Mitt Romney VP selection Paul Ryan may be garnering praise for his wonkish policy proposals reforming Medicare and the budget, but he's also receiving attention for this physical appearance, particularly his sex appeal.
Almost initially after the news broke that Ryan had been selected as Romney's VP nominee, reports came out detailing the Wisconsin Republican's intense fitness regime. Ryan is a p90X devotee, an exercise program which he has used to maintain 6-8% body fat (162 pounds), and he maintains a six pack and chiseled body. Within 24 hours of Ryan's selection, two of the biggest Google search terms were "Paul Ryan shirtless" and "Paul Ryan p90X."
Now, Ryan has become the subject of a viral internet meme, in which he serves as a stand-in for another famous Ryan, actor Ryan Gosling. A site called, "Hey Girl, It's Paul Ryan," drawing from the popular "Hey Girl, Ryan Gosling" memes has helped turn Paul Ryan into a national sex symbol. The site, created by Chicago young professionals Emily Zanotti, Lyndsey Fifield, and Lindsey Dodge, intiailly started releasing memes in May, long before Ryan was chosen to be Romney's VP.
According to Zanotti, "There is already a wealth of partisan negativity, spin and misinformation in politics. You can get cheesy jokes about Paul Ryan’s position on any number of issues anywhere,” she said, “We tried to be funny first, and positive, and judged our success on whether our liberal and our conservative friends found it funny."
But initially, it seemed as though Ryan was opposed to the site. In a radio interview, Ryan discouraged the hosts from driving listeners to view the site. “We ended up bringing the site to an early retirement because he gave the impression he was uncomfortable with his newly minted fame as an Internet heartthrob,” Zanotti said.
But, after Ryan was chosen as Romney's running mate, the trio brought the meme site out of retirement, and it has once again gone viral.
In a series of sexualized memes, Paul Ryan is depicted as a young, sexy symbol more in line with a Hollywood actor than a Washington politician. One meme shows a picture of Ryan with the text, "Hey girl, I like big guts and I cannot lie." Another shows Ryan giving a speech with the text, "Hey girl, I have a definite interest in preserving your assets."
Whether or not Ryan's sex appeal makes the Republican ticket more appealing to young voters, helps sway voters away from Obama on the basis of "cool" points, or will ultimately hurt the Romney-Ryan ticket remains to be seen. The image of Romney, 20 years Ryan's elder, alongside Ryan has yet to be tested. At the very least, however, the selection of Ryan has injected an energy into Romney's campaign online which was almost non-existent before the selection.
Ryan's sex appeal along cannot win Romney the election, but it can help overturn the image of him as a white older man who is out of touch with middle America.