Tumblr users voted for the ultimate sexyman, and it’s Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale
While Elon Musk continues to take Twitter polls way too seriously, Tumblr’s new polling feature is thriving as a vehicle for shitposting and ridiculous sitewide fixes. After testing the waters with a viral bug race poll, the Tumblr user base turned its attention to a more contentious topic: picking the ultimate Tumblr sexyman.
Unlike the more mundane phenomenon of “internet friends” celebrities, Tumblr sexymen tend to be fictional characters — usually cartoons, with an ambitious inclusive definition of “man” and “sexy.”
A ubiquitous presence on Tumblr in the 2010s, sexymen are notable for their ability to inspire distinct fandoms. They range from mainstream characters (Marvel’s Loki) to characters whose appeal would stun external viewers (a talking clock; a pixelated skeleton; a Minecraft creepypasta entity). The more abstract sexymen are sometimes redesigned by fan artists to resemble skinny white dudes, reflecting the most notorious sexyman of them all: The Once-ler from the Dr. 2012 Seuss film The Lorax.
Like Superwholock, the Once-ler’s role as an unlikely sex symbol is an integral part of Tumblr lore. But will he retain his popularity in 2023? According to a ruthless poll that has played out over the past few days, the answer is no. The final poll, which sifted out the competition from 32 iconic sexymen, declared Cecil out Welcome to the night valley as the winner with 180,731 voting accounts. (A lot more so than previous sexyman clips on Twitter, which were clearly less valid because they were hosted on the wrong site.)
Small town radio host Cecil Palmer, voiced by actor Cecil Baldwin, is the main narrator for night valley‘s offbeat horror/fantasy tale. During the peak of the podcast’s popularity in the mid-2010s, Cecil was the catnip of Tumblr fandom, not only because of his then-rare position as a queer protagonist, but because he offered so much room for creative interpretation.
As an audio-only character, Cecil has no official appearance, making him a particularly flexible choice for Sexyman. Fan artists first drew him in classic sexyman style as a skinny white man in a purple suit, usually with tentacles and a third eye to reference WTNV’s logo and cosmic horror themes. In later years, however, fans embraced a more racially and conceptually diverse range of visual depictions, and rebelled against the sexyman stereotype.
As the latest poll went viral this weekend, Cecil sparked a furious campaign as dormant WTNV fans argued for his indispensable place in Tumblr culture. Confrontation with Sans off Undertale (the aforementioned pixelated skeleton), #Cecilsweep posts were suddenly everywhere, referencing crucial details like Cecil Baldwin’s IRL presence at the infamous Dashcon conference and the character’s overall embodiment of the goofy Tumblr enthusiasm.
The Sexyman poll and Cecil Palmer have dominated Tumblr’s trending topics for the past few days, which says a lot about a) Tumblr’s aging user base and b) Tumblr fandom in general. Definitely nostalgic, this survey celebrates a phenomenon that younger users haven’t witnessed firsthand. Many of the main contenders hail from fandoms that have long since faded. But while the original Tumblr generation is going through the same “we’re getting old” mood shift we’ve seen on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Tumblr users aren’t just regurgitating old content.
The response to the Sexyman poll is creative and participatory, evolving into something more meta than a simple popularity contest. It’s proof that Tumblr culture is still going strong – just as it is Welcome to the night valley itself and recently ended its 11th season.
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*Initial publication: January 31, 2023 2:41 pm CST
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in science fiction films and superheroes, she also appears as a film and television critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she is the co-host of the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor
https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/tumblr-sexyman-poll-2023-cecil/ Tumblr users voted for the ultimate sexyman, and it’s Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale