Scott Disick appears to be approaching peace. He checked into, and then out of, rehab; he is no longer dating his 21-year old girlfriend, Sofia Richie; and he has mostly ceded tabloid real estate to younger, more famous stars for the first time in more than a decade. In fact, the few times Disick has been photographed out on the town during this long-overdue period of self-reflection, he’s wearing the latest numbers in his Talentless clothing line: black long sleeve shirts and spurious streetwear-adjacent hoodies, both inscribed with the words, “Please Wash Your Hands.”
Disick first arrived in our lives in 2007 as the long-term, eternally turbulent boyfriend-slash-baby-daddy of Kourtney on the groundbreaking reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Since then, he’s spent a career parachuting ass-first into gentile brand pivots. He’s been a race car driver (“I’ve gotta open up these wings, and I gotta fly”); an art appraiser for Kourtney’s paintings (“What are we thinking, a couple hundred grand each?”); and most recently, a smarmy, Vaynerchukian property demi-tycoon on his show Flip It Like Disick, where he deploys trite wisdoms about “sweat equity” like a hapless dude who just sat through a $2,000 Zurixx seminar.
After all of those misadventures, though, Disick has finally landed on an ostensibly noble cause. Yes, those Talentless hoodies will run you $150, but compared to the many other colorful grifts in Disick’s 37 years — the clownish disasters of taste, decorum or common sense that litter the bedrock of his personal affairs — a mid-brow endorsement of social distancing punches well above its weight. It feels like Disick is finally growing up. For one merciful moment, the world is on his side.
I’ve loved Scott Disick for a long time, so this makes me feel like a proud father of a son eight years my senior. I don’t watch a lot of reality TV, but at the height of the Kardashian empire in the early 2010s, Disick’s whinging magnetism drew me in. He was a heavyweight of overconfident masculinity, a titan of pseudointellectual hubris, orbiting around the fringes of the Kardashiverse’s multitude of alabaster palaces with three buttons of his shirt unfastened and a constant scowl on his face.
To watch Scott Disick was to fear for him. He is selfish, weird and perpetually unhappy; outrageously good-looking and ambiguously rich, but cursed with a complete lack of discipline to follow through on any of the infinite things he has declared his “passion.” (The only thing Scott Disick was ever great at was being Scott Disick, and he was frequently the last person to understand that.) While I cannot relate to the money, the jawline or the helicopters, there is something about Disick’s tiny bullied spirit, stunted moral development and occasional bouts of spiraling self-hatred that struck an honest chord within me. I may not like it, but after a season’s worth of Disick, it became clear that we had more in common than I’d like to admit.
Clearly, I’m not the only one. Throughout this eon-length Kardashian reign, I’ve discovered a small network of men who can only be adequately described as the Disick Hive, each of whom fell in love with the patron saint of Crisis Men in the same way I did.
“Scott’s character has always had all these contrivances, but he’s so clumsy about the execution and so nakedly desperate in his pursuits that it becomes its own sort of sincerity,” says John Saward, who wrote a defining piece on loving Disick all the way back in 2013. “I think there’s definitely something counterfeit about him, but it’s not to deceive others as much as himself. [He’s] confused by his appetites and even more so why they’ve left him so unfulfilled. Gluttonous but never satisfied, wealthy but no job, meticulously arranged in cosmetic ways but in any spiritual sense completely rudderless. I won’t say he’s ‘relatable,’ but a dumbass endlessly tormented by his own fallibility in a room of people more successful than he is is at least something that I recognize.”
All of those paradoxes that Saward details made Disick one of the greatest television characters of all time. It was, of course, obviously dangerous to plunge a man with his eccentric brain chemistry into the poisonous priorities of the E! Network, but the results were spectacular, and consciously or not, Disick played his role perfectly. The Kardashian clan enriched him, but also gave way to numerous on-screen breakdowns, substance abuse ultimatums and plainly serious trips to rehab. At a certain point, in the 2014 to 2015 range, the relentless documentation of Disick’s many sicknesses began to feel cruel, which is why I, along with the rest of the Disick hive, is happy to see our man tucked away in Utah, chilling with Kourtney and the kids. We have all been with him long enough to know that he could drop everything and pivot back to chaos at any moment; for now, we have our fingers crossed.
Dave Schilling, a writer and another proud member of the Disick hive, believes that the way Disick could make us laugh and cry marked an important departure in masculinity. The image of the hysterical Calabasas hard body — flaying themselves in public from behind the tinted windows of a turquoise Rolls Royce — was a million times more credible than the traditional artifice we used to believe about what it meant to be a Sad Dude.
“I like to compare Scott Disick to Ben Affleck. Both guys are raw nerves of emotionality, regret and tightly coiled anger. You can see how both of these men are barely holding on in the countless paparazzi photos of them circulating the internet,” Schilling explains. “For a long time, ‘sensitive masculinity’ meant one long, dumb bang of hair over your face, Chuck Taylors, and ‘woe is me’ narcissistic emotional terrorism. Now, thanks to Disick, Affleck, Brad Pitt and others, there’s a newfound appreciation for accountability, personal responsibility, wellness and renewal.”
“I don’t know if anyone has coined the term ‘Recovery Chic’ yet,” he adds. “But someone should.”
Schilling is entirely correct. Men have constantly commandeered pop culture to externalize their pain onto innocent targets. As he notes, emo founding fathers like Ben Gibbard and Jesse Lacey looked inwards and believed that they discovered a wholesome soul under constant assault by the conniving interests of ex-girlfriends, current girlfriends and other people’s girlfriends. Disick, for his many tragic pratfalls, never had the same hoggish audacity. In the few moments in Keeping Up With the Kardashians where he truly, authentically searched his feelings, he found nothing estimating the pompous bitterness of, like, early Brand New records. Instead, he surfaced from the ocean of his mind with complete ego death; a disorienting third-eye panoramic view of the folliness of his entire being. Everyone within the Kardashian clan could use a Christmas Carol-like night terror, but Disick was the only one humble enough to embrace the psychic punishment that comes with it.
“He grasps it occasionally,” says Mitchell Winkie, a screenwriter and also my brother, who fell in love with Disick around the same time I did. “He sees the shadow of his greatest unhappiness, at times, which is his extreme lack of purpose. He’s been in a midlife crisis since his late teens I bet. A midlife crisis from 18 onwards. It takes incredible strength to pry yourself out of that womb.”
I suppose that’s the lesson the Disick Hive gleaned from our one true Lord: Sometimes, it’s okay to succumb to the darkness at the center of your being, as long as you put that horror to good use. After all, Disick responded to his own personal nadir by tossing himself into the church of recovery. Saward notes that in typical Disick fashion, he grew a beard to show the world how earnestly he was embarking on that pilgrimage, and naturally, wound up being even more attractive and glamorous as he did before his life fell apart on cable television. That’s just another part of Disick’s appeal.
“We always point to his sensitivity, spirituality and ideas of recovery, but also get off on his fabulous lifestyle,” says Schilling. “Emotional maturity has to have a material reward for it to be truly appealing to the American capitalist mindset, for both men and women. That’s why Oprah’s Favorite Things exists. It always comes back to consumption. I absolutely could bro down with Scott Disick as long as he kept the balance between consumerism and introspection socially acceptable.”
Personally, I try to remember that lesson whenever I witness famous people in crisis. My girlfriend watches a lot of Real Housewives of New York — one of the most chaotic and ugly shows on television — and for months I struggled to understand why she wanted to join Dorinda, Luann and Ramona on their journey to Hell every night. But naturally, Disick snapped everything back into focus. He taught me, and thousands of other men, a certain reality show empathy: That sometimes, miring in the sorrows of bad people offers the clarity we need to navigate our own sins.
Men are in constant need of existential whiplash, and Disick gave us the tools to activate it. Thank god he is approaching inner peace; may we all be as lucky as the Lord.