HOLLY HUDSON discusses the infamy of Dapper Laughs.
If you’re not familiar with Daniel O’Reilly’s alter ego ‘Dapper Laughs’, firstly consider yourself lucky. Secondly, don’t worry, because with any luck after this recent media controversy we won’t be encountering him again.
There was a massive backlash last week after the pioneer of quality television that is ITV 2 decided to add to its already culturally stellar repertoire of ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and ‘Celebrity Juice’ by giving Dapper Laughs, the ‘ultimate lad’, his very own misogyny-fuelled TV show. Unsurprisingly, many were against giving airtime and money to someone who trivialised rape and promoted the message ‘“no” means she’s playing hard to get’, all in the name of helping men ‘pull birds’. Fortunately, the last seven days have seen a huge surge in opposition towards Laughs, bizarrely reiterated by creator O’Reilly himself. Initiated by Cardiff University students successfully calling for the cancellation of his performance there, Dapper Laughs’ tour has been cancelled, his album pulled from sale and ITV2 has not renewed ‘Dapper Laughs: On The Pull’ for a second series. In wake of the end of Dapper Laughs and O’Reilly’s Newsnight interview, the question remains: can we sympathise with O’Reilly as a victim, or is he plainly a perpetrator of rape culture with only himself to blame?
Laughs became a sensation on the social media site Vine, posting videos of himself attempting to chat up women – often bordering on sexual harassment – to mass acclaim from his key demographic of ‘lads’. As if telling girls that they were ‘gagging for rape’ wasn’t enough, Laughs recently branched out to offend the homeless. His album entitled ‘Proper Naughty Christmas’ was allegedly made in part to raise money for homelessness charity Shelter. An interesting claim, when in ‘Rudolph and his Red Nose’, Laughs ends the song by shouting at a ‘tramp’ that he ‘stinks of shit’. I’m sure we can all agree on how convincing and sympathetic a message Laughs was sending to the homeless community. It seemed as if no one was safe from Laugh’s ‘comedy’. The most concerning thing of all was that O’Reilly seemed to actually believe that his personal crusade to turn every man into a ‘bird-pulling’ machine was genuine comedy, and therefore acceptable to broadcast to a mass market.
When the man behind the misogyny appeared on Newsnight last week, he told a derisive Emily Maitlis that he was ‘retiring the character’ and that he never intended to validate rape culture. He actually attempts to paint himself as a victim. I can’t help but speculate that the only reason for his retribution is the huge amount of negative press – and consequential loss of support – Laughs has received of late. O’Reilly states in the interview that he continued with ‘the character’ because of the massive support it was receiving on social media and was quick to refute his prior claim that Laughs was ‘an extension of himself’. What the interview shows us is a vulnerable O’Reilly listing various excuses as to why he continued with Dapper Laughs; not once does he explicitly admit that he was wrong to promote the harassment and degradation of women.
O’Reilly’s decision to stop performing as Dapper Laughs only came when his tour was cancelled – which he says he did himself- and his TV show wasn’t renewed for another season. When asked if he laughs when re-watching his videos, he says he is instead faced with ‘what it’s done to my life’. Somewhat to O’Reilly’s credit however, watching the interview, it’s evident that he never expected Laughs to be as successful as it was and in hindsight, regrets the infamy that the character has brought him. In fact, he suggests to Maitlis that he’s become a victim of his own creation, and that Laughs has now ruined his life.
The controversy of Dapper Laughs also begs the question: what of the responsibility of ITV? I’m sure many would argue that of course O’Reilly would have accepted an offer for his own TV show, regardless of the social implications. Surely, ITV are as equally, if not more at fault here for allowing such an inappropriate concept to air on TV. The series gave him the validation to continue the character under the impression that this branch of “comedy” was acceptable, no doubt because he was being given such a well-publicised platform to continue with Dapper Laughs.
However, it’s difficult to see O’Reilly’s remorse as genuine. Considering the timing of his “apology” and the fact he was only too happy to continue with Laughs when it was popular – and profitable – suggests a desperate attempt to salvage his career. It would seem he remained wilfully ignorant to the complaints circling the internet, as he states he ‘didn’t know [he] was causing that much of a problem’. Anyone who is willing to trivialise rape in the name of fame and humour surely cannot play the victim card. There is much to be said for the responsibility O’Reilly must now take for broadcasting such a controversial, socially inappropriate character. Stating that he ‘kind of got a bit carried away with it to be honest’, O’Reilly offers an ultimately poor excuse. Sadly, it would seem that for O’Reilly, the only damage done is that to his personal fortune and reputation; he seems to give little regard to the lasting misogynistic message of the character. Despite not having taken to Twitter for a few days, it’s interesting that O’Reilly has not taken down his Dapper Laughs Twitter or Facebook pages, apparently still profiting from the media frenzy surrounding the character.
Worryingly, it’s probable that the legacy of Dapper Laughs, if you can call it that, will continue. His catchphrases have already been adopted by ‘lads’ on nights out, in Dapper’s words: hoping to pull some ‘skirt’, whilst his Twitter defendants continue to tell his female critics to ‘cheer up you ugly c*nt’. The only relief to come from Dapper Laughs’ retirement is the fact that Laughs himself – and ITV – cannot sink any lower, to offend any other group of people or further influence misguided young men across the country. Hopefully, Dapper has had his last laugh.