Adam Levine is People’s first Jewish recipient of the coveted “Sexiest Man Alive” title, and I’m sure his mother could not be more proud. All this would be great if Adam Levine were a mensch, but Adam Levine says he’s not a mensch.
“People think I’m nice,” he said in a 2012 interview with Details magazine. “I’m not nice.”
If Anthony Weiner didn’t kill the myth of the Nice Jewish Boy, Adam Levine just did. Everything from his tattoos to his model-juggling makes him the least appealing Jewish boy People Magazine could possibly find. Even his sense of irony is painfully lacking:
Nice and funny are the two things we Jews contribute to the pantheon of sexy, and Adam Levine is neither of them. He doesn’t even get points for showing up at temple sometimes, because:
It’s true that I don’t personally know Adam Levine, so it’s probably not fair for me to offhandedly call him a shanda for the goyim (a “shame in front of the non-Jews,” a phrase I learned the night my parents taught me about Monica Lewinsky.) But how could this happen? People’s Sexiest Man Alive is the barometer of cultural acceptance, everybody knows that. No amount of Nobel Prizes could fill the hole in our heart that a Jewish Sexiest Man Alive could fill. This is one small magazine cover for a Jewish man, one giant leap for Jewkind.
So I did what any nice Jewish girl would do when confronted with feelings that are too big to understand. I called some rabbis for spiritual guidance.
None of them seemed outraged over Adam Levine’s shaved head and humorless tweets. But they did have some good advice about what kind of Sexiest Man Alive would be good for the Jews. “It’s not the skin, it’s not the crotch, it’s not the butt, it is the heart, for the Jewish Sexiest Man Alive,” said Rabbi James Ponet, the Yale rabbi who presided over Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to nice Jewish boy Marc Mezvinsky. “Sexiness for the Jewish man means an openhearted capacity to communicate.”
Rabbi Jen Krause, who performs the high holy day services at the 92nd St Y in New York City, was not at all enraged over Adam Levine’s ripped jeans and tats. “He’s talented, he’s entertaining, he’s hot, so it’s a good thing,” she said.
But shouldn’t the first Jewish Sexiest Man alive be a cuddly, funny, babe-mensch? “When People one day does Sexiest Mensch alive, then that’s a first that we could really get excited about,” Krause said.
Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, seemed less than impressed with Levine as a choice. “This too shall pass,” she said. “There will be another Jewish Sexiest Man Alive, and there will be another rock band with a less stupid name than Maroon 5.”
Wurtzel says the Nice Jewish Boy stereotype is a myth, because she’s dated as many smarmy Jews as nice ones. “I think if anyone’s holding out hope for that, I hope they’re merely holding out hope and not holding their breath,” she said.
“The stereotype comes from this idea of them as good husbands and good breadwinners. It’s fairly un-macho. We don’t think of them as rock stars. But the stereotype is not really real. Lou Reed was Jewish.”
Maybe Wurtzel is right, maybe Adam Levine is a fine representative for smarmy Jewish boys everywhere. But what about all the nice, sexy Jewish men who could help keep the myth alive? Stereotypes are bad in general, but a reputation for niceness would be a good thing to keep.
Jonathan Leibson / Getty Images / Dave J Hogan / Getty Images / Steve Granitz / WireImage
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (left), for example, studied French at Columbia and can rock a tie. Or Paul Rudd (middle), who is always the bridesmaid, never the bride. He was featured as a runner-up in 2012, but he deserves a Sexiest Man Alive cover himself. Or, most of all, the smart and hilarious Andy Samberg (right), king of the Nice Jewish Boys, and obvious frontrunner for first Jewish Sexiest Man alive. Look at that face.
Despite the cautionary tales, Nice Jewish Boys are not curly-haired unicorns, fabricated out of a collective neurosis and too many conversations with our mothers. I’ve met enough of them to know that they’re real, maybe more real than Adam Levine’s fragile celebrity.
So to all those out there who are disappointed (or surprised) that People put Adam Levine on the cover, I will say to you: “Yes, Virginia, there are nice Jewish boys out there.” But there might not be a Santa Claus.