The Hierarchy of Hotness

I could write a post about how overworked and overwhelmed I feel, but I think that Animal House said it best:

“What we need right now is a stupid, futile gesture on someone’s part!”

Rock on, Delta House.

Besides, my pal Ben Casnocha has already shown that theories of female beauty boost readership–or at least commenting.

The Hierarchy of Hotness first came to me back during the Anna Kournikova craze. I had one friend who ceaselessly proclaimed that she was the hottest girl of all time (yes, this was before she turned 18). My response was always the same: “She is not that hot. She’s just hot for a tennis player.”

That got me to thinking: Given a fixed level of physical beauty, which occupation or millieu is likely to make people rate you as hotter? In a flash, it came to me: The Hierarchy of Hotness. The higher on the hierarchy, the higher the bar for being considered hot. Clearly, “tennis player” carried a much lower bar than many other occupations.

To prove my point, I’ve carefully constructed my own stab at the HOH, using roughly equivalent exemplars as illustrations.

1. Model
2. Film Actress
3. TV Actress
4. Singer
5. Adult Film Actress
6. Athlete
7. Businesswoman
8. Politician

As examples, I chose eight different women* who share similar basic appearances (blonde Caucasian), but vastly different professions. Each is considered at the top of her peer group in terms of attractiveness, but as you will see, fall into a strict hierarchy when considered with a dispassionate eye.

* As a heterosexual male, I fear that I am unqualified to do the same for men, but welcome any additions to the body of HOH theory.

1. Model: Gisele Bundchen

Models are judged solely on their appearance, and their work seems to consist of walking on a runway a few weeks a year in Milan, Paris, London, and New York, appearing on the cover of magazines, and dating the most desirable men in the world. As a result, market efficiency prevails, resulting in the top spot in the HOH. If you don’t believe me, ask Leonardo DiCaprio (Oscar winning actor) and Tom Brady (3-time Superbowl MVP).

2. Film Actress: Keira Knightly

Unlike models, film actresses actually have to speak and show emotions. These additional requirements, plus the arduous life of 3-month location shoots in exotic lands mean that film actresses have a slightly lower HOH ranking. Note that even the talented Ms. Knightly has suffered the indignity of having her breast size Photoshopped up a few cups for her movie posters.

3. TV Actress: Katherine Heigl

TV actresses have it even harder. They have to spend over half the year shooting on a set in Burbank or New York, cranking out 22 episodes per year, rather than simply shooting a single movie. Naturally, TV actresses try to move up to films as quickly as possible. But that doesn’t change the fact that the hotness bar is lower for lovely Ms. Heigl. And don’t even get me started on her co-star Ellen Pompeo.

4. Singer: Gwen Stefani

Of course, the requirements for a singer are even more rigorous. You’ve got to sing, dance, and look good while grinding out a grueling 40-city tour and performing the same damn songs every night. No wonder that even a smokin’ hot singer like Gwen Stefani falls below her HOH superiors. Note: The HOH also explains why someone like Madonna can be considered attractive.

5. Adult Film Actress: Jenna Jameson

Let me issue the disclaimer that I am not an expert on the world of adult videos, and that I have never seen any of Ms. Jameson’s films. Nonetheless, based on the Entertainment Weekly story I read, and her appearances on various VH1 specials, I can tell you that Ms. Jameson is definitely less hot than the ladies above her on the ladder. And why not? After all, adult film stars have to engage in sexual relations with guys like Ron Jeremy. Anyone with the looks or talent to become a singer, actress, or model would steer well clear of the burlesque field.

6. Athlete: Jennie Finch

While being in good physical condition is generally correlated with attractiveness, the kind of talent required to be a world-class athlete is incredibly rare. With such a small pool to draw from, is it any wonder that someone like Jennie Finch, who, let’s face it, can’t carry the hotness jock of even a Gwen Stefani, can be voted sexiest female athlete of the year?

7. Businesswoman: Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer is incredibly smart, rich, and successful, all in orders of magnitude above my humble station. Yet it is precisely these rigorous requirements that allow someone who would be laughed out of a modeling agency to take the crown as the prom queen of Silicon Valley.

8. Politician: Governor Jennifer Granholm

What, you were expecting Nancy Pelosi? Hillary Clinton? Condi Rice? In a field noted for its ugliness, both inside and out, Governor Granholm stands out for her lack of hideousness. If it weren’t for that pesky Constitution that bars this Canadian-born US citizen from running, the Democrats would be falling over themselves to plump her for president (Granholm vs. Schwarzenegger–I can see it all now….). Yet while she has eliminated $4 billion worth of deficits from Michigan’s budget, it can’t change the fact that the hottest Governor is lightyears away from the hottest supermodel.

So what have we learned today, besides the fact that there is a reason Google has its “safe search” setting on as a default? That I’m shallow and superficial? Nah, you already knew that

There actually is a serious takeaway. (Cue solemn music)

Even something as basic as attractiveness depends a great deal on context and on your peers. Depending on the millieu you choose, the world may see you as irresistable or homely, even if you look the same in either case. Pick your peers wisely and consciously.

And if you’re both ugly and untalented, well, that’s why man invented reality TV.

4 thoughts on “The Hierarchy of Hotness

  1. Chris, did you just crash Ben’s blog? 🙂

  2. Chris,

    You looked really hot last night!

  3. This is a fascinating post. Excellent read. I entirely agree with the thesis.

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