Over the summer, a new paragon of male attractiveness has taken root. Behold, the himbo: hot, dumb, and unpretentious.
Especially if you dip your toes in nerd-y circles, people who are attracted to men are often encouraged by the media they consume to romanticize men behaving badly. If it's not the leather jacketed "bad boy" like Ethan Hawke's truly awful Troy Dyer in Reality Bites, it's the coldly entitled super genius, typified by Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock Holmes.
I don't know about you, but I'm sick of it. I don't want to lust after men who will be mean to me! I have done that enough in real life, and it has never turned out well. I would prefer if my fictional boyfriends were, well, nice. And it'd be great if they were hot, too. Enter the himbo.
Himbo, as you may have already guessed, is kind of a male counterpoint to the bimbo, though the term is much less insulting. The earliest recorded usage of the term was in a 1988 Washington Post article, and in the mid 1990s the term was applied to happy go lucky, beach bum types like Keanu Reeves and Woody Harrelson, it's really taken off this year. Unlike these previous articles, that emphasize the dumbness of these men, the 2020 version of the himbo isn't necessarily stupid. They're more selectively intelligent.
In the latest iteration, a character like Kylo Ren could be considered a himbo. If you have seen the most recent Star Wars movies, it's clear that Ren isn't stupid by any means. He's smart enough, at least, to help lead an invasion of the entire civilized universe. It's just that he's absolutely lacking in emotional intelligence, and clearly hasn't socialized with anyone outside his little group of fascist friends. Unlike a bimbo, Ren isn't seen as a figure of mockery for not quite fitting in, or for making a fool of himself. Being a himbo actually makes him a lot less threatening.
In the text, Kylo Ren is a guy with a boatload of mental health issues that killed his dad, and you probably wouldn't want to fuck him. Reframing his awkwardness as part of his himboness makes it even possible to be attracted to him. You want to ruffle his hair and give him a mug of tea. Kylo Ren, a man who's stated goals are taking over the universe, becomes endearing when he stutters while talking to Rey, or when you realize that he's very clearly dressing up like Darth Vader as a form of a security blanket. In fact, Adam Driver, who plays Ren, seems to be aware of that fact in this prescient Saturday Night Live sketch from 2016. He's not a mean guy because he's too good for you in any way—he's just kind of dumb. Also he is built like the broad side of a ship.
From there, it's easy to see the appeal. A guy like Vanderpump Rules's Jax Taylor, while built and dumb, can't be a himbo. He's an asshole. Disney's Hercules? Thor from The Avengers? All Might from My Hero Academia? None of these characters may be booksmart, but they'd all notice if you changed your hair and then carry all your heavy grocery bags. Who wouldn't want to date a himbo?
The desire for a himbo is the desire to escape toxic masculinity without sacrificing the sexiness that comes with a traditionally conceived masculinity that looks like muscles, body hair and sweat. All too often, people who are attracted to men are offered two choices in media: a hot guy who will treat you badly, or a schlubby guy who will be nice. The himbo says, "get you a man who can do both."
This article originally appeared on VICE US.