Desperation is mostly inseparable from masculinity. Men strain for fame, for female attention, for sad, trivial triumphs over one another. We are a people perpetually trying to figure it all out – flexing in the mirror, using lines we've heard before, trying to seem bold and dignified. We're not cowboys or poets. If we are, we wear it as a disguise. Mostly, we are vulnerable and self-conscious and probably masturbating for the third time on a Tuesday afternoon, because we're off work and that Lea Thompson scene in All the Right Moves just came on. We are not men, but almost. Note: columns may also contain William Holden hero worship and meditations on cured meats.
Image by Courtney Nicholas
We first encountered Scott Disick in 2007, four minutes into the series premiere of Keeping up with the Kardashians, a show about sunglasses, insincerity, and women exiting sport utility vehicles. He is having dinner with his girlfriend, Kourtney Kardashian, at a restaurant called Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion. Kourtney spends most of the meal trying to check her phone and applying shiny globs of lip gloss. Once or twice, she says something like “You’re so awful” or “I love this,” stone-faced, because the first rule of being a Kardashian is to never display a real human emotion, unless that emotion involves crying, because the E! Channel has determined that female tears are what America drinks to quench its thirst for People Feeling Feelings.
Scott has on a comically oversized button-down, unbuttoned to a region we’ll call Enrique Iglesias Music Video. He is wearing cufflinks just slightly smaller than manhole covers. He speaks to the waiter in a dismissive, I’ll-take-it-from-here-bro tone. The screen cuts to a plate of complicated sushi rolls, then to Scott drinking wine. Stock music plays and the scene begins to end in that comfortingly telegraphed reality show way, but first, Scott tells Kourtney her hair looks nice. Then, if only for a moment, she sort of smiles.
In the vacuum sealed, deliberately enunciated infomercial that is the Kardashian universe, Scott Disick is something of a seer. In an episode last season, while Scott and Kourtney watched Titanic, Kourtney asked why the two of them couldn’t be that romantic. Scott answers, “Why don't we have the chemistry Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet had in Titanic? I'll tell you why: we're not in a movie!" It was, if inadvertently, a distillation of every reality show that has ever existed.
Scott, now 30, said this in 2010 when asked what he does for a living: “I may be a douche to some people, but I actually do run companies. I make a lot of money, and I’m more than capable of supporting myself.” An asshole cuts you off in traffic. A douche won’t let you merge and then parks diagonally in a handicap spot. “Douche” is carried as an entitlement – a kind of royalty, a designation Scott is also quite fond of.
He gleefully adopts symbols of opulence and privilege: suspenders, canes, cigars, sweaters tied around the neck, contrast-collar shirts. It is not hedonism; Scott is a walking affectation. When he slicks his hair back, he refers to it as “the Michael Douglass in Wall Street.” His favorite movie is American Psycho, and he’s spent the better part of Keeping up with the Kardashian’s existence demonstrating the same maniacal devotion to the superficial as Patrick Bateman. Scott Disick looking at himself in the mirror is something beyond narcissism. It is performance art. It is a man inhabiting another dimension. He constantly acknowledges that he is trying to be this other person. Few people have ever been as dedicated to a persona. He wants to become some replica of that ruthless, condescending, coke-fueled, arapestocratic One Percenter New Yorker, and he is shouting that intention at you through a megaphone. Then he is probably making a fart noise into the megaphone, because despite his interest in sophistication, he is unstoppably juvenile.
In June, in promotion of Kanye West’s Yeezus, he performed as Bateman in a nearly identical reenactment of the ax scene in American Psycho. He completely lacked the disturbing cool Christian Bale played the character with, but Scott – trying to mimic an actor who was trying to mimic a character who is himself completely artificial and wears a “mask of sanity” – seemed during the clip as excited as he has ever been.
Scott propagates the perception of himself as a lord not simply because he finds snakeskin loafers and double-breasted suits appealing, but because it is an obnoxious, outrageous hobby, and he is a rich man with no real job. In reality, he's someone who tweets breathlessly about the greatness of Entourage. Who makes penis jokes and named the frog living in his jacuzzi. He’s a bro with a more expensive fantasy football. Instead of wearing a jersey, he wears an ascot. He doesn’t worship running backs, he worships fame. He’s not completely but definitely kind of a dick, and if that isn’t his most prized quality, it’s in his top five. Celebrity excuses ridiculousness; the reality show perpetuates it.
On an episode of the CW show H8r, most notable for forcing me to type “H8r” just now, he said “I don’t think I’m the most honest man around.” On the Honesty Wheel, Scott has gone well past shame and remorse and come around to self-effacing honesty about his dishonesty. Keeping up with the Kardashians is a show about fake women trying to be perceived as real; Scott is unquestionably its realest character by virtue of attempting to be something fake.
He tweets about getting a matte black Range Rover with the excitement of someone reaching the top of an organ-transplant list. He – not his aesthetic, but the way he operates – is the definitive representation of a certain subculture in this country in 2013: self-aware, bold, shameless, trolling relentlessly, retweeting critics in a way he seems to enjoy so much it’s as if he’s licking a plate clean. His entire life is occupied by recreation. Trips to Europe, bespoke fittings, lying outside. The best way to describe Scott’s tan is to say he wears it like it were a fabric: fastidiously maintained, inspected periodically to make sure it is still flawless, walking with his arms slightly outstretched as if he’s eyeing it for pieces of lint he should pluck off. He tans in a way that seems almost geometrical, somehow in the sun’s direct path in nearly every outdoor scene. That this might bother you delights him.
He smokes cigarettes in elevators, he takes dramatic swigs from Coronas, he smacks girls’ asses in public. He’s an only child who grew up in Manhattan, spent summers in the Hamptons, and said on last week’s episode, when referring to a mopey sister-in-law, “I used to be like that as a kid. I'd put myself in a position just so people would feel bad for me.” He is someone who can be pathetically charming and loathsome simultaneously.
Your opinion of Scott Disick is in a way a referendum on Getting It. Yes, he is arrogant and rude and compulsive. He said, “I run multiple companies in the vitamin world: QuickTrim, Rejuvacare, Monte Carlo Perpetual Tan,” which means he is also comfortable saying the words “Monte Carlo Perpetual Tan” out loud, reason enough to hate someone. And this reads like the most insufferable item ever transmitted by the internet. But there will always be famous people, falsely modest and super serious ones. Scott is not that; he is a douche, but a sincere, unabashed douche. He treats fame not as a status to conceal but as an arcade game, something to be beaten in different ways. If the lord had a throne, it’d probably be a recliner.
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John Saward likes O.V. Wright and eating guacamole with no pants on. He lives in Connecticut. Follow him on Twitter @RBUAS.