The French have an expression called jolie laide—directly translated, it means “beautiful ugly,” but as a concept it embodies the intersection between attractiveness and unconventionality that makes us relish imperfection. Jolie laide is Sarah Jessica Parker and Benicio del Toro and Jessica Paré. It’s why Solange is visually more intriguing than Beyoncé, and why Meat Loaf, however improbably, was a sex symbol for much of the 1980s.
Sofia Coppola is often cited as the female embodiment of jolie laide, but as it relates to men, there’s no more obvious example in contemporary culture than Benedict Cumberbatch. In bleached-blonde, Botox-browed Hollywood, he’s the antithesis of everything we’re supposed to find attractive.
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