How the Internet Picks Its Boyfriends

"Show Me A Hero" New York Screening

Oscar Isaac. Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Excerpt from this article:

Have you heard the news? We’re all in love with Oscar Isaac now. He’s filling up your Tumblr dash, blanketing your Twitter feed, and featuring in your daydreams. He is the internet’s new boyfriend.

Chris Evans, Rami Malek, Tom Hardy, Sebastian Stan, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, the trope codifier Benedict Cumberbatch — they’ve all had their turn, but the forecast for the beginning of 2016 seems to be all Oscar Isaac. As with others, you can find him in the popular media of the moment. The attraction starts with The Force Awakens and grows from there, finding expression in GIFs, quotes, and photos. When real men disappoint us — in their politics, their bullshit, their basic human inconsistencies — the internet’s boyfriend is a paragon of enlightened masculinity, constructed by committee.

These men might be famous, but the way we share images of them on social media, the way we message our friends GIFs and images and quotes, makes them feel close to us, Hollywood publicity machine be damned. Consuming their work and the media around it doesn’t feel so different from internet-stalking a crush… But unlike with IRL crushes, there’s an element of authorship to internet love. Tumblr has a tag called “Imagine [male celebrity/character],” where users write romantic one-liners, often accompanied by a pithy GIF or image. Popular fanfiction site Archive of Our Own has pairing tags that go “[main character]/you,” perfect for romantic second-person fanfic. I’m not going to compose short stories about meeting a guy on OKCupid, but I love writing for the “If X were your Y” column on the Toast. For me, the allure is pinning down an attractive personality, of finding the comedy inherent in romance, and vice versa.