John Mayer: Embracing Douchebaggery

In recent weeks, two interviews with pop-sensation/self-proclaimed great guitarist John Mayer have appeared in Rolling Stone and Playboy. In both of these interviews Mayer discusses his penchant for masturbation, the way he thinks about relationships and why he thinks a large section of the populace think he is a douchebag. I lampooned the Rolling Stone interview, at least his responses in a comic on my other site Illiterate Badger only days ago, but having just read the second interview for Playboy online, there is new resolve to ask questions about why Mayer insists upon behaving the way he does, and saying the things he does "on the record". Particularly, his indefensible use of racist and sexist language that may be oblivious, or may, in truth only be his attempts to redefine his public image. Long known as a nice, too sweet, singer songwriter type whose saccharine lyrics and sentiments were at worst disturbing and at most unoriginal, he has definitely transcended into the territory of insanity today. And when inanity becomes insanity there's usually more motivation than, as quoted from the Playboy interview:

"I’ve done away with feeling aloof and trying to seem suave and bulletproof. I’ve resigned myself to being slightly awkward and goofballish."

So, as many blogs and news outlets labor over his use of the "N" word, or his comments about his penis ("My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.") I'd rather focus on why now, of all times, Mayer would openly demonstrate the complete lameness of himself to the public.

In the notorious interview for Rolling Stone Mayer derides himself, relying on saying essentially that it's tough being him. Having too many women want to turn him down just to screw him over (or to have screwed "The John Mayer" over) and then Mayer free-verse churns out repugnant analogies about finding his true love,

"But don't they also have to have a vagina you could pitch a tent on and just camp out on for, like, a weekend? Doesn't that have to be there, too? The Joshua Tree of vaginas? ...I'll be happy when I close out this life-partner thing. Think of how much mental capacity I'm using to meet the right person so I can stop giving a fuck about it."

In Mayer's defense, yes, anyone would agree a good, solid, powerful sexual chemistry is necessary to sustain any relationship, but it's his choice of words, the implication that a vagina equates a woman (a partner, a kindred) and that it can then be easily compared to a tree (ostensibly an object) is the greatest transgression. Then, the audacity to complain that he invests too much mental energy into finding the right person is just a contrast highlighting why people think he's a douchebag. No one likes to be objectified, and yet, Mayer, in his sheepish, I'm just a poor nice guy who got too famous for normal girls mode doesn't recognize that women are not merely vaginas. Earlier in the same interview, Mayer discusses his love of masturbation, and how he prefers to imagine sleeping with women he's already been with because the effort required to open himself up to a new person is too taxing (and that he believes many women just could believe they were with him to the extent that the relationship would be ultimately unfulfilling). Turning inward, only to sexualize past partners via fantasy is an act of objectification. Perhaps closer in line with voyeurism, but nonetheless an act of retreat from any real woman with complexities and desires and dreams and a heart to break.

But, Mayer still believes that he is a nice guy, perhaps THE nice guy, stating in his Playboy interview, "I consider myself a good guy, with the best of intentions. Anybody who has been in a relationship with me would stand by the fact that I’ve never been callous." And truly, since his ex-partners have not advanced to deride him after these interviews he may well be. But Mayer just can't seem to close his mouth, perhaps the impetus for his song "My Stupid Mouth" from Room for Squares, rattling off the following:

"I’m half Jewish. People say, “Well, which side of your family is Jewish?” I say, “My dad’s.” And they always say it doesn’t count. But I will say I keep my pool at 92 degrees, so you do the math. I find myself relating to Judaism. One of my best friends is Jewish beyond all Jews—I went to my first Passover Seder at his house—and I train in Krav Maga with a lot of Israelis."

John Mayer is a lot like Tim Watley from Seinfeld who was called into question for potentially converting to Judaism just for the jokes. He loves the slurring, the Seder, and the martial arts.

And: "Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a nigger pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"

The above comment, for which Mayer has already apologized, is plainly reprehensible. Not only because of his slurring, but also in the way he passes on saying he has cache with black America since he's never been denied access to a restaurant. It appears, in a sense, that John Mayer wants everyone to believe he is all things at once, a blues artist, a lover, a solemn poet, and an underdog, but none of his actions or words substantiate those claims. Except of course that he can play guitar and have sexual intercourse.

This boils down to Mayer being asked by his interviewer, "If you didn’t know you, would you think you’re a douche bag?"

To which Mayer replies, "It depends on what I picked up. My two biggest hits are “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Daughters.” If you think those songs are pandering, then you’ll think I’m a douche bag. It’s like I come on very strong. I am a very…I’m just very. V-E-R-Y. And if you can’t handle very, then I’m a douche bag. But I think the world needs a little very. That’s why black people love me."

But, Mayer is missing the point. People may be tired of the wispy sentiments stacked up in "Your Body Is a Wonderland" or the creepy girl-preparation manual that is "Daughters," but these aren't the reasons people think he's a douchebag. It's because of everything said in the last few interviews. The 77 tattoo commemorating the year of his birth. The continued use and refuse of some of the most gorgeous and talented women in Hollywood. The tendency to fall back on the "I'm the one getting screwed over" card. The just music isn't that great anymore. I loved Room for Squares. I really, really did. And still do. But, sitting in a multi-million dollar mansion, complaining that getting to know new women is too hard, and talking about every album being made as something unprecedented in music is douchebaggery defined. It seems that it is time to decide whether to embrace this KISS-esque rock star mentality, and just start demanding sex and drugs and booze, or to back up and do something positive. It's no wonder that the new album Battle Studies can be easily abbreviated to BS.

All this said, of course, I think of the old "let he who is without sin cast the first stone" parable. I am by no means sin-free, nor exempt from responsibility for the ways I've entered into and exited relationships. And I still try to hold myself up as a good person. A person is not defined solely by their actions. But those are the only evidence for definition the public sees, so it's about careful balance. John Mayer is a talented musician, and has written some exceptional songs, but the sooner he stops tooting his own horn (a reference to his self-congratulatory nature rather than his continuous masturbation) the sooner he will find more favor. Perhaps then, women who he believes consider him to be inaccessibly awesome will see the real guy, who may well be kind and fragile, and give him an honest shot at love.


  1. Mayer's comment and use of the "n" word are getting way too much headlines. They're right. If he really had a "hood pass," his use of the word nigger would be allowed. And he goes on to relate the restaurant story which basically says "I've never been treated poorly therefore I don't REALLY know what it's like to be hood." That's an honest assessment of things. I hate to see people - famous or not - that feel that they can relate to the pains of being a minority. That's like men who say they can understand the pain of childbirth. It's just not possible. Mayer might not have eloquently stated this disparity, but the point he was trying to make was there and obvious...

    Back to the hood pass - Mayer has the respect of a lot of the hip hop community - which is why people say he has a "hood" pass. It's a stupid media thing - oh, you have black friends, so therefore you must be "down." I wonder if Jim Carrey ever gets asked about whether he had a "hood pass" because he was on "In Living Color?" The question itself is much more racist than Mayer's answer.

    As for Mayer's douchbaggery - It was a recent interview before this one where he self-admitted that his music wasn't that great, and the reason people pay attention to him is this schtick. And, since he's doing the thing he loves the most - he'll do the schtick. I'm paraphrasing, but I think that's something I can see myself doing too. That's probably douchbag like - but whatever....

  2. Excellent point. He was trapped by the question, and put into a position where he'd necessarily have to incriminate himself. I think in complete retrospect to writing this post, and given some time, my main issue is that Mayer asserts that he's not like other rock stars. He doesn't think he's crass or inconsiderate or sexist or any of it. He's trapped by his early audiences' expectations and his own need to grow as a person. If he were a crass, womanizing rocker from the onset, none of this is as nearly a big deal, but his image was so clean and sincere at the onset. This is, I mean, ultimately as much the media's and fan's fault as his. We created a way he should be, some perfectly romantic, solemn, nice guy, which he never really was, and now we're surprised that he is in fact a real, fallible human being. And like you said, we bought his schtick at the start, and now he's got to sell that while still growing into whoever he wants to be.