track record, that what we know about him goes no deeper than his moisturized skin. He founded his run for the governorship on last year’s successful passage of his after-school initiative that, when you read the fine print, had no funding stream and therefore hasn’t served any actual children.
But he said what we needed to hear. He delivered comforting, inspiring sound-bites about hope and miracles and golden dreams. He did what every successful politician must do to win office in America today: Stay away from anything resembling a substantive discussion.
“Americans are leading busy lives,” White House communications director Dan Bartlett said in a newspaper interview, laying out the blueprint for campaigns everywhere. “And sometimes they don’t have the opportunity to read a story or listen to an entire broadcast. But if they can have an instant understanding of what the president is talking about by seeing 60 seconds of television, you accomplish your goals as communicators.”
Maybe we relate to Schwarzenegger because there is a part of us that suspects we are all stars in one big reality TV show. Schwarzenegger is simply a more evolved version of ourselves, people who, with a little luck and the right connections, could become rich and famous. Television commercials and Oprah and Dr. Phil more or less make that promise to us every day, telling us we’re special, we’re worth it, we own the road, we are the ones we have been waiting for, we are capable of anything.
If we accept this as true of our own ordinary selves, why wouldn’t we accept it of a man who looks like a buffed and polished god? So here’s to our retro-metrosexual governor, a man with a superhero image that seems capable of saving an entire state, and enough style to make us believe in it.
E-mail Joan Ryan at email@example.com.