Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model

Michael Abernethy

For decades, models have fought the stereotype that they are stupid and superficial. Unfortunately, Manhunt reinforces that stereotype.


Airtime: Tuesdays 8pm ET
Cast: Carmen Electra
Subtitle: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model
Network: Bravo

A few weeks ago, Bill Maher joked that it was time for the Bravo Network to come out of the closet. With the addition its newest show, Manhunt, Bravo has become the closest thing to an all-gay cable channel on the air. In recent years, Bravo's programming (Boy Meets Boy, Gay Weddings, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) has targeted a desirable demographic, gay men, with more disposable income than their heterosexual counterparts.

As its title suggests, Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model features 20 beautiful men competing to win a $100,000 a year contract from modeling agency IMG. Like the contestants on UPN's America's Next Top Model, the contestants on Manhunt have "regular" jobs, as students, trainers, servers, and construction workers. The world of high fashion is like another dimension for most of them, where men wear makeup, prettiness is more important than muscularity, and pretentious fashion mavens dictate how you walk, talk, stand, sit, and eat. While the series' hook is the perpetual parade of pumped pecs and six-pack abs, the guys' adjustments to this new environment makes it worth watching even after the initial ogling.

Still, Manhunt aims to provoke ogling. In every episode, the men participate in some type of photo shoot designed to push their comfort boundaries. Their first assignment was to sky-dive wearing boots and white boxer-briefs. Later, they wore androgynous make-up and clothing, so that several of them looked like ravers who'd been dressed by a dominatrix. They also had a 4am shoot in a cold swimming pool with model Marissa Miller, and had to hawk a product of their choice while posing half-naked.

Intercut with such displays are brief glimpses of the contestants in their free time, when they offer their opinions on their awkward situations. In these moments, their insecurities become clear. Most noticeable is the "I'm not gay" refrain; despite its open appeal to gay men, the show features only two gay contestants, Ron (eliminated early) and Rob (who didn't out himself until the fourth week).

The others might as well be wearing "Hi! I'm Straight" nametags. At no time was their anxiety more evident than in the "gender-bending" episode, when several contestants lamented that parents, friends, and relatives might see them in drag. Apparently, jumping out of a plane wearing only underwear or straddling a motorcycle while caressing your crotch is okay for Mom and Dad to see, but heaven forbid they see you wearing mascara.

If these men are competing for a shot at supermodel status, then it is safe to assume that they won't be modeling for the Sears catalogue. Modeling high fashion involves wearing androgynous clothing, feminine cuts of traditional man suits, and fabrics not associated with the construction site. It also involves interacting with men who are decidedly feminine. For those unfamiliar with this environment, it takes time to adjust. Despite coming from traditionally "masculine" work backgrounds, the contestants on Manhunt aren't given this time. They're too often caught off-guard by the circumstances and people they encounter.

While no one on the show comes across as homophobic, some are overtly uncomfortable in an industry where their sexual orientation will be frequently questioned. When Rob came out to his fellow competitors, many expressed immediate shock, followed by a quick, "Not that there's anything wrong with that." Only Hunter, the aw-shucks Southern boy, was upfront about his initial alarm, and he then struggled with how to respond to the first openly gay man he had met. His conclusion -- that he admires Rob for his social confidence -- even seems sincere. By contrast, Tate isn't bothered by Rob because he doesn't care about anything that doesn't involve Tate. He's immature, self-centered, unreliable, and far too fond of partying.

By the end of the first episode, he was almost thrown off the show for having towel-clad women in his hotel room at 2am. Caught with their forbidden guests, Tate and another contestant did the mature thing: they locked themselves in the bathroom and refused to come out until model handler Bruce Hulse threatened to leave them out of the next photo shoot. When the other contestants expressed their displeasure that he had jeopardized their future with the show, Tate remained indifferent.

While this late night adventure identified Tate as a troublemaker, it also introduced another key player, Kevin P., the embedded spy. Kevin is the only one of the contestants who already works as a model; he's supposed to report to the judges on the backstage behavior of the other players. Still, Kevin was Tate's partner in the sexcapades; one would hope the official "spy" would have the sense to discourage behavior that could lead to lawsuits, but Kevin explained his inappropriate behavior as "poor judgment." If his judgment is lacking, then why should judges or viewers trust his assessment of the contestants' skills? More important, why were Tate and Kevin allowed to remain on the show after exposing the producers to potential sexual harassment suits? The answer is that they were both too attractive to eliminate.

Manhunt spends no time on "personal" information; I couldn't tell you who is married, in a relationship, or has kids (except Tate, who talked about his son nonstop), and I had to go to the show's website to learn what they do for a living. Though we might assume the men discuss such details among one another and have developed friendships, such scenes never appear on screen. Instead, we endure their appraisals of outfits they have to wear, concerns over weight gain and bad hair, and gab sessions during which they share workout tips. Viewers are privy to the fact that a contestant is going to shave his testicles, but not his hopes for life after the contest. For decades, models have fought the stereotype that they are stupid and superficial. Unfortunately, Manhunt reinforces that stereotype.

There's nothing wrong with a series that displays men as objects. Women have been paraded across stages and runways for years. But viewers might be more inclined to fantasize about these men if we knew something about them.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

The Force, which details the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts, is best viewed as a complimentary work to prior Black Lives Matter documentaries, such 2017's Whose Streets? and The Blood Is at the Doorstep.

Peter Nicks' documentary The Force examines the Oakland Police Department's recent reform efforts to curb its history of excessive police force and systemic civil rights violations, which have warranted federal government oversight of the Department since 2003. Although it has its imperfections, The Force stands out for its uniquely equitable treatment of law enforcement as a complex organism necessitating difficult incremental changes.

Keep reading... Show less

Mary Poppins, Mrs. Gamp, Egyptian deities, a Japanese umbrella spirit, and a supporting cast of hundreds of brollies fill Marion Rankine's lively history.

"What can go up a chimney down but can't go down a chimney up?" Marion Rankine begins her wide-ranging survey of the umbrella and its significance with this riddle. It nicely establishes her theme: just as umbrellas undergo, in the everyday use of them, a transformation, so too looking at this familiar, even forgettable object from multiple perspectives transforms our view of it.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.