Jason Diamond on the universality of sexy dead Paul Newman even in the internet’s most fraught environments.
In these splintered times, I often wonder if there’s any one thing people online can agree on. Twitter is an especially great platform for finding any possible thing to nitpick about and offer up some long-simmering thoughts you’ve had on a topic. Let’s say you saw a movie in 2009 and you hated it, but had no way to tell anybody why you didn’t like it, then somebody on Twitter mentions that they watched that same movie on HBO Max and loved it, you have your in to rain on their parade and say “I thought that movie sucked.” Big or meaningless: there is always an opportunity to argue or take a dump on something when you’re on Twitter. No matter what, when you blast your thoughts out to however many people, there will always be somebody who will tell you that you’re wrong, or worse.
That’s why I’ve always been fascinated by the topics that we can basically all agree on, the things that don’t merit a consideration of “both sides.” I’m always looking for the “all sides” conversation, and the only one I can safely identify is pictures of dead sexy guys, specifically of Paul Newman. The Oscar-winner / bottled salad dressing king who passed away in 2008 is one of the very rare topics that will place you very much in the minority if you don’t like him. In fact, if you aren’t straight-up horny for old pics of Newman, if you don’t publicly say something about how hot he was, people might think you’re odd. Social media has no gods or masters, but just about everybody pledges allegiance to the hotness of the guy that was in Slap Shot*1. Case in point, this photo I posted last week:
I honestly wasn’t expecting any sort of response to this tweet. I was more interested in the fact that Newman was wearing a shirt from Grossinger's, the old Borscht Belt resort that was supposedly the inspiration for Kellerman’s in Dirty Dancing. I know this isn’t exactly a viral tweet by any means, but almost 1,500 likes and over 150 retweets isn’t exactly anything to sneeze at, either. It isn’t about this one tweet, though. Newman is one of the dead guys Twitter gushes over the most:
I guess I’m fascinated by this because Newman occupies this really interesting space in terms of revered white dude actors from the 20th century. He was, as we’ve already pointed out, very good looking. His resume as an actor is unimpeachable, with multiple classics in every decade of his career from the 1950s until his death in 2008, and multiple awards throughout. Then there’s the whole Newman’s Own empire, his food brand that makes everything from bottled salad dressing to Fig Newman cookies that I will gladly scarf down in one sitting.
Newman is sexy on Twitter, but on Instagram, he serves as more of a style icon — still sexy, but a different focus. There are a number of Insta fan accounts dedicated to Newman, and any image of him will solicit a number of NC-17 replies alongside the emoji heart eye faces. But there are also a lot of posts dedicated to his life as a watch collector and plenty of others with captions accompanied by hashtags like #fashion #vintage and #denim.
Twitter is a place for people to collectively fawn over Newman while Instagram places him in more of a moodboard spot, which makes sense given what each platform is intended for. Newman’s social media afterlife does seem to inhabit two different worlds. He’s a good-looking, stylish guy on Instagram. On Twitter, it’s almost all about sex. It’s people replying to my pic of him “No bigger snack ever graced a bottle of lite balsamic vinaigrette” or “Skull-fuck me, ghostdaddy.” Or it’s the tweet about his three-way with Ertha Kitt and James Dean going viral once every three weeks:
Twitter gets horny over plenty of people, living or dead, but Newman’s ghost haunts the platform in a very specific way. Ultimately it might be because when he was alive, Newman was not only really good looking but a good person as well. Just look to what he did with his Newman’s Own company, which gives 100 percent of it’s after-tax profits to a foundation of the same name, or go on Twitter and find the tweet with the picture of him and the hashtag #wokebae, looking cool as hell at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. It boils down to something the writer and poet Saeed Jones said of Newman: “Even in the after life, I leave open the possibility for white ghosts to disappoint. But he continues to walk the path of righteousness.” — By Jason Diamond
The Dirt: Sexy ghosts never die.
I know I could have picked almost any other Newman film, but I love Slap Shot. Sorry.