The very mention of Dapper Laughs’ is enough to sum up the suit-clad, ‘sophisticated’ young men who might relish being branded a lad. Lad culture is a direct reaction against modernity and progressive values, a recourse to a by-gone time of institutionalised misogyny and tweed. The sheer pretence that would defend allegedly ironic discrimination is startling, that somehow it is witty to have recourse to humour which seems plucked from the early 19th century. There is nothing innovative or creative about resurrecting the rightfully buried corpse of “get back in the kitchen”.
To reconstruct the situation, imagine that someone had gone on a speaking tour around the UK condemning women’s suffrage. ‘Dapper Laughs’ is not removed from this idea, he makes light of terrible, criminal activity which should have been condemned to the dustiest of history text- books by now. Threatening to rape an audience member, even in purported jest, is nothing short of hate-speech and deeply troubling. Detractors of the political correctness brigade might draw comparisons with simply threatening to slap someone, because it’s all a joke –right? No, the invocation of rape, a crime which remains both under-reported and under-prosecuted, is an affront.
However, too much blame has been apportioned to Daniel O’Reilly without similar condemnation of the production crews, and television executives who are complicit in his crass and fundamentally unfunny humour. There is a niggling feeling that the media furore surrounding this man is deeply hypocritical, and uses him as a scapegoat to distract from their own failings. Gags about ‘dead hookers’ litter frat-boy blockbusters, and a character’s disregard for enthusiastic consent is still played as endearing – who bats an eye lid when the hero surprises an attractive bystander with his unsolicited advances?
It is a real struggle to accept that Dapper Laughs was ever a character in the sense that Sacha Baron Cohen transforms into Borat to draw attention to xenophobia and prejudice through being a satirical mirror held up to bigots. Instead, Dapper Laughs is a distillation of a very real, very troubling culture. Stand for long enough in the high street on a Saturday night, or walk sober into a club night, and you’ll bump into Dapper Laughs – he’ll be gleefully invading another’s personal space, chatting about birds and bitches, or gaming prey. Dapper Laughs isn’t gone as O’Reilly would have us believe, Dapper Laughs was just a glimpse into a social idea that is worrying in its ubiquity.
This is not to say that O’Reilly is some victim figure, that he is somehow the manipulated pawn of evil studio executives. The fact remains that he is a talentless fool who sold misogynistic, reprehensible material as some sort of perverse humour. The fact that he is part of a wider system of institutionalised sexism does not exonerate him. It is not shocking that O’Reilly’s performance was ever commissioned, his material appeals to a massive audience. Just because a view is widespread does not give it credence. However, we should thank O’Reilly for being enough of a loud- mouthed, attention seeking fool to generate a much needed conversation on this topic.