By Benjamin Leatherman
By Glenn BurnSilver
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By Roger Calamaio
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By Brian Palmer
"I've got a Benetton heart, and a fuckin' David Duke cock," John Mayer told Playboy magazine earlier this year. The 32-year-old singer-songwriter was attempting to justify his sexual preferences in a way that didn't make him sound like a bigot. Later, he unleashed the "n" word and described ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson's bedroom prowess as "sexual napalm."
Remarkably, black people and Jessica Simpson took offense.
Though regrettable, the interview did illuminate the sometimes baffling disconnect between Mayer the artist and Mayer the media personality. After all, Mayer the blandly earnest blues-rocker doesn't seem diabolical enough to compare his penis to a notorious white supremacist. And Mayer the sexually over-nourished Twitter provocateur doesn't seem sincere enough to write a song like "Your Body Is a Wonderland."
So what's the deal? Is Mayer ingeniously satirizing and exploiting the celebrity "process," à la Lady Gaga? Or — as some have suggested, including his Playboy interviewer — is he simply a douchebag?
Ten years ago, during the dawn of the douche, that would have been a flip insult. No longer. Today, what we understand to be "douchiness" is so rigorously defined, so dogmatic, that to brand someone with it is no more whimsical than calling him a hominid or a Libertarian.
In short, a douche is a painfully self-aware man with delusions of coolness who loves, loves, loves talking about his myriad sexual conquests, particularly if they're A-list conquests like Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson. He's uncharitable, but generally harmless. He's dismissable.
At this point, Mayer supporters are objecting to the douche argument on the grounds that he felt terrible about the Playboy interview. In fact, he shed tears of contrition at a concert the night after the issue hit newsstands. Surely no douche could muster such genuine emotion?
Au contraire. In fact, douches are demonstrably emotional. Consider Scott Disick, deadbeat boyfriend and baby-daddy to Kourtney Kardashian and resident douche of the loathsome reality TV show Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami. Disick is always weeping, self-examining, and apologizing. It's what douches do.
Mayer is unquestionably a smart fellow. So we must embrace the possibility that his douche-y high jinks — including the Playboy interview and the impromptu press conference he held outside his gym after breaking up with Aniston — are simply an ingenious ruse to propel his career. And, hey, it worked on at least one level: After tweeting his apology for the Playboy interview, Mayer saw his Twitter numbers rise sharply. Shockingly, he's now the 10th-most-followed celebrity on Twitter, with over 3 million followers.
Still, one doubts the wisdom of it all. First, no one has conclusively proved that Twitter isn't fool's gold. Ashton Kutcher is the second-most-followed Twitterer on the planet, but does that make him the second-most-powerful celebrity? Only in his own house. When Bruce isn't around.
Moreover, Mayer's outrageous frankness simply doesn't jibe with his artistic reality. When Lady Gaga says crazy shit, it feels like part of a coordinated artistic effort. She's a thrilling nightmare. When Mayer spouts off, he seems like a dilettante. No one listens to his music to feel daring or transgressive — they put it on when they want to be soothed and reassured. So how does talking about his masturbation habits appeal to them?
The great irony about Mayer's Playboy imbroglio is that it showed us a side of him that's many degrees more daring, witty, and excitingly dysfunctional than the Mayer we know from his music. So maybe he should save some of that inspired craziness for the studio. Otherwise he's just another douche with 3 million followers and a racist dick.