In Praise of 42-Year-Old Jared Leto

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There used to be something tragic about 42-year-old men. Too old to fuck high-school girls, too young to get that Harry Dean Stanton old man swagger, they occupied an awkward middle ground where they’d been rewarded amply with awards and fine senior management salaries in order to ward off their encroaching obsolescence.

Then Jared Leto came along. And he rewrote every rule. Sure, we first knew him as a blue-eyed boy, we loved the way that he leaned, we cried when we found out that he couldn’t read, and we swooned when he wrote a song called “Red.”

When Jordan Catalano took Angela into the boiler room, it’s as if we all went into the boiler room with them, as if the erotic fixations of a generation were birthed at the exact moment when Leto fixed those blue eyes on the camera, with his plaid shirt that frayed at the collar. Like all the best high school boyfriends, Leto then disappeared.

It was as if he were fixing motorcycles in our hometown in the back of our minds, when in reality he was taking minor roles in David Fincher movies that involved someone ruining his pretty face. He started a band that you don’t listen to (30 Seconds to Mars, like a photocopy of a photocopy of Muse, who are a photocopy of Queen), although lots of people do listen to it. He dated — despite being far too old for them — a series of starlets (Scarlett Johansson, Lindsay Lohan) at the top of their powers, because he has erotically imprinted on a generation of women. He is that perpetually shirtless werewolf from the Twilight series, and we are all Bella and Edward’s hot half-vampire baby woman. We have grown up for one thing and one thing only: for the love of Jordan Catalano.

But now Leto is back. He’s 42 years old. He won an Oscar before Claire Danes, testing his physical limits in order to play fictional HIV-positive trans woman Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club. Instead of this thing called annihilation, what most young men who grow up pretty and fade out succumb to (Ethan Hawke, ruined), he’s having it all. Brains. Beauty. A hit band. A hit movie. He directed a well received documentary about the problems with his record deal and the music industry. The opportunity to make other movies if he’s in the mood. Friends like Terry Richardson. He makes his fellow 42-year-olds, like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Luke Wilson, look like slackers in comparison. What other man can have a band that tours the world and an Oscar?

Look at the Oscar trail: nobody was as vulnerable as Leto. Wearing a shiny sharkskin gold tuxedo jacket, he was naked like a baby in front of the world. He chatted up every reporter. He flirted wildly with all women. He is in love with Lupita Nyong’o, because he is a human being. He really wants to take a walk with New York magazine’s Jada Yuan. Conservatives may quibble over our methods, but we have figured out what it is that makes Leto desirable. Feminism, obviously.

For we do not need to find Leto interesting in order to be willing to have sex with him; we can, in essence, use him for his eyes, his cheekbones, the very heady concept that he is an ageless being, and by making out with him, you are doing it: you’re making out with Jordan Catalano. Especially because he’s 42.