Hi! I’m Stacy Lee Kong and this is Friday Things, a weekly newsletter about a pop culture story I can’t stop thinking about—and why it matters. If intersectional takes on media, entertainment and celebrity gossip are your jam, subscribe here.
Scott Disick is reportedly dating a teenager—again—and I’m tired of people talking about it like it’s normal.
According to E!, Disick was first seen with Amelia Hamlin, the 18-year-old daughter of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Rinna and actor Harry Hamlin, at Kendall Jenner’s Halloween/birthday party. Then they were spotted on a “day date” in Montecito the following weekend and earlier this week, TMZ posted photos of the duo at the beach.
But apparently, it’s bizarre to think that an adult man dating a teenager is possibly cause for concern. In a Nov. 18 article on Yahoo! Life, writer Elise Solé questions why we even care about the maybe-couple’s respective ages. “Their 18-year age difference has been dubbed ‘weird’ and even ‘sickening’ on social media,” she wrote. “The couple has not confirmed their relationship—much less defended it—however age-gap couples have always lured interest… [But] For all their fanfare, May-December relationships are boringly common.”
Here’s the problem with this perspective, though: we’re not talking about an age gap between two people who are on equal ground. We’re talking about a super famous man in his late 30s who regularly embarks on romantic and/or sexual relationships with young women who are adults, yes, but only barely. These women are often less famous than he is, almost always less established in their careers and they likely make less money than him, too. The power dynamic is firmly skewed in Disick’s favour.
I mean—an age gap?! The more I think about this characterization, the angrier I become. This is emphatically not the same as Neil Young (67) and Daryl Hannah (59), or George (57) and Amal (42) Clooney or even Ryan Reynolds (43) and Blake Lively (32). And frankly, it is disingenuous to pretend they’re even remotely alike.
Disick has demonstrated a pattern of behaviour that yes, is weird—and potentially even predatory. Because whatever is going on with him and Hamlin, this is not the first time he’s been romantically linked to a teenager. It’s not even the second or third time. From what I can tell, this is the fifth time there’s been speculation about the 37-year-old father of three is hooking up with a teen. Let’s break it down, shall we?
In October 2015, he was spotted partying in New York City with Lindsay Vrckovnik, a Canadian model. The same week, he posted (and quickly deleted) a photo of them posing in the bathroom of a Miami hotel room wearing matching fur coats and sunglasses. She was 18 at the time.
In May 2017, he was spotted leaving Tao in West Hollywood with 19-year-old British model Ella Ross.
In July of the same year, he seemed to be dating actor Bella Thorne, who was 19 at the time. They partied in L.A., New York and Cannes, and though Thorne says they were “never involved sexually,” they were certainly something.
Rumours actually started swirling about Disick dating Sofia Richie in May 2017 (yes, the same month that he was seen with Ross) when she was just 18, but they didn’t officially get together until September of that year, by which time she was 19. They were together for three years, breaking up this May, briefly reconciling, and then splitting for good in August. (Though apparently Scott is “always popping in and out of Sofia’s life.” 🤔)
And then Hamlin makes five. Also, that’s just the teenagers; this rundown doesn’t count the many women in their early 20s who he’s been linked to, including 20-year-old model Christine Burke, or Australian model Megan Blake Irwin, who was 21 when they first hooked up in 2016. (They’ve recently been spotted together again following Irwin’s messy breakup with Riverdale actor Skeet Ulrich.)
I’m not trying to deny any young woman her agency; I’m sure Hamlin doesn’t feel like she’s being taken advantage of, any more than Richie, Thorne, Ross and Vrckovnik felt disempowered in their relationships with Disick. But a young woman can be in charge of her own life and make decisions that she feels are best for her and still be in a relationship with someone who exhibits predatory behaviour. And she may not even be able to see it. I mean, I remember being 18 or 19 and not necessarily recognizing what an older man showing interest in me indicated about that man. That is: neediness, dependence, emotional immaturity and a propensity for controlling behaviour.
Image: TrustLittleBrother via Reddit
This is obviously a problem with Disick himself, but I think it’s also important to think about the way we talk and write about his relationships, and really any example of celebrities behaving in predatory ways. When I was trying to figure out exactly how many teenagers Disick has been linked to, I was struck by the language publications used to describe his various dalliances: Disick and Hamlin “sparked romance rumors.” He was “spotted out and about with a young blond friend” (that would be Vrckovnik). He and Richie were “inseparable,” “spending every day together” and “Sofia seem[ed] smitten.” It’s all so… normal, like they’re any couple caught canoodling. It’s not dissimilar to the way journalists tend to write about Leonardo DiCaprio, whose girlfriends always seem to be in their early 20s. But with very few exceptions, the coverage about his dating habits is tongue-in-cheek—if not actually fawning—even though, like Disick, he is known for dating much younger women who are also not as famous, established in their careers or rich as he is.
And that’s just as weird as these dudes’ dating habits, right?
You’d think that, post-#MeToo, we’d be better at recognizing unequal power dynamics. In fact, according to a 2019 Vox article, that’s exactly what happened… in some sectors. “[#MeToo] helped to change how many Americans think not just about sexual misconduct but also about gender and power,” writer Anna North argued. “Those changes were especially evident in Americans’ reactions to the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by Christine Blasey Ford. According to a December 2018 poll by the research firm PerryUndem, those hearings made 50 percent of voters think about men having more power than women in government. In a follow-up poll conducted by PerryUndem in September, 49 percent of voters and a full 76 percent of Democrats agreed with the statement that ‘one reason Justice Kavanaugh was confirmed is because white men want to hold onto their power in government.’”
But that same critical analysis doesn’t seem to come out in the way we talk and write about celebrities’ romantic relationships. That’s true of Disick and DiCaprio, and also of Jada Pinkett Smith. Remember over the summer when she and Will Smith appeared in a (frankly pretty weird) episode of Red Table Talk to address August Alsina’s claims that he and Jada had been in a relationship—with Will’s blessing? She characterized it as an “entanglement” that happened when she and Will were separated. The term quickly became a meme, and much of the subsequent conversation revolved around infidelity, whether Will and Jada actually had—but weren’t admitting to having—an open marriage, and Alsina’s wishful thinking that he was going to break up this example of Hollywood royalty. What I didn’t see, despite public figures like D.L. Hughley and Charlamagne tha God making this point, was much analysis about then 22-year-old Alsina going to his friend Jaden’s parents for help with alcohol, sex and drug addiction and ending up in a sexual relationship with Jaden’s mom.
Here’s the thing. Whether it’s Disick dating a teenager for the fifth time, or DiCaprio’s relationships ending as soon as his girlfriends turn 25, or Smith hooking up with her kid’s friend, when we see celebrities behaving in predatory ways and we just… don’t address it, we send the message that this type of behaviour isn’t just normal, it’s acceptable. But I don’t think we actually believe that’s true—so the way media covers these stories (not to mention our IRL conversations) should reflect that.
ICYMI: Friday Things’ Pop Culture Gift Guide
I rounded up 30 pop culture-themed gifts to make your holiday shopping easy. Even better, they’re mostly under $100, mostly from local artisans or small businesses and even include some suggestions from my most savvy friends, like author Anne T. Donahue, Friday Picks co-pilot Lora Grady and podcast producer and journalist Hannah Sung. Check it out!
And Did You Hear About…
This fascinating deep dive into the wallpaper in The Queen’s Gambit by set decorator Charlene Wang de Chen.
Writer Rainesford Stauffer’s piece on the death of the dream job, which includes this quote: “I don’t even have a dream job. I don’t dream of laboring.” (I literally gasped.)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reunion, and NPR’s excellent breakdown of one really powerful moment: the reconciliation between Will Smith and the OG Aunt Viv, Janet Hubert. (Relatedly, I will love the dance class episode of the show forever and ever.)
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