Coronavirus began to dominate the U.S. news cycle in a season of wanton partying: Mardi Gras, then St. Patrick’s Day and now the fetid, collegiate bacchanal known as Spring Break. Youths with a taste for such revelry — and a mistaken faith in their invincibility — have flouted calls to self-isolate, unable to pass up the fun. Wherever they amass, the media is there to ask them why. The interviews do not bode well at all.
For the Atlantic, writer Yascha Mounk has provided a few theories on why many 21-year-olds refuse to listen to medical experts and stay home. (I’ll just note, out of fairness, that plenty of Boomers are in a similar state of denial.) He cites plain ignorance, selfishness and difficulty with abstract, unfamiliar moral equations. He also coins the phrases “Corona Chads” and “Covid Catherines” to describe men and women potentially spreading the illness in their quest for obliterative good times. And because MEL is ostensibly a men’s magazine, I’d like to dig a bit deeper into the “Corona Chad” concept.
Any one of Mounk’s explanations could account for a Corona Chad’s behavior, but in practice, it’s usually all those factors combined. Speaking to reporters, the Corona Chad will be at once aware of the novel coronavirus and unimpressed by the threat. He is strong, in the prime of his life, and it’s old people who have to be scared, he’s heard. There is no room in his calculus to weigh the as-yet-unknowns — new data, for example, shows young adults are more vulnerable to the virus than first thought — or responsibility for transmitting disease to someone at greater risk. To the Corona Chad, it’s mind over matter. He’s the same guy who’ll question your masculinity for wearing SPF 50, thinking he’s stronger than sun. He might spin you a conspiracy theory about how or why the country has “overreacted” to the pandemic. It’s not that serious, bro.
The Corona Chad is capable of twisting COVID-19 into a purely social concept, like “political correctness” or “SJW virtue-signaling,” then brushing it aside as he would a request to stop making sexist comments, or start washing his bedsheets. We are trying to shame him into sober, cloistered monotony, and he is not having it — he does what he wants! To be a man is to seize the day, and coronavirus can’t be worse than a Jose Cuervo hangover, yeah? Hit the beaches, get some ass, never let them see you sweat. No germ can penetrate his arrogance. It’s the Corona Chad’s turn to unleash his desire, just like the countless Chads before him, and forgoing this rite to mitigate a deadly outbreak would be a stain on his reputation. Powering through will add to his legend.
And maybe, at the bottom of it all, Corona Chad is simply obeying the nihilist instinct of keggers at any cost: the compulsion to drink until he blacks out, to drive under the influence and to accept any ludicrous, possibly fatal dare. A pity the term “YOLO” is so out of date, for it bluntly states the aversion to safety in favor of thrills. The Corona Chad, whether he knows it or not, is willing to trade his maturity for some fleeting, tawdry pleasures, as he has not learned to look around them. He is already sick, infected with vigor, a dream of his near-future exploits, which shall be recounted in haloed detail for ages to come.
That is, if anybody is still around to hear them.