We ask the very important questions here at Pajiba. Like what to do when you want to blackmail Robert De Niro. Why Meghan MY FATHER McCain is the way she is. How the worst sex scenes in all of fiction came to be. And, today’s edition of philosophical, existential, essential musing:
Is Diplo a dirtbag or a fuckboi?
Why this question? Well, a few weeks ago I realized in the Pajiba slack that beloved Overlord Dustin Rowles has no idea who Diplo is. None! Didn’t even know Diplo was a real person! Just thought that Diplo was a fictional character James Van Der Beek played on Viceland’s What Would Diplo Do?
I’m not sure if Dustin is better off now knowing that Diplo is a real guy whose production style has shaped pop music for the better part of the decade, and has been profiled numerous times over the past year — in this great piece by Allison P. Davis at The Cut; in this interview with Madison Vain at Esquire; in this profile by Gabriella Paiella at GQ — but I’ve read all these pieces and I have a soft spot for Diplo that I cannot entirely explain, but let’s give it a try.
I think it all goes back to M.I.A.? Because I loved her in college, and I loved the music she and Diplo made together (albums Arular and Kala in particular) and I felt some kinship to their pairing because I too was a brown woman in a relationship with a white man. And then “Paper Planes” blew up, a song I fucking adore, and this was an era of my life in which I wanted to be a music journalist and I worked at American Apparel and would hijack the store’s stereo system to listen to Piracy Funds Terrorism, and I know, I know. Barack Obama was president! I wasn’t yet saddled by crippling amounts of student debt! What a time to be alive!
And Diplo, man, I don’t know. His smug charm, that shit-eating grin, his overconfidence and knowledge that he was, at best, an average white man crafting bops out of sort-of, kind-of cultural appropriation … we all have our contradictions, and this goddamn DJ was mine. But then I interviewed him once for a story for my college newspaper, and he was a real asshole — dismissive, uninterested, flippant. Then his relationship with M.I.A. ended in a really messy way, and the two of them kept taking swipes at each other for like, years. And so while I have danced many a time to Major Lazer, and to the songs Diplo produced for Justin Bieber that made him finally sound like an adult, and I still bust out those M.I.A. albums (especially after I watched her documentary, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.), I’m not as obsessed as I once was. I mean, still obsessed enough to school Dustin on who the guy is, but not obsessed enough to follow Diplo on Instagram, even though he’s often posting thirst traps like this.
What’s been more fascinating is seeing how the rest of the world has seemed to catch up with Diplo thirst as he’s gotten more swole over the past few years (and acquired a gold tooth). You may recall that the Charli XCX “Boys” video in 2017 had a major role in this.
Aside from Diplo’s numerous musical side projects, his constant hustle playing shows around the country and the world, and his pretty solid social media game (before he got himself in trouble mocking Taylor Swift’s ass), he doesn’t mind making a physical spectacle of himself. He shows up to red carpets in full-on cowboy gear and plays with gender roles in major magazine photoshoots and breaks into his embarrassingly goofy dance moves while on The Price is Right (that episode airs today), and I think that the performance of being Diplo appeals to people.
This all leads us back to that very important question: Is Diplo a dirtbag or a fuckboi? What’s the difference? Well, a dirtbag is, as our very own Emily Chambers put it so succinctly, a dude who is hot enough that you’ll let him ruin your credit. That’s a very important level of being! On the spectrum of dirtbags, Overlord Kayleigh Donaldson suggested Jared Leto as maximum dirtbag (so grossly intense that you wouldn’t actually have sex with him, you’d just let him gaze deeply into your eyes or whatever), Dustin suggested ’80s Mickey Rourke as a vintage dirtbag, and Emily offered up fictional characters Lip Gallagher from Shameless and Mad Sweeney on American Gods. My suggestion? Charlie Hunnam’s Jax Teller from Sons of Anarchy. This is a very white list, and I think it’s because only white men are allowed to get away with this level of asshattery in pop culture.
But then aside from the dirtbag is the fuckboi. We have to be clear here: This is a term, like so many others that get passed around Twitter and then explode into the mainstream and end up used in bad late-night comedy routines or whatever, that was lifted from black culture, sapped of its original intention, and transformed into something else. As Kara Brown wrote in Jezebel all the way back in 2015,
Fuckboy is a term that most will agree was first introduced publicly by the rapper Cam’ron and later became of the larger hip hop lexicon. (That being said, you can almost guarantee that it was because the term was floating around Harlem in the first place that led to Cam’ron using it in a song.)
To call someone a fuckboy is to insult them. It falls into a similar category of terms like bitch-ass or scrub. A fuckboy is a man who is lame, who sucks, who ain’t shit. Insults don’t need to have some deeper meaning. They’re meant to cut someone down quickly and decisively. It is precisely because they are so uncomplicated that they are so difficult to respond to.
Five years later, that watered-down version of “fuckboi” — which is certainly used somewhat derisively, but still carries a level of awe or appreciation — is what has entered our lexicon as a way to describe a guy we want to talk about sexually. The fuckboi has now become an objectively attractive guy you want really nothing to do with outside of the physical stuff. He’s simultaneously sort of pathetic and pouty, but also overly confident and sure of himself. He’s pretty or attractive enough that you tolerate it, but you still mock it. He’ll tell you about his feelings, but he’ll try to leverage them over you to get what he wants. Examples in pop culture: Laurie from Little Women:
It’s also comforting to know that things may change, but fuckboi Laurie remains the same pic.twitter.com/UX253pF2tG— rachel syme (@rachsyme) June 19, 2019
Lucas from One Tree Hill, who spent a lot of the first few seasons of this show jumping between two cheerleader best friends:
Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights, obviously:
… and honestly, Leo and the Pussy Posse walked so all other fuckbois, including Diplo, could run!
So, to return to our original question: Is Diplo a dirtbag or a fuckboi? I’m going with a fuckboi body clothed in a dirtbag’s outfit. Go to any Diplo show, follow any Diplo social media account, read any Diplo profile and it is clear that he is sleeping with an astonishing amount of women, and yet when asked about the loves of his life, he talks about his sons with his on-again, off-again partner Kathryn Lockhart. And that’s fine! If these women are willing, go for it! Sia even said she’s asked Diplo for a no-strings-attached, sex-only relationship! Probably because all these women know he’s a fuckboi, and if they all agree, who are we to argue with that? But this affected cowboy look, the constant shirtlessness, that damn gold tooth — that’s dirtbag shit right there. It’s the best of both worlds! Or the worst! Whichever way your sympathies lie!
Is he unironically hanging out with Guy Fieri? Or ironically? I CAN’T TELL ANYMORE. I’M TOO DEEP IN THIS THING. SEND HELP.
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