Esquire Magazine has labeled Penelope Cruz "the sexiest woman alive" and as you can see below, it's not a bad choice, nor is it the worst thing to be labeled.
Or perhaps it is a bad choice. Not because of Ms. Cruz's politics, which are, as applied to the Mideast, abhorrent.
In July, Ms. Cruz joined "dozens of Spanish film stars, directors, musicians and writers" in signing an open letter apparently penned by her husband, fellow actor Javier Bardem, condemning the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Ms. Cruz and Mr. Bardem (especially) faced much criticism, including from Hollywood screen directors, who even threatened to cut off business with the couple, which will probably work until they look at their bottom line.
Subtly entitling the letter "Genocide," Mr. Barden declared the Israeli actions "a war of occupation and extermination" and described as "disgraceful that western countries are permitting such genocide." He noted "my son was born in a Jewish hospital because I have very dear close friends who are Jewish." Some of us choose a hospital because it's close, takes our insurance, or has a particularly good reputation. Barden selects one associated with the religion of his friends. Hollywood celebrities are different.
The actor maintained additionally "I also work in the U.S. where I have a lot of Jewish friends and acquaintances" ("who reject" Israeli policies). His effort at inoculating himself against charges of anti-Semitism should fall upon deaf ears of Americans old enough to recall people pleading, as once was the fashion, "some of my best friends are colored." Be forgiving: it was far more discreet and diplomatic than wearing a white sheet.
Not all, or even most, criticism of Israeli actions constitutes anti-Semitism. Let's put aside those leaflets Israeli forces typically showered upon areas to be bombed, giving residents at least some time to evacuate. Accusing a nation of genocide and pursing extermination when said nation is a nuclear power which invaded a country, then stopped and agreed to a cease-fire as it was attaining military success, is well over the top. It is so patently inaccurate (as well as obviously incendiary) that it fails to qualify as anti-Semitic only when compared to promiscuously labeling Jews as "k_ _ _ _.," which even in Mr. Barden's case would have been deleterious to a career
Still, signing a ridiculous letter penned by her husband should not be (and wasn't) sufficient to disqualify Penelope Cruz as being selected the sexiest woman alive. Fortunately, there is something, to merit.
Nonetheless, it is extremely unlikely that Penelope Cruz is the sexiest woman in the world, and probably not even the second sexiest. (Must we say sexiest woman alive? The competition from corpses is limited.) Ms. Cruz may be the sexiest female celebrity, more impressively the sexiest female public figure, or at best the sexiest woman working in the United States of America.
But Ms. Cruz, it is safe to say, is not the sexiest woman anywhere in the world. In the USA alone, there is very likely a female college student, waitress, engineer, lawyer, retail clerk, truck driver, teacher, or homemaker who is sexier. She faces huge odds.
And that is only in the U.S. There are approximately 196 countries, as well as numerous territories and colonies, in the world. Somewhere, there is a sexier woman, be it in Belgium, Zaire, Thailand, Palestine, or in 200 or so other places. We don't know where, but she is somewhere.
Penelope Cruz's talent is justifiably enjoyed and admired by millions of Americans and her beauty is appreciated, inevitably and understandably, by millions more. But her selection, added to that of prior winners Jessice Biel, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Beckinsale, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Minka Kelly, and Halle Berry, make clear the bias toward Americans- and much more so members of the Hollywood community.
Esquire is not alone, as People magazine and others exhibit similar ethnocentrism, a partiality for individuals who make their bones entertaining us in the west. (And People is worse- its Most Beautiful List is all women. Quite a coincidence.) So let us celebrate the physical beauty of those women and men we know and love. But let's not pretend that we have reason to believe they are the sexiest human beings in the world.