A play on the Pick-Up Artist high designation of “supreme gentleman,” this subprime gentleman can be used to emphasize the narcissistic aspects of a figure like Elliot Rodger—the 2014 Isla Vista spree killer associated with the incel community. As articulated by NM Pod 21 guest Michael Crumplar, a subprime gentleman personifies McMansion logic: ties self-worth to the acquisition of mass-market signifiers of wealth, has performatively expensive exterior but hollow inside, aimlessly inhabits the American suburban landscape channeling its social alienation, and has limited engagement with natural world and physical communal spaces. Despite great effort, the subprime gentleman is incapable of self-actualizing into his obsessive ideal of conquesting gentleman.
Mike Crumplar: Elliot’s whole thing is trying to answer the question of “What does my father have that I don't have?” It tracks this desire of everybody else. And the only thing that he can come up with is the money that his father has. But that doesn't even click because what he doesn't understand is his father was just able to schmooze with people and tell people what they wanted to hear, as you can see in this 2020 interview, where he's trying to be like, “Oh, yeah, I know, I'm so sorry about all this. My son was such a horrible dude.”
LIL INTERNET: I mean, that's the one thing I still can't get. Is it a specific mental diagnosis or something where he had no interiority and couldn't imagine anything other than these sort of utilitarian simple models interacting with each other, almost like an automaton?
Daniel Keller: I think we're kind of avoiding the elephant in the room of neuro-diversity here, because he's so clearly suffering from some level of autism. His inability to understand those types of things...
LI: It's just autism.
MC: Yeah. But it's a mix of things. The way that you would talk about this in the DSM terms, I would say that he is a narcissist, that is somewhere on the autism spectrum.
LI: Yeah. There we go.
MC: And that [afflicted] person would be completely satisfied with that as a diagnosis.
Carly Busta: I like the diagnosis that Elliot Rodger is a human personification of the McMansion ideology.
DK: I also thought “subprime gentleman'' would work too.
CB: Can you unpack “He is the first human personification of the McMansion ideology”? That's so perfect.
MC: That’s one of the best insights that I make in that [essay and] that I'm proudest of. Okay, where to start with this. He moves around a lot in his youth. He doesn't talk about any social world. It's just events in sequence that happen and things that just occur around him. So he moves around McMansions and idyllic Southern California. He talks about doing things like taking very long walks before he gets his driver's license. And when you take really long walks in the suburbs, it's the most alienating thing ever.
DK: Yes, totally.
MC: It's how the incel sees it. And I'm from the suburbs of Northern Virginia, which is just as shitty to walk around. And I feel as if, in a sense, the Elliot Rodger McMansion life is a lot like this general, middle class American alienation where you're tied to your parents in a way. Parents mediate all his social interactions because he can’t really talk to other kids. The term playdate is like what his parents used when he was a child, and he never grew beyond being like, oh, this isn’t a playdate anymore.
DK: He doesn’t know how to chill. He doesn’t know how to hang.
MC: He definitely does not know how to chill or how to hang.
CB: When you think about taking long walks through McMansion developments, it's this persistence of non-access. Obviously, walking through the hood is bad, but there is all this stuff that happens in the cracks, and there's all these spaces where one can exist or one can form identity, but when you're walking through a McMansion development, there's no place for a give and take. You're not allowed to assert yourself in any way. You can't connect with anything. They might as well be profiles that you're swiping right or left on. The garages are closed. You can't walk on the lawns. There's a way that you're already removed. I'm interested in that and also like how a Chad and a Stacy, what they are in that context of McMansionville.
MC: Okay, I agree entirely with what you just said about McMansions might as well be swiping, when you walk by house after house after house. In that area, everything is alienating, except the house you live in yourself, which is this castle that is a palatial, huge space, that's yours. And in this general imaginary, I would say that the Chads and the Stacys are the people that drive cars with a hot girl in the front seat. They drive cars like actually going somewhere, instead of walking around aimlessly through the boroughs.
DK: He does eventually get a car but then he just drives around aimlessly.
MC: Right, he never has the hot girl. He has a nice car but not the hot girl.
CB: There's one other really interesting point you make about McMansions, which is their interiority. You make this point about the disconnect between the external surfaces of McMansion and what goes on inside. It's highly uncomfortable. It's incredibly awkward. There's too much space. There's no human component on the inside. It's almost like a prop house, even though it probably cost 2 million or whatever. There's a massive disconnect between the way it's trying to signal as this validator of wealth and accomplishment and human value, and the actual experience. I mean, I have a family member that lives in one of these McMansions and it's like the most uncomfortable place I've ever been in. Like, Thomas Kinkade is the artist for McMansions. Those two things go hand in hand, right? And this idea of “Okay, well, I have the painting on the wall. I have the eight-person dining room,” but there's no interiority. You make this point in your text of the differential between external signaling and the actual experience of living inside of one of these houses.
MC: Yes, because I think he's so uncomfortable in his own body. The McMansion is a great metaphor for the empty and tacky signifiers of wealth that have a lot in common with how he gets Gucci sunglasses and the Armani this and that, and how he tries to wear that to like display wealth, and ideally attract women. But when it doesn't do that, these things did not deliver what they promised. The McMansion does not deliver what it promised. It didn't raise this happy little family that goes on to be happy bourgeois Chads and Stacys that perpetuate the American dream. The beautiful house didn't get me that happy family life. Now I'm going to do a shooting.
DK: It didn't really touch on it in your essay, but his dad turns him on to The Secret. And that's the basis of his entire worldview. The word “acquisition” I think is really perfect, because there is this passiveness of acquiring something, there's no conquest there.
MC: Yes. The way he talks about acquiring is very passive. The girls come to his father and his father just acquires the girls.
DK: Which is what The Secret tells you will happen if you think positively about it. It's just the nexus of so many psycho American phenomena in the last 20 years. It's so poignant.