Clash of the facemen

Yesterday’s coverage of the last debate between candidates for Republican nominee for President of the United States focused on exchanges between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. One photo here:

I was struck (once again) by the physical similarity between the two men (and their contrast to Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul). They’re both facemen, as some of us say in our slangy way: conventionally very good-looking men.

Though Rick Perry’s out of the race now, he belongs to the faceman tribe too:

The term faceman was spread by the 1980s tv show The A-Team:

Lieutenant Templeton Arthur Peck, played by Dirk Benedict, is the name alias of a fictional character in the action/adventure television series The A-Team. A recognized war hero, he is often referred to as Faceman (or simply Face).

… The character’s full nickname varies in different media. Introduced in the Pilot and many other episodes, his nickname is clearly given as “The Faceman”. Other examples drop “The”. Many early episode scripts listed the character as “Face Man”. In other literature, he is sometimes referred to as “The Face”. In the 2010 movie, he is “Faceman”, again dropping “the”. (link to Wikipedia)

Where does the name Faceman come from? From the creator of the series, Stephen J. Cannell:

The name “Faceman” originates from a popular slang term used by girls for attractive male students during Stephen J. Cannell’s high school years – i.e. “Look at that faceman” as in “Look at that good looking boy”; a hunk.

I recall faceman used this way during my undergraduate years at Princeton, where a good-looking classmate of mine was nicknamed Faceman (pretty much everybody had a nickname). That recollection, and Cannell’s, takes the slang compound back to the 1950s (Cannell was just a few months younger than me, so his high school years were in that decade), though the expression didn’t spread until 30 years later.

(Compounds of the form X man are all over the place semantically: for example,  monkey man ‘man who resembles a monkey; man who acts like a monkey; a monkey-man hybrid; etc.’, ass man ‘man who is attracted to women because of their asses; man who gets a lot of ass, i.e. sexual action; etc.’, face man ‘man who faces for, i.e. fronts for, some group; man who is notable because of his face; etc.’)

Now a digression on some other candidates, inspired by this recent cartoon by R.J. Matson:

I came across this cartoon on Tuesday, when my grand-daughter reflected on a reproduction of it in the latest Funny Times (a publication she adores; she treats it as material for an education in how humor works and how cartoons convey their message, not to mention as a source of sociocultural knowledge). In this case, she focused first on “sharp-chinned” Mitt vs. “pudgy” Newt (“her words”) — Faceman Mitt vs. Newt the Pudge — and to my surprise, knew who they were. Then she went on to the dynamite and the (conventional) bomb, both images she knows from cartoons for kids (where creatures are regularly blown up by one or the other of these explosives). And then to the armaments and their labels.

What she didn’t get, of course, was the tribute to the Spy vs. Spy cartoons from Mad magazine, as in:

From Wikipedia:

Spy vs. Spy is a black and white comic strip that debuted in Mad magazine #60, dated January 1961, and was originally published by EC Comics. The strip was created by Antonio Prohías. [Others took over the strip after Prohias’s death, and it eventually moved to color.]

I should unearth a collection of these cartoons for Opal. I’m sure they would tickle her.

3 Responses to “Clash of the facemen”

  1. jbl Says:

    “Spy vs Spy” morphed, while I was still reading it, into “Spy vs Spy vs Spy,” in which a female spy in grey had the last laugh over the other two.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    The complete Spy vs Spy strips are indeed available in a 2001 book.

  3. At 8 « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] set of Antonio Prohias’s Spy vs Spy strips from Mad magazine (mentioned on this blog here). The first intensely verbal and verbally playful, the second completely wordless. Opal fixed on […]

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