Ariane de Gennaro

With his gangly arms and dark undereye bags, Pete Davidson looks like he’s spent too much time at computer science office hours. He also bagged Kim Kardashian last spring, and now? Now? He and Emily Ratajkowski are somehow a thing. Riddle me this, people: how does a guy who always looks at the camera like he’s slyly letting out a fart date two of the great MILFs of our generation?

Maybe, it’s just because he’s not a dick. I’d be remiss not to compare Petey to Kim’s previous beaux, whose recent — and rampant — antisemitism has been repeatedly broadcasted to his over 32 million Twitter followers and whoever the fuck is still listening to Alex Jones. 

Davidson, on the other hand, has – through some combination of genuine vulnerability and great PR – put forth a persona of the kind of sincerity and down-to-earthness that makes him hard to dislike. He’s not aggressively cocky or arrogant, he has no (known) affiliation to neofascism or Scientology, and he’s never been accused of groping anyone. That’s kind of the bar at this point.

There’s something else, too: a phenomenon Urban Dictionary has conveniently coined “the Pete Davidson Effect,” whereby public and peer influence determines attractiveness. It also might tie into a zeitgeisty pluralistic ignorance, a social psychology term for the belief that one’s personal opinion doesn’t line up with that of the majority and the subsequent agreement to go along with the perceived majority opinion. 

It’s just like any other viral phenomenon: “Pete Davidson is actually so sexy” reaches the Twitterverse, kitschy outlets like BuzzFeed and Cosmo grasp onto a “controversial” opinion that won’t mean any real trouble for them if they’ve misread the room. It becomes temporarily entrenched in a cultural climate that won’t stay still for more than a few months anymore.

Really, there’s nothing all that unattractive about Pete Davidson. He kind of just looks like someone I could’ve gone to Jewish summer camp with (Exhibit A.) All it takes is one tiny hot woman making googly eyes at him in a perfectly-timed paparazzi flick to make everyone think, “I guess people think he’s cute.” And from there on out, the world is Pete’s oyster (if oysters had boobs).

The Pete Davidson Effect isn’t so difficult to understand, and it’s kind of nice to imagine a world where the supercelebs of the day can proudly tout their self-proclaimed “butthole eyes.” But our fixation with Pete is a bit of a paradox: in our obsession with his normalness, we’ve deified him. He’s become the God of Average-Looking Men with Great Personalities, a figurehead of the “female gaze” trope (and here I must remind again that he’s not the Hunchback of Notre Dame: he’s 6’3 and a multimillionaire.)

It’s freaky if you think about it: our celebrity culture has become so untenable that we’re now sexualizing perceived normalcy. There was the whole “Ugly-Hot/Hot-Ugly” debacle of last year, of which Pete Davidson was a pioneer – because he doesn’t look like a generic movie-star, and he gets with women who do.

This metric is, of course, just a new way for us to judge famous people’s validity based on their perceived attractiveness levels. It is also a harbinger of a movement gone mainstream – and awry. 

To reject typical Western beauty standards in men – think Henry Cavill, Ryan Reynolds, the eight-pack white-bread stars of any movie involving big explosions and oily muscles – is subversive. To reject it in favor of a “new” (slightly altered) beauty standard based on concepts of “abnormal” attractiveness (having a Big Nose) is to miss the fundamental purpose of the endeavor.

Placing a new kind of Hot Guy at the top of the totem pole does nothing to get rid of the totem pole itself, nor to challenge the underlying societal functionings that lead us to need one in the first place.

But I digress. For Science Reasons, I asked nine friends if they would smooch Pete. Seven said they would. You do the math – call that the Pete Davidson Effect.

MIRANDA WOLLEN
Miranda Wollen covers the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Law School for the News; she also writes very silly pieces for the WKND. She is a sophomore in Silliman College double majoring in English and Classics.