Christian Bale arguably had his best year yet in 2011, but 2011 was not the Year of Bale. Yes, he had many amazing moments, including (but not limited to) winning an Academy Award for his performance in The Fighter, winning a Golden Globe for the same thing, and actually receiving another thirty awards throughout the the first half of 2011. For many non-Bale fans, this was a pivotal moment: he went from “the Batman guy” or “the guy who yelled at people during Terminator” to “the guy winning all those awards for that boxing movie” or “Did you know that guy is from England?”
That was the first half of his year. The second half of 2011 involved a) the release of the poster and trailer for Flowers of War b) the release of the teaser trailer, full trailer, and prologue for The Dark Knight Rises c) more and more rumors regarding The Dark Knight Rises and d) a viral video that could balance out the negative opinion of Bale created by his Terminator meltdown.
All of this–the Oscar, the Batman rumors, the scuffle with the Chinese government–should be enough for Bale to hog the spotlight, but there are a few reasons this has not happened. First of all, Bale wasn’t actually in any films released in 2011. The Fighter is a 2010 film and Flowers of War hasn’t been released in the United States yet. Secondly, Bale is quite possibly the least buzzed-about aspect of The Dark Knight Rises. Why? Because he appears to be the easiest variable to anticipate. There are far more enigmatic questions swirling around, such as: What will Catwoman be like? Is she good or evil? Is Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing Robin or Nightwing or neither? Is Marion Cottilard once again within a dream within a dream? Is Tom Hardy going to break Batman’s back? Is Liam Neeson actually in this?
But more importantly, the reason that Bale is not a center of conversation (other than in his web-obsession communities such as BaleHeads.com) is that there are more interesting men in the spotlight right now. Specifically, there is one man consuming the American public eye in such a way that there may be no room for Bale. This man is: Ryan Gosling.
Why We Love Gosling
Ryan Gosling is everywhere. While Bale released zero films in 2011, Gosling was in three: The Ides of March, Drive, and Crazy Stupid Love. The differences between these films and performances are astounding: drama, action, and comedy, while playing distinctly different characters each time.
But the Gosling obsession is far more than over his acting. Consider FuckYeahRyanGosling, a Tumblr that has been around for years and is described by GQ as “too far ahead of the game.” Consider that GQ made this statement in their list called “The Best Ryan Gosling Moments of 2011.” Consider that GQ was not the only entity to create such a list. Consider that TheInsider.com declared 2011 “The Year of Gosling.”
The list goes on and on and on. And while it’s normal for women to swoon over good-looking men, the amount of admiration that Gosling receives from fellow straight men is what makes this truly notable. FuckYeahRyanGosling is written by a man. BuzzFeed, a website devoted to the best web content, is Gosling-obsessed yet written and read predominately by men. When People magazine declared that Bradley Cooper is the Sexiest Man of 2011, a protest formed outside their office in the tradition of Occupy: Wall Street (but with more hygiene and less politics.) And yes, as previously mentioned, Gentleman’s Quarterly is completely, unapologetically obsessed with Gosling.
I think I have one simple answer for this. It’s not his unique style or impressive acting abilities, although those do inspire admiration. It’s something much simpler. It’s the fact that, from everything we see and know of him, it seems like Ryan Gosling is a genuinely good person.
How do we know he’s a good person, you ask? We don’t, but we all suspect he is. Not only because he has played many good guys (with notable exceptions, i.e. Drive), but because of the candid moments in which he reveals that
Naturally, these candid moments are each caught on film. First, in which Ryan Gosling stumbles across a street fight and ends it in the middle of the day (something that GQ loved, despite that they clearly fail to understand on any level what it means for a video to be viral… something there will be a subsequent post on.)
Second, in which Ryan Gosling is shown printed-off screenshots of Fuck Yeah Ryan Gosling, and he responds be reading them out loud and laughing.
Do these necessarily mean that he is a good person, a positive role model, an upstanding citizen? No, not necessarily, but they are far different from the usual things you see other people of his standing doing. Such as Shia LaBeouf getting into a drunken fight (and losing) in the streets of Vancouver, or Keanu Reeves getting confused and maybe-offended when asked about the “Sad Keanu” meme.
Or, the many comparable Bale moments. The obvious low point of when his Terminator rant went viral, in February of 2009. On the other hand, there is the recent video of Bale attempting to visit a Chen Guancheng, a Chinese human rights activist. In this video, Bale is arguably the victim as he attempts to visit the activist and is repeatedly pushed, hit, and chased away from the activist’s home by Chinese guards.
Similar to the Gosling fight video, this has been repeatedly viewed and re-posted by various Youtubers. Yet there is a certain level of ambiguity here, and it seems there is a lack of interest in this as a whole. This could be for several reasons: it’s not uncut, candid footage of a celebrity doing something noble. It has been edited and released as a news segment be CNN, and Bale is wearing a microphone during it. And while Bale makes a point of saying “I’m not a hero,” this is clearly in response to “Are you a hero?” being asked to him by the news crew who went with him on his visit to the activist. He is also described as an Actor/Activist by CNN, a moniker that had previously never been ascribed to Bale.
Bale is going to have to do a lot better than this if he wants to be loved on the level of Gosling. Unless, of course, his days of potentially being loved like Gosling are long over. Newsies happened a long time ago. After American Psycho and The Dark Knight and Terminator: Salvation, maybe there is no possibility of universal love for this man. Which leads us to…
Who Will Be The Man of 2012, Part II: Bale vs. Tebow vs. Gosling