In many ways, the Softboi has been around forever. He’s there, backing women into corners at parties, trying to impress with his sub Byron lines, and anecdotes about that time in Paris when he ‘openly sobbed’ at Wilde’s grave.
TV comic presenters Russell Brand and Alex Zane were like this, before growing up and generally getting their shit together. Both were involved in less than salubrious incidents, the latter nearly ruining his career altogether. Now Zane is on the radio and Brand is a self-help guru.
But lately, the Softboi became a ubiquitous cultural phenomenon. Beam Me Up Softboi tips a cheeky fedora to this most obnoxious creep, on Twitter and Instagram, chronicling his most cringe-worthy lines, and the myriad ways he’s rejected.
What is he, really? He’s insidious, a covert narcissist with great hair, teeth and cool tattoos. He’s sexy, but is fully cognisant of this fact, and will affect a sensitivity and a faux concern for the planet. So much virtue signalling is a hard act to maintain, and make no mistake, an act is all it is.
He is part Kurt Cobain, part Jim Morrison during his nicer moments, but with the nasty undercurrent of Charles Bukowski (and the drink problem of Bukowski and Morrison combined.) He’s secretly plotting to fuck and destroy pretty much every woman (and man) he encounters. A neo-hippy or hipster with nectar points in casual misogyny, he is shameless. If you are female and a bit indie/alternative, you are the guaranteed prey.
Generally speaking, he’ll be in a band (but you’ll never have heard them) paint (badly) and write numerous books (mostly self-published).
His new exhibition, ‘art wank’ (all lower case, because, ya know, IRONY) will be on at a really obscure gallery, but only because he is seeing the husband and wife who run the place (and bien sur, neither are even remotely aware that he’s doing it). He’ll act self-effacingly shy, talk about the innumerable causes he supports and his feminism, but really possesses the morals of an alley cat.
In popular culture, Timothee Chalamet portrayed the ultimate Softboi in Greta Gerwig’s semi- autobiographical film Lady Bird. Kyle is a horrible little shit, who reads cult paperbacks on car bonnets and affects ennui with hair falling into his large doe eyes.
He seduces Christene (Saoirse Ronan) by pretending to care, then ditches her just as easily. Textbook stuff, but he’s beyond callous,as there is zero emotional imvestment on his part whatsoever: he took her virginity, just because he could.
Adam Driver’s Jamie in While We’re Young, Ben Stiller’s brilliant satirical comedy drama, is prime cut Softboi. Jamie is tall, unconventionally handsome, an indie filmmaker who is as ruthless as he is entitled.
He sets out to manipulate everyone he meets, because a) he is a middle class white man in a fedora and b) is there meant to be a b) ???!! ‘Nuff said. He wants, he takes. He’s all vintage clothes and retrogressive attitudes… towards pretty much anything. Slice him in two, and he’s Softboi down the middle.
There’s something so studied in these covert narcissists, something brutal. A Sonic Youth EVOL t -shirt they may sport, but you can bet they’ve only heard Goo, and that was once… aaand, they were waaay too wasted to even remember it.
They’re the Emo boys who never graduated to grunge, the ones spouting po-faced come-ons, who turn nasty when faced with rejection. They don’t know how to laugh, because humour is beneath them. Funny is deemed frivolous, antithetical to such high minded individuals. They’re, like, all about the TRUTH, yeah?
The Softboi is a sneer in Urban Outfitters gear, an ogle kitted out in army surplus coats, claiming to be a pacifist. Underneath it all, he is a deeply unpleasant individual, and in the worst case, a sexual predator.
If a Softboi turns his gaze towards you, run for your life and never, never look back. They will never change, they just get more sneaky, slick and sleazy with time. Stick to the less arrogant ones, they are legit caring and lovely human beings. Not a tree hugger in sight.