“What were they thinking?”
After I stumbled across the story of James Charles, the teenage makeup wizard whose career got torched last week, I was perplexed by the question of why people enabled this adolescent psycho’s bizarre ascent to social-media stardom. Why would CoverGirl sign a 17-year-old boy as the first male “ambassador” for their brand? It’s not as if there were no warning signs. Consider the backstory of his “coming out”:
He came out as gay at the age of 12 and regularly posts online about his personal life, but does not appear to be dating anyone.
He told his followers: ‘When I was younger, I think in around sixth grade, I was 12 years old at the time, I was hormonal.
‘I had just gone through puberty, and just like every other boy I was going through that stage of life. . . .
He explained how he joined internet chatrooms to talk to other bloggers, but found it was being used for sexual conversations.
He claims his father walked in on him in a state of undress talking to a boy online once.
The following day his parents asked to see his internet history, inadvertently revealing his sexuality.
He added: ‘There it was. The closet door was flung open and outran me. Unintentionally.’
Uh, you’re hanging out in gay chat rooms at age 12? But this being the 21st century, his parents, Ken and Christie Dickinson, were “supportive” of their son’s homosexuality. If you go to his mother’s Instagram page, you find her enthusiastically promoting her gay son’s career.
While I’m hesitant to get all psychological here — it is offensive to offer any one-size-fits-all theory about the etiology of homosexuality — I can tell you that old-fashioned Freudians describe a familial pattern known colloquially as the “smother mother.” Many gay boys have mothers who are too affectionate and over-protective of their sons. In many such cases, the father is absent or perceived as hostile. This Freudian perspective has been criticized on many grounds, especially because it is associated with so-called “reparative therapy,” a/k/a “conversion therapy.” Beyond that, however, I think the emphasis on parental influence fails to understand how peer interactions and cultural influence may contribute to the development of homosexual tendencies. It is very important in a boy’s development that he become “one of the guys,” i.e., that he feel accepted by his male peers as a valuable member in the male-bonding rituals of boyhood. One of the common threads you’ll see in gay coming-out narratives — and this is true in both gay men and lesbians — is that, as a child, they felt somehow different from other kids. Long before they were old enough to have any idea of sexuality, they suffered from a sense of isolation or alienation, and somehow didn’t “fit in” with their peers.
Parents sometimes don’t notice their kids going “off-course” in early childhood, or lack the objectivity to admit to themselves that their child’s development is abnormal. Even if they do notice their child becoming a misfit, parents are often at a loss to find any effective way to help correct whatever the problem is. And if the parents themselves are a source of the problem, how can they be expected to offer a solution? I once watched a documentary about the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, which included home video of a holiday visit he had with his parents, and you could see there was something wrong in the family dynamic. Not that his parents were bad people, but there was just a sort of emotionless quality about their interactions that seemed off-key. But I digress . . .
The ultra-flamboyant aspect of James Charles’s personality helped him become a YouTube celebrity, but his flamboyance could also be interpreted as symptomatic of psychopathic tendencies. Why, then, were so many people willing to enable him? Anyone who paid attention could see he was a predator hiding in plain sight.