Le Jean-Michel Douchebag Technique

Le Jean-Michel Douchebag Technique

Living is tough, especially when your identities are marginalised. Fortunately, we larpers are good at pretending we are the oppressors. Sometimes a bit too convincingly. This essay is for people who want to be confident at larp, or are struggling with impostor syndrome outside of larp: do not embrace your inner douchebag – let’s call him Jean-Michel[1]Please accept my humblest of apologies if your name is Jean-Michel. – but harness your inner Jean-Michel.

Warnings: mention of oppressions, cringe humor, impostor syndrome, thought-provoking

Le Jean-Michel Douchebag technique[2]As you can read, I am French. is the ultimate secret weapon to develop confidence, which is a concept I coined and can share with you at my exclusive immersive party for a keyholder discount of 57.99€ (about 1 or 2 Norwegian krones or whatnot). This is what my inner Jean-Michel would say. But I am not Jean-Michel, and you are not either. All the credit actually goes to writer Sarah Hagi’s tweet “God, give me the confidence of a mediocre white dude”. I added a twist.

“Fake it until you make it” is what you would read in personal development techniques, method acting, or pick-up artists’ twisted frameworks to ignore a woman’s consent. But all of these life rules seem to bend over backward, which seems just a tad counter-productive. If productivity is your concern for finding a way to express yourself, wouldn’t you rather directly explore who you are, what you like, or who you like? Yes? Then stop reading right now and go be yourself, don’t learn about le Jean-Michel Technique, do it for the sake of the utmost sacred neo-liberalist productivity!

Le Technique[3]It becomes obvious now I use footnotes for no logical reason whatsoever.

Most cis-gender men are people. They are perceived and feel like men since they were born. Most artists I’ve worked with were not cisgender men, have a tendency to overperform while undermining themselves and unsurprisingly, have anxiety issues. They also have a common point: they all know someone who is the complete opposite, a cis-gender man of a someone, who does the same work they do but seems so entitled to everything that he gets infinitely more recognition. And he is not even that good.

Step 1: Think about someone that fits. Picture them as a character named Jean-Michel: he does exactly what you do, he is not better at your craft, but gets all the recognition, so what is it about him? Is it his hair? Is it confidence?

It is more than confidence, isn’t it? He is not an alpha dog,[4]Which is obvious, since the alpha dog theory is scientifically inaccurate. he is no Brad Pitt, he does not even know why people give fucks. He is spontaneous, reckless, a bit dumb: he is Jean-Michel, an ignorant douchebag, this era’s hero. Jean-Michel feels he is your friend. Everybody’s friend. And one does not ask his friends for permission.

Step 2: Push forward: Jean-Michel gets his inspiration from you. He takes your thing, and produces a half-baked bland version without a soul, but gets thousands of recognition likes for it.[5]We are not even in the realm of caricature yet, unfortunately. What belief allows him to firmly assert he came up with it? Why does anyone believe him?

“You can do absolutely anything”, said his parents to Jean-Michel. And he did not only believe it for himself, but also for everyone else. So he took your work and changed a detail or two? If he is even aware it originated from you, he thinks it is some kind of hommage, a win-win situation, you know.[6]In French we have a saying: “Idiots are daring; that’s how you notice them.” (Michel Audiard).

Step 3: Act like it. In every matter small or large, think: what would Jean-Michel do? If you did not care about someone’s reaction, how would you phrase your e-mail? If you did not care whether your essay is good or not, would you submit it?

Finding your inner douchebag is easy. Making them as realistic as a Jean-Michel may be a bit trickier. Now that you can dramatically be horrible to others by your mere daring presence, you can choose to take things a bit further. You can choose to ask yourself how this could help transform your life.

Step 4: Who would want to be a Jean-Michel? Dig into what makes him different from you. Be specific. What does he dare to do or to say? What does he believe? And most importantly: what is his relation to others?

Jean-Michel is a hero. He has immense bravery, faith in his values, and he triumphs alone despite all the haters. Let’s not be Jean-Michel. Let’s embrace our insecurities, keep open hearts and minds, and share with others. This is a dialogue.

Step 5: Why are you apologising for rejecting this amazing free work opportunity? Would Jean-Michel be sorry? No, he would print that e-mail, shit on it, and send it baked in girl scout cookies. You won’t do that, but you won’t apologise either.

In summary, harnessing your inner Jean-Michel is doing an inner voice larping, a dialogue between a douchebag inspired by someone you know of and yourself, a kind of devil on your shoulder. It can be liberating yourself from Western society’s imposed self-censorship, self-doubt, and impostor syndrome amongst marginalised people.

Too Cringe, Didn’t Read: Please Be Explicit

What inspired me is being socially awkward my entire life. Passing for a cisgender white heterosexual guy, I have tried to be that at work, to be Jean-Michel. I have purposefully learned how to show confidence during a job interview, and to invade people’s personal spaces to assert virility. These were the rules. But faking it does not make it. I remained queer and later, I got quite the opposite advice. It was unfortunately the most practical and useful one I ever got: if you want to blend in at work, act like you are scared, all the time. Sadly, fear is always the safest answer.

You can read this essay as a workshop for larp, a thought-provoking provoking manifesto against heroism, or a practical exercise for marginalised people to foster discussion about privilege and oppression. Or just as my inner Jean-Michel’s production, because if I have been able to publish this, you can do anything.

Bibliography

Jonaya Kemper “Wyrding the Self.” In What Do We Do When We Play?, edited by Eleanor Saitta, Jukka Särkijärvi, and Johanna Koljonen. Helsinki, Finland: Solmukohta, 2020.

Muriel Algayres “Not good enough: on larp and systemic anxiety”, at Nordic Larp Talks, 2019 URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHPfZyLLEOI

Sarah Hagi’s writer website: https://sarahhagi.contently.com/

Thanks to:

Axelle Cazeneuve, Mélanie Dorey, Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde, Dorothée Lambert. And to all the douchebags out there.

Cover photo: Image by Gregory Hayes on Pexels.

This article is published in the companion book Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices and is published here with permission. Please cite this text as:

Freudenthal, Michael. “Le Jean-Michel Douchebag Technique.” In Book of Magic: Vibrant Fragments of Larp Practices, edited by Kari Kvittingen Djukastein, Marcus Irgens, Nadja Lipsyc, and Lars Kristian Løveng Sunde. Oslo, Norway: Knutepunkt, 2021.

References

References
1Please accept my humblest of apologies if your name is Jean-Michel.
2As you can read, I am French.
3It becomes obvious now I use footnotes for no logical reason whatsoever.
4Which is obvious, since the alpha dog theory is scientifically inaccurate.
5We are not even in the realm of caricature yet, unfortunately.
6In French we have a saying: “Idiots are daring; that’s how you notice them.” (Michel Audiard).

Authors

Michael Freudenthal (b. 1985) creates and researches playful experiences with a focus on participation design. In Paris, they co-authored The Lost Generation, an immersive and interactive theatre play, and Madeleines, a silent contemplative jaunt.
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