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