Expert opinion: When did Dapper Laughs become a 'character'?

Linguistics lecturer, David Wright, from the School of Arts and Humanities, examines how comedian Dapper Laughs has become a 'character' following a media storm over sexism.

The media, social and mainstream, has been awash with comedian Dapper Laughs for the past few weeks, following a successful petition to have his ITV2 series On the Pull axed on the basis it was sexist, abusive and enticed misogynistic behaviour from its viewers.

The media 'storm' built momentum and eventually erupted in the form of a Newsnight appearance, in which Daniel O'Reilly i.e. Dapper Laughs, revealed that he was killing off his Dapper Laughs character.

The reference to Dapper Laughs as being a 'character' confused me. As far as I was aware, Dapper Laughs was an nickname for Daniel O'Reilly. I thought this because his Twitter and Vine accounts were named 'Dapper Laughs'. It wasn't until this week that I knew his real name.

The two were not mutually exclusive in my mind. The behaviour I saw on his Vine account, I thought, was genuine, not as parody, or satire, or as O'Reilly performing as a 'character'.

As it was bothering me, I did a quick analysis of how Dapper Laughs is referred to in the UK press. I looked at all mentions of Dapper Laughs in articles before November 2014 (117 documents) and all mentions of Dapper Laughs in articles between 1 - 13 November 2014 (215 documents).

A quick analysis of these show:

  • There are almost 100 more articles including mentions of Dapper Laughs in the last two weeks than there ever were before that. Not surprising.
  • not only are there more articles, but within those articles, Dapper Laughs appears more frequently. In the 117 articles pre-November 2014, there are 225 instances of Dapper Laughs, and in the 215 articles published in November 2014, there are 1,580 instances.
  • pre-November 2014, Dapper Laughs is most commonly referred to as: lad (15), star (15), comedian (12), viner (9), sensation (8).
  • in contrast, in the last two weeks, while he is still referred to as a comedian, Dapper Laughs is described as being a character on 69 occasions, compared with zero times before this month.

My searches show that before this month, the word character was never found in the profile of Dapper Laughs. Now it very frequently is.

This very quick analysis helps prove what I thought. Before this month, Dapper Laughs was a lad, star, viner, sensation and a comedian. Now he is a character. It might be, then, that in light of recent media attention, 'Dapper Laughs' is being referred to as a character in a way that serves to divorce him and his comedy from Daniel O’Reilly the man.

When I took a minute to look a little closer at my results, I noticed that 36 of the 69 instances of character Dapper Laughs were found in a direct quote from an ITV spokesperson, as they announced the axing of his series:

"We have given careful thought to the recent criticism of the character Dapper Laughs, which has focused on his activities outside of the ITV2 programme, whose content was carefully considered and complied. We have taken the decision that we will not be considering this show for a second series."

Here ITV are doing the distancing, they are the ones who first make this distinction of Dapper Laughs being a character. This has since been picked up by other media, and by O'Reilly himself, who in his Newsnight interview stated:

"Do you know what, from the beginning when I started the character Dapper Laughs it caught on really quick that that type of humour was really popular for a certain demographic of people."
So it appears that ITV and O’Reilly are making moves to distance the man from the character. Perhaps O'Reilly doesn't want to be thought of as possessing the same values or opinions as his Dapper Laughs character. He's not sexist, it was all an act.

Similarly, perhaps ITV wish to be seen as backing a character who was unpopular and unsavory, rather than hiring a misogynistic man.

David Wright
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Arts and Humanities

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Expert opinion: When did Dapper Laughs become a 'character'?

Published on 18 November 2014
  • Category: Press office; School of Arts and Humanities

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