Over at The New Republic, Nora Caplan-Bricker complains that a new ELLE interview has pulled the wool from her eyes. Before, she thought Robin Thicke honorable, upright; now it appears that he is the kind of person who talks about women like this:
My dad was single my whole pubescent period. [Laughs] He had Ms. Alabama, Ms. Dominican Republic — every week. I was like, Dang, Pops. He had an indoor Jacuzzi, and he frequented it. The first time I saw a naked woman was when I went to take a shower one morning before school. I was like, Who is this girl in my shower?
We were on vacation and some pretty girl walked by. I started ogling her like a 12-year-old boy, and he said, “I know she’s pretty, but you stared at her and followed her across the room. What if there’s a prettier girl sitting two tables away? Now she’s not going to feel special. She’ll say, ‘You look at all the girls like that.’ You’ve gotta play it cool so you don’t look like you’re desperate.”
Let’s set aside the gratuitous use of “Pops” here, as well as the uncomfortable images this conjures for a certain generation of people who knew Thicke’s father primarily as Dr. Jason Seaver on Growing Pains. The truth is, Thicke is not really doing much more than describing what we already know about successful men in Hollywood, indeed successful men generally: in accordance with a general cultural expectation, they think of hot women — here coded as “Ms. Alabama” and, for good ambiguous-racial-commentary measure, “Ms. Dominican Republic” — as the spoils of fame and riches. And not to pick too much on Caplan-Bricker, because hers is only one of many pieces of this kind I come across every week in the ephemeral-pop-culture-commentary areas of the Internet, but it is thus, was ever thus, and absent a large cultural shift, shall ever be thus.
I am aware that I ask for trouble by making this observation. The kind of men who do this tend to feel very attached to the idea that “the heart wants what it wants” and get very upset at the mere suggestion that someone might find their general attitudes towards women lacking in, well, respect. Very quickly this descends into mudslinging about the relative level of attractiveness of the woman (it’s usually a woman) making this observation. It’s very depressing for everyone involved, usually. Except the successful men in question, who rarely feel much inspired to actually change their behavior, because there is no social cost. Again: the “heart” wants what it wants.
Which brings us back to Robin Thicke. One of the more curious aspects of his public image — an image which mostly yells, “I take pride in being the most photogenic person in a room,” but OK — is that he has convinced people that he has some kind of greater gift to women than the average overly manicured pop star. It’s not clear what biographical facts support this image. He is married to a woman he dated from the age of 14, which people always like, but he has also been photographed, er, this way, which ought to mitigate the sentimentality. And yet it doesn’t.
Far more than any arguably offensive lyric in any song, it’s this sort of presumption of good faith on the part of celebrities which bugs me. There’s rarely, as with Thicke, any real reason for it. Other than treating everything in life as either an idol to be worshiped or else a devil to be damned. Enjoy Thicke all you want, I’m saying, but this endless cycle of being “disappointed” with people who have done really, well, nothing to earn your trust: it must end. Just dance, and stop thinking the singer is a god. It’ll be the first day of the rest of your life, I promise.