From Matt Damon to Channing Tatum, the hottest stars these days are clean-cut nice guys. Jason Kennedy, E! News anchor (and Hollywood Bible-study leader!), is leading the way.
Two nights before the Grammys, I step inside a Beverly Hills hotel and file into a ballroom filled with more than 600 of Hollywood's photogenic finest: actors from my favorite TV shows, singers and songwriters of hit pop songs, models, talent agents, and, this being Los Angeles, lots of really hot people who only look famous. They are all here because Jason Kennedy invited them.
Tequila shots? No ma'am, not for E! News anchor Jason Kennedy.
"It's Grammy weekend! Who's here to party?" the 32-year-old cohost of E! News and E! News Weekendbellows into a microphone. Lantern-jawed and Equinoxed, Kennedy gives the crowd a big smile, baring his white-picket-fence teeth. "You know, I was wondering if you guys were going to be at some fancy club tonight," he confesses, looking at his unscuffed Converse Chucks. "Or here with me praising God."
That's right: Kennedy's gathering was not a thumping, Hennessy-soaked bash but a Bible study—and it's one of the hottest tickets in town. When the group started a little more than a year ago, it was just a circle of about 10 people in Kennedy's Hollywood Hills living room. As word spread, the numbers grew, and it became a weekly, standing-room-only event whose guests have reportedly included Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens,. (Kennedy asked Glamour not to reveal who was there when I attended.)
Kennedy hands the mike to pastor Judah Smith, a rising figure in contemporary ministry and a Hollywood regular, and sits down next to his girlfriend, fashion blogger Lauren Scruggs. (She's the former model who suffered severe injuries after walking into a plane propeller two years ago—and who wrote a memoir, Still LoLo, about her recovery.) Smith is one dope man of God: Wearing ripped black jeans, a leather T-shirt, aviator glasses, and a beanie, he looks more like a French DJ than a preacher. He starts sermonizing about the constant "positioning" in L.A. to get ahead and how to cope when confronted with pornography. (Answer: Pray hard.) The crowd affirms, "Right, right!" after nearly every word.
"This is where I come to survive Hollywood," Kennedy whispers to me. "Being here reminds me of who I want to be—just a better man." He glances at Scruggs and says, "It makes me a better boyfriend too."
Look at men in Hollywood and across the country and you'll see something has changed: Bad boys are over. Today's hottest actors are devoted dads like Channing Tatum, avowedly sober leading men like Bradley Cooper, or just plain nice guys like Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, the actor who actually greets the tourist van that parks in front of his house. Total dick moves like posting an ex-girlfriend's sex tape online are starting to feel as dated as The Situation's abs. The message is clear: The most bankable, most wanted stars are good boys.
"I gue-e-ess I'm nice," Kennedy tells me after Bible study ends. His way of speaking—goofy yet authoritative, confessional yet cautious—is the lingua franca of legendary good guys like Tom Hanks. "And you know, when I sit down to interview the biggest actors in Hollywood, the true A-list guys like Matt Damon or a George Clooney"—he pauses to heymangoodgood a singer who's passing by—"the most successful ones seem to be the nicest. I've met a lot of famous people, and douchebags out here are a dime a dozen. But those guys, they understand that being nice pays off. And I think that's starting to spread."
Jane Buckingham, founder of trend-forecasting firm Trendera, believes the nice-guy movement is taking hold outside Hollywood too. "It's time for the good boy," she says. "Anytime society is in certain turmoil—recession, terrorism, earthquakes, and hurricanes—we look for stability in every aspect of our lives. Who wants a bad boy when the world is going crazy?"
For a long time, though, bad boys seemed like the only option, Buckingham says. There was Jude Law (caught with the nanny), Hugh Grant (caught with the prostitute), and, more recently, John Mayer (caught with, well, everyone). More alarmingly, "there are the Chris Browns, the guys who haven't treated women the way they should," she adds. "On the other end of the spectrum, it was about Zach Galifianakis and Seth Rogen characters—unemployed and not standing up for themselves, let alone women."
But these good boys, "they're the kind of guys women want to date now," Buckingham says. "It's partly why there have been so many superhero movies—we want the guy who will get a decent job, get married, not be that doofus paying for strippers. Look at Justin Timberlake, how he said Jessica Biel taught him how to load the dishwasher. Look at how Jay-Z dotes on Beyoncé. Sure, there isn't a Superman out there, but it would be nice to have a super guy."
And Buckingham, who's made a career out of studying generational shifts, sees young women demanding better behavior. As women, "we have our act together, so we want men to be as strong as we are," she says. "We're tired of the bad behavior, the men who cheat, the guys who go out and get drunk all the time—we want guys to feel stable and strong. If we get the flu, we want them to be there for us. We want guys who make our lives better, not guys who are going to make our lives more chaotic."
Even Hollywood is growing tired of bad boys, says Variety co-editor-in-chief Cynthia Littleton, who's covered the industry for 20 years. These days, she says, the men getting the jobs are the ones grown-up enough to work. "You can only be hungover so many mornings," she says with a laugh. "You can't keep a set waiting at 9:00 A.M., because the studio loses money. So guys like Bradley Cooper, Neil Patrick Harris—they get hired because they are known to want to work. They haven't let their lifestyle get in the way. They don't keep people waiting, and they know everyone's name, down to the gaffers and the boom mike guy."
As the crowd at the hotel thins out, Scruggs, who is moving from Dallas to Los Angeles to be closer to Kennedy, tells me about their first date—and why he was different from the guys she was with before. "Jason went on a hike with me and my mom," she says. "And I guess any guy who will do that—especially since my mom is a marriage counselor—well, that says a lot." Scruggs and Kennedy share the same faith, and the 25-year-old Texan likes how comfortable she feels around his friends. "When we all go out, I just think about the girls that I can fix up with them. And a lot of times I'm the only girl there, and they are all so respectful and polite." She sees me notice her prosthetic hand, a result of her accident. "I have to say, Jason's helped me feel beautiful again," she says. "This was a big insecurity for me. And really, it's like he doesn't even see my insecurities."
Kennedy walks up and puts his arm around Scruggs. He's got to get home—early workout the next day. "I'll admit it, being a so-called good boy has paid off for me," he says. "I've got my dream job. And I've found my dream girl."