How Adam Driver challenges the concept of the sex symbol?
Adam Driver: Indie actor with a particular physique, sex symbol, both or neither?

After decades of male roles (except for Mafiosi movies) that could have made a Calvin Klein ad (Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio...), a new generation of American actors is emerging. We can't help but think of Timothée Chalamet, a young actor with a long physique and diaphanous skin who, in “Call Me By Your Name”, managed to steal the show from the blond and muscular Armie Hammer... But also and above all, Adam Driver, who has never been as adored as today.

Perhaps it is due to his rigorous choice of roles, which allowed him to become in a snap of his fingers the darling of Hollywood, he now accumulates big productions such as Marriage Story, House of Gucci, and Annette, but also conquer this year the heart of Cannes, where he took a malicious pleasure in shaping his name in the eyes of the general public ... It is simply a success story, you may say. It's possible, but a question is nagging me: what makes us love Adam Driver so much, and especially, how did he challenge the very concept of a sex symbol?

Nothing destined Adam Driver to become an actor, and even less the most promising of his generation. No, really nothing. Born in a Baptist family, he was immersed in religion and beliefs from a very young age (absolutely nothing wrong with that). At the age of 18, after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he joined the United States Armed Forces and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. His destiny seemed to be set... until he was discharged from Camp Pendleton, California after two years for medical reasons, three months before he was to leave for a mission in Iraq. That's when Adam Driver's life and desires took a new turn.

From 2005 to 2009, he studied theater at the Juilliard School in New York. Ambitious and hard-working, he struggled to get castings and appeared for the first time in a few police series such as “The Unusuals” and “New York Special Unit” (a cult series in my opinion), but it is really the series “Girls” that offered him success. To go from a role in an American series that has become iconic to the red carpets of the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, and awards in the space of just a few months is admirable and makes you dream.

But in fact, what is a sex symbol?
If we look closely, the status of a sex symbol is fed by Hollywood in an idea of perfection including physical: in the 1950s, James Dean was the sulphurous actor idolized by the youth pre-rock and roll, a symbol of America of the fifties, radiant and rebellious. Just like Marlon Brando who, in the 1960s, forged an individual and haunting style that has crossed the decades. Or Brad Pitt (how can we not mention him), the eternal mysterious blond playboy with irresistible phlegm.

On the other hand, it must be said, Adam Driver is not, at first glance, the archetypal sex symbol. And yet, he seems to have all the makings of one. Yes, he is not particularly beautiful. However, his exquisite acting, the depth he gives to his character and the modernity of a man who has more than just a deliciously athletic body overturns the idea that we have of this status to make it almost more attractive. Physically, with his singular beauty and magnetic aura, he offers us a new vision of the very concept of virility, which is just as appreciable as the perfection of a Marlon Brando or a Leonardo DiCaprio. Well done Adam!

Finally, wouldn't Adam Driver fit more into the codes of the French sex symbol?

Adam Driver, a new archetype

Some will say that he does not have enough films to his credit to get the status of a sex symbol. But throughout his career, he has managed to seduce the greatest directors to play in their films: Steven Soderbergh (in Logan Lucky), the Coen brothers (in Inside Llewyn Davis), Jim Jarmusch (in Paterson), Noah Baumbach (in Why We're Young), Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese (in Silence). The director of Taxi Driver will go so far as to say that he is "one of the best, if not the best, actors of his generation". As if that wasn't enough, he's sharing the stage with Lady Gaga in House of Gucci, a film that delves into the secrets of three generations of the Gucci dynasty.

In Cannes in 2021, all eyes were on Adam Driver. The actor created the event by lighting a cigarette in the crowd after the screening of the opening film Annette by Leos Carax, in which he plays Marion Cotillard. Perhaps this is the recipe for soaring his fame ... But not just that.

Adam Driver challenges not only the very idea and image of the sex symbol but also the vision we have of his physical perfection and his impeccable behavior. In “Girls”, he did not hesitate to shoot sex scenes with the other star of the series, Lena Dunham (Hannah Horvath), very daring, and sometimes perceived as shocking.

Paris, a beautiful day in July 2021. Surprise: Adam Driver is the face of the new perfume of the house of Burberry, soberly entitled Hero (isn't it fate?). Very far from the physique, he displayed in the series “Girls”, and even in the Star Wars films by J. J. Abrams, his perfectly drawn six packs are breathtaking. He shows off (to our delight) his abs of steel in the campaign video, where he appears shirtless, running on a beach before metamorphosing into the mystical and mythical creature that is the centaur. The brand describes its effluvium as an "exciting marriage between strength and subtlety, power and compassion, athleticism and creativity". The proof is in the video.

Neither one nor two, Adam Driver ignites the web. The Internet users on Twitter and Instagram are talking about it, to the point of making hilarious "memes". As they say, imitation and misappropriation are the greatest compliments. In any case, all this further strengthens the ardor and palpable admiration that has been created around the actor. It's a bit like when you put your "date" on a pedestal because you make an idea of him, except that here it's legitimate. We can say that it is a successful bet for Burberry, to put forward what, finally, could be defined as the anti-sex symbol.

What is certain is that by challenging this status, Adam Driver contributes to change the very image that we make and shake the codes. And it feels good. Whether we like it or not, he remains one of the best actors of his generation.

February 14, 2023