by Ollie Axelrod
With the rise of the new decade, a shocking trend has emerged in celebrity dating gossip: extraordinarily hot women are dating freaks. Though the recent pairing of Emily Ratajkowski and Eric Andre is especially confusing, it is only an acme of the predecessors that were MGK and Megan Fox and, to a lesser extent, the more palatable Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson. But why is this happening? To what can we owe these women’s decisions?
Well, these pairings are all fairly algorithmic. The women involved are generally older, well-established, and incredibly conventionally attractive, while the men are often younger, appeal to more niche audiences, and have that frustrating and often unplaceable trait—one that I would call goofiness.
The archetype of the so-called “goofy guy” can be difficult to define. His appeal goes beyond just being funny or charming: in fact, the goofy guy is sometimes not particularly funny or charming at all. His characterization comes more from the attempt than the output. This is to say that the goofy guy is desperate to be liked—a social anxiety that can easily be mistaken for sweetness—and as a result he is twitchy and performative, his words often eloquent but stilted, his one-liners seemingly half-prepared. In this, he is utterly approachable. We see this desperation in the faux-punk, wannabe-cool egoism of Machine Gun Kelly as much as we see it in the self-deprecating, compensatory humor of Pete Davidson and the loud, attention-seeking slapstick of Eric Andre. At least from their public personas, these men are completely uncomplicated and deeply obvious, which somehow makes them kind of adorable.
In this, the goofy man does have some public and personal appeal. However, in the celebrity and influencer dating sphere, in which I function under the assumption that nearly every relationship is at least in part fabricated off of cultivating and marketing some sort of image, I’d argue that the goofy guy is also increasingly fashionable. The marketization of dating is nothing new, especially in celebrity culture. Famous pairings were often between beautiful younger women and significantly older or more powerful men with some sort of critical notoriety. Winning the dating game proved market value. Look at Leo DiCaprio’s infamous string of girlfriends: each one has an ideally Instagrammable face and is a walking epitomization of youthful beauty. Furthermore, finessing the dating market can be incredibly profitable. Gorgeous young women have found success and fame through the men that they date: both Hadids, for example, kickstarted their public careers by dating successful musicians.
However, as women become more socially conscious, public opinion is beginning to waver away from this insidious lust for feminine youth. The trend of the goofy/gorgeous couple subverts these gendered power dynamics—though still in the context of a patriarchal sphere. The gorgeous women are often significantly more palatable and powerful than the goofy men that they’re dating, but they’re also more dehumanized. What Emrata, Kim Kardashian, and Megan Fox all have in common is that their celebrity is sourced from and can be heavily attributed to their desirability towards men. Their public careers have been one long objectification. Perhaps women whose entire public image depends on their patriarchal palatability can only change the narratives of their fame by exchanging the men that they surround themselves with. The goofy boyfriend humanizes and distincts the women that he dates through shocking red carpet couples’ outfits and off-beat talk show interviews. An easy example of this is Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox. The truly unbelievable aspect of the two’s relationship is not simply that Megan Fox chose to have sex with MGK, but that she absorbed his childishly provocative aesthetic and image almost immediately. Although the public’s perception of Megan Fox’s swift turn into Hot-Topic-style-BDSM hedonism has been far from favorable, maybe being a subject of controversy and ridicule is preferable to going through the world as a blank and inoffensive pretty face. This analysis is complicated by the general suspicion that MGK’s power over Fox in their personal relationship went far beyond consensual kink. As long as celebrity women continue to successfully source their value through men, insidious patriarchal structures will continue to lurk beneath these relationships.
This criticism is not necessarily constrained wholly to the rich and famous, especially as influencer culture blurs the line between celebrity and citizen. As I have become more engrossed in the Twitter gossip surrounding the goofy/gorgeous phenomenon, I’ve noticed traces of it on Oberlin’s campus: incredibly beautiful girls get with extremely weird men, and hanging around with them and their friends seemingly provides them with both external and internal social validation. Now, there is nothing wrong with dating weirdos—trust me, I’m all for it. But it’s important that we’re thoughtful about the men that we date. Do we like them, or are we crafting a narrative?