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What Leonardo DiCaprio used to represent, Timothée Chalamet embodies today: The “Dune” star has become more than his acclaimed Hollywood performances. His stardom tells us something about how the image of ideal masculinity has changed. Matt Crossick/PA Wire/dpa

“Titanic” and the early days of Leonardo DiCaprio were the last time that there a young actor was as present as Timothée Chalamet is these days.

The Hollywood star has wispy brown curls, a dreamy look in his eyes and a unique charisma that suggests both “baby brother” and “aftershave model” at the same time.

The 26-year-old New Yorker, who has an American and a French passport, is one of the biggest stars of the Instagram generation.

Time magazine also just let him grace its cover and even Vogue celebrates the fashion influencer’s red carpet appearances. A man who wears dungarees with a batik pattern or a rhinestone harness from Louis Vuitton around his torso.

Movie fans know him from “Interstellar”, “Lady Bird”, “Little Women” and as a drug-addicted son in “Beautiful Boy”. The gay love story “Call Me by Your Name” earned him an Oscar nomination in his early 20s.

This year he appeared in Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch”, the science fiction epic “Dune” and just recently in “Don’t Look Up” on Netflix. Chalamet will also soon be seen as young chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka in “Wonka”.

This young actor with mysterious appeal is able to do festival films as well as blockbusters. At the same time, he is a sensitive guy who tells his grandmother on his mobile phone that he loves her – that’s how Time magazine describes him.

There is even some interesting gossip: He has been spotted with Lily-Rose Depp, the daughter of Johnny Depp, as well as with Madonna’s daughter Lourdes Leon. On Instagram, he has 16.6 million people following him.

So what does his success say about the zeitgeist?

Claudia Midolo, the head of a modelling agency, says there are still differences between the world of modelling and acting.

In the modelling and fashion industry, the somewhat more stereotypical man is still in demand, although his masculinity is no longer as pronounced as it was in the 90s with Calvin Klein model Marcus Schenkenberg.

According to Midolo, men are generally represented as softer and more diverse, as well as slimmer and no longer as overly muscular. The new male image in line with the Timothée Chalamet type is also represented.

Nonetheless, the target group of this kind of new man is too young for expensive fashion brands. “That’s why this type of man is still more likely to lead the way in acting, music and social media,” Midolo explains.

Literary scholar Toni Tholen of the University of Hildesheim also has the following explanation to offer: Chalamet seems to correspond to what is called “hybrid masculinity” in masculinity research.

Roughly summarised this means that the young actor moves away from the classic male image and even dares to be a little more feminine, but does not lose male privileges in the process. He is committed, open and thoughtful, but is still extremely successful in the film and fashion genre.

In regards to the image of men in general, Tholen says: “Male dominance and patriarchal structures of domination have been massively challenged in recent years. In part, thanks to feminist critique and politics, but also because men themselves suffer from the demands of masculinity and begin to question them.”

For Tholen, however, this does not mean that these demands have completely disappeared. “The situation is undecided at the moment because both can be observed: Change and persistence, processes of transformation as well as the retraditionalization of masculinity. And it is completely open in which way the pendulum will swing more, especially if you look at the situation globally.”

Nevertheless, in any case, it can be said that patriarchal masculinity has cracked. “At the moment, masculinity can perhaps best be understood as a form of ambivalent and contradictory movements and positionings; sometimes even as a search for new spaces and ways of life, combined with a growing desire to no longer act as ruler over people and things.”

What should and can a man be? This question can be approached from a lot of different angles when looking at Timothée Chalamet and his movies. A sequel to “Dune” is already in the works.

American actor Timothee Chalamet arrives for the “The French Dispatch” photocall as part of the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival. Mickael Chavet/ZUMA Wire/dpa
Timothée Chalamet (left) starred as Zeffirelli alongside Lyna Khoudri as Juliette in Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch”. The Walt Disney Company Germany/dpa