I’ve followed Brat Boy School, the home page of model/blogger/underwear spokesman Ethan Reynolds for quite some time. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a “fan” of Ethan’s, but he was pretty and I checked in fairly often to read posts about his love life, skin care regimen, workouts, recipes, and political views. Ethan was a pretty high-profile figure in the online gay community. I say was, because Brat Boy School crashed dramatically this week with a revelation: Ethan’s not real.
Well, to be fair, the person who goes by the name Ethan Reynolds is real, in the sense that he is the male model who appeared in photographs on the site. However, he did not write the blog; Rick Altman, his manager, wrote all of the entries. From what I can gather, “Ethan” (whose real name is apparently JR) really was boyfriend to porn-star-turned-underwear-spokesman Benjamin Bradley. They really were (are?) under contract with Ginch Gonch to be the “Ginch Gonch Boys.”
But beyond those facts, any details that appeared on the Brat Boy School blog were fictional.
Now, Ethan/JR and Ben are broken up; the truth about Brat Boy School has been revealed (thanks to Keith, a web designer who was one of the minds behind the site); Blair, a porn actor and blogger who was also with Altman, is shutting down his blog and his MySpace and quitting porn; Ben is still with Ginch Gonch, with different management; and Rick Altman and Ethan/JR Reynolds are nowhere to be found. There are also assorted and vague assertions that Altman is a sexual predator, though where exactly that comes from (outside of apparently being sinister svengali to the allegedly-unstable Ethan/JR) is unknown.
It’s all very fascinating to watch happen. The blogs from which this information is drawn appear and disappear like the town of Brigadoon, one minute revealing tidbits of delicious gossip and the next minute vanishing into the ether as the author thinks better of what he said. Thank God for Google cache, or I’d never be able to keep up. At this point, all indications are that the blogs involved (including the Brat Boy School) will soon vanish, and there will be no evidence that any of this ever happened. All that may remain is Ben’s blog at Project BE, a remnant of his time with “Ethan,” and my guess is that soon he’ll take down any entry with reference to this whole episode and it will be lost forever.
It’s interesting to see just how far these lies can spread, though. Not too long ago Ethan was an Instinct magazine cover boy, complete with pictorial and profile. I wonder, was it Rick who was providing answers for the profile? Was it Ethan/JR? Or did Instinct write their own content, Hustler style (see below)? One way or another, someone at Instinct must have noticed the relationship between Ethan/JR and Rick, but that appeared nowhere in the article. Why? Probably because it’s not the first time they’ve seen such a relationship between model and manager.
By far the most interesting part of this has been to read the response from Ethan’s fans. They’ve always been my least favorite part of the Brat Boy School experience, a pack of sniveling dogs who whimpered around Ethan’s feet and posted affirming comments to every entry in an effort to win favor. Many of them corresponded with him (Rick, whom they thought was Ethan) via e-mail or went to his appearances to see him in person, where I assume Ethan/JR had to do his own talking.
The worst part was, as nice as he was to look at, the Ethan depicted in his blog entries was always pretty obnoxious. Self-absorbed and inexplicably politically conservative (well, inexplicable until now), his entries would make me nuts – but not as nuts as the fans, who praised him and showered him with flattery. “Oh, you’re so smart! You’re so right! You’re so unique! You’re AMAZING!”
Truthfully, Ethan wasn’t that smart, or insightful. He sure wasn’t amazing. He was just REALLY nice to look at – and he updated a lot.
So what has the fan reaction been to this new revelation? Well, mostly anger. They want his head on a stick. They want to sue. They want blood. The funny thing is, this practice really isn’t unusual. Lots of porn sites are designed around the concept of being a “home page” or a “diary” (think Next Door Nikki) and feature a blog, ostensibly written by the model. If any of these models actually write the content, I’d be shocked. Even pre-internet, magazines like Hustler routinely created a fictionalized profile for the model, carefully crafting a persona for maximum titillation. Did Hustler readers really think there were that many naive coeds in the world?
So why Ethan’s readers should be so shocked is beyond me. Brat Boy School was not a “porn site” by classification, but it was still porn. It took a physically attractive person, and created a sexy back story and scenarios for him to participate in (cooking dinner in a thong! working out in a thong! sunbathing in a thong!). And hey, it won fans the way only porn can.
Granted, the frame was clever: Ethan was “a model who really liked to blog (ie, worshiped himself) and was using the blog to channel himself into a career.” Believable, sure. But there were plenty of clues to say that something else was going on. If nothing else, there’s the fact that there just are not super-sexy hunk bloggers hanging around. The amount of time it takes to maintain a physique like Ethan’s doesn’t leave a lot of time for typing, let alone the prolific number of entries left on Brat Boy in the average day.
Some of the other fan responses were more pathetic, like one fellow who insisted that HE could tell which entries were REALLY from Ethan. Of course, they were the ones where Ethan “talked about being lonely on his birthday, or putting spices on popcorn, or just wanting someone to snuggle with.” The poor guy really needed to believe that this fictional person, with whom he had formed (in his own mind) a close relationship, really existed. Sorry bra, but according to Keith that was Rick also. Granted, some of the details of “Ethan’s” life were based on the real JR. As any good writer can tell you, the most believable fictions are those based on reality.
The truth is, the whole cult of celebrity is based on selling a fictional persona. True, most major celebrities do talk for themselves, but the words that come out are words written, screened, and pre-approved by publicists to fit the character that has been created for mass-market appeal. We shouldn’t be surprised when famous people don’t fit their character (Mel Gibson drinks and hates Jews??! Britney Spears is a lousy mother??) but we are. A big part of that outrage is because we resent being lied to. I’ve long believed that what makes celebrity gossip so appealing is that celebs are like friends everyone has in common – and when a secret comes out, we feel the way we would if a friend was keeping secrets or lying to our faces.
I wonder how much of the outrage and anger directed at Ethan really comes from the light that has been shone back at his fans, the people who kowtowed to him because he was pretty. Now it comes out that instead of a tan and muscular 20-something model, the guy they were all calling brilliant, unique, and amazing was in fact a 40-something pervert manager. Suddenly, there’s no upside to selling out. I find it quite poetic, personally.
The person I feel badly for is Ben, who went through a year of living a lie before losing his boyfriend (and if they were together for a full year, either JR was a pretty decent guy in reality, or there was some financial interest involved) and now has to explain the whole thing to his fans while trying to maintain his career. Then again, Ben came out of a brief career in gay porn, so he’s probably got some pretty thick skin.
As for Ethan/JR, I do wonder if we’ll ever hear from him again, and if so what form it will take. His MySpace is still up, though it has not apparently been visited in a while, and there are a lot of fans out there who have a big empty place in their hearts where Ethan Reynolds used to live. My guess is if Rick and Ethan play this right, they’ll have no trouble pulling that wool back over the eyes of their fans. Hell, I wouldn’t object to new photos. JR “Ethan” Reynolds is really nice to look at.
P.S: For the record, though I may be only modestly hot and this blog may lack daily pictures of me doing chores in a thong, rest assured that I write all of my own content.