1. Nobody thinks about what it means anymore.
Though the title of this post may have produced a funny mental image, it was probably involved some asshole with a popped collar. Contemporary usage of the term has elided the fact than actual douchebag is a bag. Full of douche. That you put in your vagina. I've only seen douche once — when I was a kid, in the attic of my friend's family's store, in some sort of ancient gift basket along with a 1970s romance novel. Likewise, I've only read the word used literally in one place — the extremely fucked-up noir novel The Killer Inside Me. The movie version of said fucked-up novel is about to come out, and how much do you want to bet they don't include the "douchebag" line? Actually, I don't want to bet. I do want you to send me examples of actual baggy douche-filled douchebags referred to in print (ads don't count). Because the true douchebag has been forgotten, and that's sad.
2. Everybody's saying it now.
As Slate's Troy Patterson points out, "douchebag" and its variants have now appeared at two opposite poles of American culture — The City and the New York Times. The Times's Edward Wyatt offered this hilariously passive-voiced formulation:
On many nights this fall, it has been possible to tune in to broadcast network television during prime time and hear a character call someone else a 'douche.'
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a word that shows up in a Times trend piece must be in want of a replacement. Plus, Hot Chicks With Douchebags has gone from blog to book to show. Can the video game be far behind?
3. Gawker actually declared it dead last year.
In December of 2008, Gawker posted a reader's plea that read, in part,
it's been completely played out. the number of times i hear it now applied to any circumstance other than what i believe to have been its true intention is getting annoying. furthermore, i feel the douche's themselves have co-opted the word and use it against hipsters and the like. people who aren't particularly witty, or even funny, began throwing around the word douche (in my opinion denigrating the original beauty of what it represented). i think it'd be a great idea to take control of your creation and have a very formal retirement for the word
You know how in high school you would make up something really funny, and then everyone would laugh, but then some lame person would try to use it in a lame way, and everyone would get tired of it, and then they'd blame you for coming up with something lame? I guess what I'm trying to say is, stop trying to make douchebag happen.
4. Douchebag parodies have appeared.
It's actually even worse than the Gawker reader lets on. Not only has the word been co-opted by "douche's themselves," fake douchebags are now making silly parody videos. And charts. These parodies may be amusing, but what they reveal is that "douchebag," once a thrillingly multifaceted insult, has calcified into a type. Douchebags wear Ed Hardy shirts. They pop their collars. They may differ by region, but even these differences are strictly codified. "Douchebag" used to be both simple and versatile, a way to describe someone whose disregard for other people, combined with outsized self-regard, was so extreme as to be hilarious. Now it's a culture, with its own stereotypes and its own quasi-ethnic jokes. That video's just for laughs, but mark my words, true "douchebag" reclamation is on its way.
Some might argue that we need a new word to do the work "douchebag" once did. I do like "assclown." But while mocking the unjustifiably egotistical will never truly die, I wonder if specifically shaming douches and their ilk is kind of an '00s thing. Maybe in the new decade we should turn our attention to a less ludicrous but more insidious figure, the guy who acts sensitive and evolved as a way of concealing deep-seated misogyny or misanthropy. Or maybe we should just give up and be nice to each other. The world's going to end in two years anyway.
Image via MSN.
Douchebags Gone Wild [Slate]
Related: More Than Ever, You Can Say That On Television [NYT]
The Gray Lady And Her Sad, Shared, Empty Bag Of "Douche" [Gawker]
Farewell, Douchebag [Gawker]