“Lothario DiCaprio will end up miserable and alone”: some thoughts on our current cultural moment and Leonardo DiCaprio’s toxic bacheloricity

It is, we have been repeatedly told, Leonardo DiCaprio’s year.

Because, y’know, he survived the making of a movie.

December 2015

December 2015

(While we’re here, in things I cannot unsee…

jfk

RIGHT?!?!!!

While we’re here, let’s also go here, and marvel at this most marvelous bit of Revenant marketing…

January 2016

January 2016

Because DID YOU EVEN KNOW SUCH A PUBLICATION EXISTED?!?! Much less that it was “The Premier Magazine of the West”?? Anyway…)

As I said, it is, we have repeatedly been told, Leo’s year.

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Even his effort to win an Academy Award has become an endurance test. Not unlike the presidential primaries.

Endorsements have been given…

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On the off-chance that he loses, the Russians are crafting a homemade Oscar.

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(FYI, Gerard Depardieu is having none of it.)

IT IS LEO’S YEAR, ya’ll. Or so we’ve been told. LEO WILL WIN THE OSCAR, guys. Or so we’ve been led to believe.

Because somewhere between his nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for the Wolf of Wall Street in 2014 and his nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for The Revenant in 2016, Leonard DiCaprio has become the Susan Lucci of the Academy Awards.

susan lucci people

Between 1978 and 1998, Lucci, you will no doubt recall, was nominated 18 times for an Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Daytime Emmy. Having paid relatively little attention to daytime dramas, I nonetheless remember the DRAMA when she finally won in 1999.

For real, it was a big deal. Check out the recap from Wikipedia:

After 18 failed nominations, she finally won in 1999.[16][17] When presenter Shemar Moore announced Lucci’s name, stating “the streak is over,” the audience erupted in a standing ovation, lasting several minutes. As Lucci took to the stage, cameras caught All My Children co-stars Kelly Ripa and Marcy Walker weeping openly, along with long-time supporter, actress and television host Rosie O’Donnell. Actor Ingo Rademacher was seen bowing in the aisles and talk show host Oprah Winfrey rushing the stage cheering from the wings.

For the record, this is only Leo’s fifth Oscar nomination in 22 years. By Lucci standards, that ain’t nothing.

But this narrative of Leo’s being “rather infamously” denied an Oscar, has roots in his 2014 loss, when there was a notable tilt towards the narrative line of “HOW LONG WILL LEO BE DENIED??”

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Hence the feeling of “it’s Leo’s year”… it was already pretty much decided in 2014 that the next time should be it. Never mind that he’s been regaling us with stories of his survival for the last six months. (Actually, maybe it’s only been three months, but doesn’t it feel like six??)

This narrative is interesting in that it seems to be coexisting with the mainstreaming of the “Leo is a modelizing toxic bachelor” narrative.

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Behold:

If you’ve been even casually following the love life of Leonardo Dicaprio, then it will come as no surprise that he dates models. That he is what Candace Bushnell’s Carrie Bradshaw would call a “modelizer.”

Leo dates younger women who are models. So what? This is old news.  It was a joke at the 2014 Golden Globes.

Fundamentally, the story has not changed as regards to its particulars. However, it has migrated. It’s too simple to characterize this as a migration from gossip to mainstream, as so much of our news is rooted in gossip anyway. Perhaps it is better to characterize it as a slippage from the gossip of the few into a statement of accepted fact.

It is, then, perhaps a hop, skip and a month to this:

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I hesitate to call this the most alarmingly stupid thing the Daily Mail has produced this year, as the year is young and the Daily Mail is nothing if not a publication all-out committed to constantly out-doing itself. But, still, this thing is AWFUL.

It is the Daily Mail‘s version of rolling out the welcome mat when DiCaprio recently visited London for the BAFTAs. I’m not even sure he’d left before this hit the Mail‘s site.

Full disclosure: I’ve long been bothered by the disconnect between DiCaprio’s public and private lives. The disconnect captured in this juxtaposition:

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I am bothered by this because I am selfish and I want us all to be our best selves and to have perfectly aligned professional and private lives. Being a biographer, I know this is an impossibility. I also know that, as people, we are all horrible paradoxes and there are huge chunks of our lives that don’t make sense to us, much less to other people, and that that is part of the wonder of being human- the irreconcilability of all those diverse pieces.

So I’m not criticizing DiCaprio’s choices here. I’m criticizing the way he is written about.

Because I think we are, currently, doing something culturally interesting with that disconnect between his public persona, his professional and private lives.

My work looks at the flow of stories through culture, and the changes that accrue in those stories over time.

This story has not changed. It has been here, like this, all along. But it is, in the present moment, in this Oscar season, moving to the fore in bizarro ways.

There are two things that, I think, have directly contributed to this: (1) Leonardo DiCaprio turned 40 (he is, currently, 41), and (2) George Clooney got married.

George Clooney’s marriage left a vacancy in the ranks of Hollywood’s leading, unmarried, middle-aged(ish) toxic bachelor men. Because he is now squarely in the age at which America deems it desirable that men be married and making families, DiCaprio has received this hand-me-down narrative.

In interviews, he’s now asked about marriage and family.

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This has been going on approximately since the Great Gatsby junket in 2013, so it probably has more to do with his age than with Clooney, but Clooney helps.

Besides DiCaprio, since the marriage of Clooney, I can think of no other unmarried man in Hollywood whose love life gets this kind of attention.

It’s not this kind of attention, mind you:

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Because men, typically, do not get cover of celebrity magazines kind of attention unless they’re attached to a famous woman and/or married. But, much as was the case for so many years with Clooney, we seem to have some strange cultural investment in Leonardo DiCaprio’s success- on both a professional and romantical scale.

But I do not remember Clooney coming in for the kind of criticism that DiCaprio has gotten. Yes, Clooney’s showgirls and actresses were gently mocked on gossip sites, but there wasn’t the viciousness, nor the moralizing, that there is around the critique of DiCaprio.

Let’s return to the Daily Mail, Bastion of Values and Sound Moral Judgements…

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That got real dark real fast, non? Wait for it…

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Notice the juxtaposition of his work and his private life. This lede is in his work, but this is a critique, not of his work, but of his self.

Note the extremes. He is #1, the biggest, and the most wretched.

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I’ve been teaching Ovid this week and, seriously, doesn’t sound like the rape of Europa or something?

As her fear was
Little by little diminished, he offered his chest for her virgin
Hand to caress and his horns to be decked with fresh flowers. The royal
Maiden, not knowing on whom she was sitting, was even so bold as
Also to climb on the back of the bull. As the god very slowly
Inched from the shore and the dry land he planted his spurious footprints
Deep in the shallows. Thus swimming out farther, he carried his prey off
Into the midst of the sea. Almost fainting with terror she glanced back,
As she was carried away, at the shore left behind. As she gripped one
Horn in her right hand while clutching the back of the beast with the other,
Meanwhile her fluttering draperies billowed behind on the sea breeze.
(Ovid, The Metamorphoses, The Rape of Europa, Book II)
Gillis Coignet: The Rape of Europa

Gillis Coignet: The Rape of Europa

It certainly doesn’t sound like  writing about a real person.

Oh but wait, it goes on…

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HOW MYTHIC IS THAT?! SERIOUSLY. Someone get on this. Rewrite the Metamorphoses with Leo as Jove.

L'enlèvement d’Europe, 1727, Museum of Art, Philadelphia

L’enlèvement d’Europe, 1727, Museum of Art, Philadelphia

And, lo, the moralizing…

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Mayhaps you are wondering where Clooney is in all of this. Fear Not! He’s here…

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The sentence structure is confusing. Is DiCaprio meant to do better than Clooney? Or is Clooney the example of how DiCaprio can better himself? Or is it both??

“Even George Clooney settled down and got married!” Note the implication that one must marry if one is not to be “sad and seedy,” if one is to have companionship in one’s “twilight years.” I mean, dear God, how much do you want to go hugJack Nicholson here??

I write about the way we write about women’s lives differently than we write the lives of men. But sometimes, we don’t. Sometimes, and I’m beginning to wonder how much this has to do with age, we write men and women’s lives the exact same way.

Leo must marry lest he be sad and alone. About how many women has the same thing been said?

Look at the commendations for Leo’s prior girlfriends…

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First of all, I HATE it when adults are demeaned through comparison to children in sweet shops. Jackie got this all the time. It’s grotesque. We can do better.

Secondly… who both “went on to marry and start families.” Because what single person doesn’t long to have their love life publicly compared to the successful loves lives of their exes?

bridget 4

And if you think this isn’t about us, think again…

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DON’T LAUGH, WE DO NOT WANT TO BE LEO BECAUSE IT WILL ONLY LEAD TO THE CORRODING OF OUR SOULS!!!!!

bridget

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bridget 2

Along with his being an only child (an analysis which, as a fellow only child, I feel qualified to declare REEKS of Person Who Had Siblings elitism), DiCaprio’s mother seems to take the fall for this…

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Which ties in nicely with the article the Mail subsequently published on his relationship with his mom

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But seriously. This is some hard-core concern-trolling of leo’s love life, no?

It is his year! He will win the Oscar! It’s provocative that at a time when his professional success seems a foregone conclusion, the narrative around his love life would move so prominently to the fore. It suggests we’ve some pretty hefty anxiety going on about men and marriage and masculinity.

Leo is my forever love. Because, like many, I was a 14 year-old girl when Romeo & Juliet was released and he was shoved into a corner of my heart I’d not previously known existed.

I have not seen The Revenant. I do not expect to, because it seems quite clearly to be a movie that was not made with me in mind.

This Daily Mail article was written by a woman, as was the critique on Slate. It seems a long leap of the imagination and logic to suggest that we women are punishing Leo for repeatedly making movies that don’t really appeal to us- movies which, sometimes, actually seem intended to alienate us. But then, in analyzing culture, it is often the least plausible explanation which winds up making the most sense in the end.

Jack Dawson encouraged Rose DeWitt Bukater. She was smart and daring and he was ok with that. A message with an extraordinary appeal to a generation of girls so often subjected to culture that reenforced a sense of their limitations.

Culture isn’t universal and my interpretation of the dynamic existing between women and Leonardo DiCaprio could be total bunk.

More than anything, I want to suggest that no one alive in the world right now benefits from articles so silly and judgmental as this. But also I want to bookmark this cultural moment, to pinpoint the strange thing I see happening though I can’t quite identify what it is, so that once time has passed, once the story has developed more, we can all come back here and, from a point of greater clarity, think, “Oh, yeah, that was weird,” with a slightly greater understanding of why that was.

leo gatsby

One thought on ““Lothario DiCaprio will end up miserable and alone”: some thoughts on our current cultural moment and Leonardo DiCaprio’s toxic bacheloricity

  1. Pingback: Prince Harry “Bridget Jones” Windsor, US Weekly, “the single life,” and futher thoughts on “Lothario DiCaprio” | finding jackie

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