Dear Joseph Gordon-Levitt:
I'm a little worried about your career. It seems these days that all the actors in Hollywood are willing to do something that you're not. I would hate to see you bow down to peer pressure, but I don't want you to start losing out on the plum roles because you're not willing to do it. After all, you're competing with the Channing Tatums of this world, and that guy seems like he has a biological imperative to show off his pecs to the world at every given opportunity. Yes, Joe, it's time to start taking your shirt off in movies.
Last night I saw your newest flick, the bike messengers in peril thriller Premium Rush, and I got a little rush when you got injured and diagnosed with bruised ribs. "Finally," I and every admirer of the male form in the theater thought, "They're going to have to cut his shirt off!" Yes, we wanted to glimpse those sweat-drenched muscles that had been straining the cotton of that too-tight tee for the past 60 minutes. But no. It didn't happen! Instead they put the bandages over the shirt. How ridiculous is that? It's like the pudgy kid who wears a shirt to go swimming at camp, which only draws even more attention to what lies beneath.
We should have known that you would disappoint us. You have been everywhere, Joey. Four movies just this year. You're like the new Jessica Chastain or Jude Law before he started sleeping with the nanny and everyone hated him. Every time we see a new trailer, you're somehow magically in it. But each time you deny us what we want the most. You remain fully clothed not only in this film, but in The Dark Knight Rises (is there no locker room in the Bat Cave?) and Looper (is nudity not allowed in the future?). Sure, cancer isn't very sexy so we understand about 50/50 and it must have been intimidating standing next to Tom Hardy's abs in Inception, so we get that. But you've had plenty of other chances that you haven't taken!
I know you've gone Half Monty before in little indies like Mysterious Skin (where those with a quick finger on the DVD remote can even pause on the frames where you show off your bum) and in Hesher but that's not nearly enough. I mean, in the Hesher scenes (picture above) you're not even at your fittest and we can't even adequately admire your body because we're distracted by the drawing on your chest and that awful quasi-mullet that you're rocking. That's like giving someone an ice cream cone with gravel sprinkled all over it. No one wants to eat that.
This is the post Magic Mike age where our male actors are as objectified as the female ones have been since the dawn of celluloid. It's practically a requirement that the A-list stars of super hero movies show us the bulging torsos under their spandex. A star's ability to sport a full set of abdominal muscles is as important as his attention to his "craft," because it is not "craft" that is landing him on the cover of Men's Health to publicize his latest project.
It's not a question of being taken seriously either. Matthew McConaughey hasn't worn a shirt since some time in the late '90s and he's hotter than ever (in terms both of career and physique). Daniel Radcliffe stayed in a Griffindor uniform during the Harry Potter movies but showed his wand and two magic spells on stage every night for months in Equus. Most people wouldn't even recognize Ryan Reynolds if he ever managed to some wrangle what is above his waist into some sort of cover up. Even Shia LaBeouf got naked in that music video, and no one even wanted to see that! But the best example is Ryan Gosling. Not only is he lauded as one of the best actors of his generation (and that's your generation too, mister), but he has ridden his sculpted lumps of man meat to the meme-tastic love of all of the Internet. He's almost more important to the web than kittens!
JGL, we want that for you too. We know that we're not going to see anything but your stovepipe hat in this fall's Lincoln, but what about your movie after that? Don Jon's Addiction has seXXXy written all over it. Is that going to be it? Are we finally going to get our payoff? It better be soon, mister, because there are Pattinsons and Efrons and Garfields and Pettyfers and Kitsches and Lautners just waiting in the wings and none of them are afraid to proudly point their man nipples at a camera and flash us a smile.
Joseph, it's time to go shirtless. We demand it.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo credit: Wrekin Hill Entertainment]