Scarlett Johannson gets the Esquire treatment

Scarlett Johansson in the latest issue of <i>Esquire</i>.

Scarlett Johansson in the latest issue of Esquire. Photo: Esquire

There’s something vaguely embarrassing about reading feature pieces on beautiful young female celebrities, particularly when they’ve been penned by heterosexual men. With the exception of a very few examples, they tend to read like the self-conscious romantic warblings of what Choire Sicha once referred to as ‘malformed, self-centred boy-writers”.

Even good writers seem to collapse into sweaty puddles of pheromones when faced with a beautiful woman. Try as we might, none of us can erase the memory of the literary trainwreck that was Stephen Marche’s profile of Megan Fox. Marche’s resume is not unimpressive. And yet, sitting at his typewriter that night (because surely Marche writes on a typewriter, as do all the Sad Young Literary Men of our generation), the Canadian saw fit to not just place the following words describing Fox’s face side by side, but to send them on to an editor who then approved them for publication:

"It's closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly."

The November 2013 issue of <i>Esquire</i>.

The November 2013 issue of Esquire.

A more thorough look at that nonsense casserole can be found here.

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Sadly, so it is with Esquire’s latest foray into the Look Mum, I’m Writing This With My Erection! school of journalism. To celebrate the very important coronation of Scarlett Johansson as Sexiest Woman Alive, writer Tom Chiarella spent a few hours with the ‘bombshell’ (a creature that used to roam the earth like buffalo, according to Marche) and then assembled 2500 words on a page that could essentially be boiled down to the following sentence: Scarlett Johansson’s voice makes my penis feel wibbly.

So that you too might know how it feels to have your nethers seal in protest forever, I’ve captured some of the more clumsily written odes below.

"Her voice is a raspy frequency in the air. Legitimately as pertinent and defining a component of her physical makeup as her lips, her cheekbones, her legs. When you're with her, you feel that voice. This bar is loud with cocktail hour, but the matter of her voice, the fact of it, hangs in the air even so — always a little sandy, somehow broken down, as if she'd been singing all day. Whether she breathes right or projects well I do not know, but her voice cuts the murmuring clatter of forks against small plates, ice spun in highballs. You can hear it no matter what."

What I’m getting from this 107 word paragraph is that when Johansson speaks, it is audible to those within earshot.

Later, Chiarella stalks follows arranges to meet Johansson in Long Island to continue his ‘interview’.

"I had forgotten about the voice. Strong voice. In any space, it seems Scarlett Johansson is always closer than other women, even though right now she's sitting in a way-over-there chair on the other side of the glass table, taking in the rollicking lunch crowd over my shoulder, with her back to the wall."

I guess that gives Chiarella an answer to his earlier question of whether or not Johansson wanted him to look at her ass.  

Instead, he teaches her how to play the card game he enjoys every morning with friends at his local coffee shop. Because of course he does.

"You can talk during cribbage. Once she understands the game — even before that, really — she rambles. She can talk. Really talk. She is the sexiest rambler alive. Her words: lazy, light, no particular rush. Like any game in any gin joint, breakfast place, or lobster shack, it's mostly chit-chat, general kidding around. No matter. She is to be listened to. Until the last hand, her voice sounds, as always, like she just woke up, wary, but delighted by the game she's about to play."

To recap, Scar Jo, when you read this, you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that your interviewer felt you had nothing of importance to say but that it’s okay because you sound like you’ve just woken up in his cribbage and want to play a game with your hands.

The entire result is so excruciatingly bad that you can’t help but feel like you’ve inadvertently become witness to a bad date, probably organised via OkCupid. Despite the efforts at indie romance associated with that particular breed of lovelorn mammal - references to Shakespeare, quirky activities (Chiarella has Johansson provide a writing sample so a graphologist can later assess her personality), a conversation about barnyard animals spawned from the revelation that Chiarella’s city-dwelling neighbour owns four goats - he can’t seem to tell that the subject of his adoration just isn’t that interested. Johansson is a cipher, an enigma for Chiarella (and by extension, the readers of Esquire) to solve so that he can find out something more about himself in the process.

Basically, this article reads like a pitch outline for a Zach Braff movie, starring Zach Braff as Zach Braff. Unfortunately, Chiarella doesn’t seem to realise that Johansson sounds like she’s on the other side of the fourth wall with the rest of us, watching the debacle through her fingers and realising that it could only be worse if Josh Radnor turned up. 

No.

47 comments

  • Thanks for the laugh Clem - Marche and Chiarella could learn a thing or two from you about how to write a decent article.

    Commenter
    Cam
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    October 09, 2013, 8:26AM
    • I am a bit confused...Scarlett obviously knows what Esquire is about, has posed provocatively for the magazine, and was presumably very well paid for it. The man who interviewed her is trying to convey to his readership, mainly male, what it is like to have the opportunity to have some one on one time with the object of desire of so many of the readership (obviously as they voted her the sexiest woman alive). In that context are you suggesting the readers would have preferred to hear "Scarlett knits really good sweaters and scarfs which she occasionally gives to family as gifts. Her knitting prowess commenced at an early age when her maternal grandmother, who was not the sexiest woman alive, taught her the finer points of purl..." I doubt it. Otherwise, I have read in women's magazines female writers conveying that they nearly slipped off a chair (for obvious reasons) when interviewing George Clooney or any other male heart throb... I could understand this mock outrage if the article was more akin to.."I actually didn't hear anything SJ said as I couldn't get my eyes off of her tits, or stop wondering what panties she had on...

      Commenter
      Col the Pariah
      Location
      Faulco
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 8:34AM
      • Hold on, now I’m confused. Are you suggesting that context excuses all actions? That if I write for the ‘KKK Monthly’ I’m entitled to express hateful opinions against particular races because it suits the target audience?

        Or are you making the ‘two wrongs make a right’ argument by suggesting that if some women overtly sexualise men sometimes then it’s OK for all men to sexualise women whenever they choose?

        Comment is wonderful but your logic is absurd.

        Commenter
        Tom Calthorpe
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        October 09, 2013, 9:51AM
      • @Tom Calthorpe yes Tom, the context DOES justify the result.

        She was voted sexiest woman alive... not smartest, funniest, sportiest. But sexiest as in "The way you have developed since being born though through no fault of your own makes me want to lick your face and put myself inside you."

        Sexiest.

        Period.

        Get over it.

        Instead I would suggest directing vitriol against the sex-ist nature of these polls and the way that society still only values women only if they are attractive.

        Commenter
        James W
        Date and time
        October 09, 2013, 10:45AM
      • " That if I write for the ‘KKK Monthly’ I’m entitled to express hateful opinions against particular races because it suits the target audience? "

        Ammm... Yes??? In fact that would be the whole purpose of KKK monthly and if you do not subscribe to such awful opinion you would never write or read such awful publication. Same is with Esquire. Ms Johanson if offended by sexist and brainless drivel that usually grace pages of Esquire , should have not given interview for article "sexiest women alive" or posed in what appears to be her underwear. Looks to me she was looking for some publicity.. and got it. Job well done. In short to borrow your analogy ... it is like you complaining of being portrayed as racist by KKK monthly... after you agreed to give them an interview and pose for photo in white hood in front of burning cross.

        For the record, I am single male in early 30s with 6 figure salary who still lives bachelor life and pays premium for premium clothes, cars, holydays etc. In short I am the target audience of Esquire, yet I would rather read every single Dan Brown novel before that rag, for the same reasons you correctly mention in the article. It is a publication for total prats, but some blame for its existence has to be shouldered by women like Scarlet who are it appears very happy to strip down for the cover.

        Commenter
        Dj77
        Date and time
        October 09, 2013, 11:10AM
      • Tom Calthorpe,
        Did you really just compare male sexual desire to the KKK?

        Commenter
        Freddie Frog
        Date and time
        October 09, 2013, 11:44AM
      • "Did you really just compare male sexual desire to the KKK?"

        Both do involve unusual pointiness where a head used to be...

        Commenter
        gulgul
        Date and time
        October 09, 2013, 2:14PM
    • validated, seconded : agreed Clementine, what a piece of crap article.

      for a 'Look-Mum-I'm-writing-with-my-throbbing-clitoris' equivalent please see any one of the 30 gazillion articles written about Ryan Gosling (or George Clooney).

      Commenter
      Jesse Pinkman
      Location
      ABQ
      Date and time
      October 09, 2013, 9:11AM
      • "I have a brain and a penis and only enough blood to run one at a time."
        - Robin Williams

        Scar Jo would get any man's motor running.

        Commenter
        Bender
        Date and time
        October 09, 2013, 9:36AM
        • Bender, this is why you are probably very lonely.

          Commenter
          dianav
          Date and time
          October 09, 2013, 2:18PM

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