Justice Scalia Isn't Charming. He's Just Mean.

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Oct. 7 2013 11:38 AM

Justice Scalia Isn't Charming. He's Just Mean.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Nope, still not cute.

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

New York magazine published an interview with Justice Antonin Scalia this weekend, and right off the top, we're reminded of the common Washington wisdom regarding the conservative judge: He's just so adorable. "He is smaller than his king-size persona suggests, and his manner more puckish than formal," writes Jennifer Senior, who goes on to say that Washingtonians know Scalia as "charming and disarming."

You often hear this about Scalia, that he's got charm, that he's "merry," "gregarious," and "funny." Many of the same people who loathe his views find him downright delightful. But I must confess: I don't see it. There is nothing cute or funny about a mean old man railing on, as he does in this interview, about how terrible it is that he can't go to a movie "without hearing the constant use of the F-word—including, you know, ladies using it." I don't hear a cavalier wit when he belligerently defends believing in the devil by saying, "I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels!" There's nothing amusing about his description of gays as "destructive." I just hear a mean old bigot who is resisting modernity with every ounce of his being, the polar opposite of the cosmopolitan open-mindedness that leads to true charm and wit. He defends his unwillingness to engage in anything but right-wing media by saying, "[W]hy should I get upset every morning?" and then turns around and derides the younger generations for creating a "narcissistic society." That's not charm. Charm requires more self-awareness than this hypocrite has. 

Advertisement

Part of the problem is that American culture positions the cantankerous old coot as a charming figure of fun, which is easier than admitting that he's a nasty tyrant. We laugh indulgently when Grandpa makes jokes about how kids these days need to pull up their pants and get a job. We giggle when our uncle tells us that if we don't drop this feminism stuff, we're never going to find a husband. You've seen Grumpy Old Men, right? The coots often do it with a twinkle and a chuckle, knowing that it's unlikely anyone will actually push back (because elders, respect, etc). "Oh, that's just Scalia being Scalia again. Isn't that cute?"

It isn't cute. It's not cute when the relatively harmless old man at the coffee shop is rambling on again about how the rappers are ruining music, and it's even more grotesque when the cranky old man in question has real political power, as Scalia does.

There's a third option beyond just writing men like this off as cute or actively trying to argue with them: Start practicing the disdain for them they are so good at showing the rest of the world. It might feel unnatural after living in a culture that teaches that the proper reaction to the gruff old fart is to find his shtick amusing, but with practice, you'll soon find it easy to respond to Scalia or your local grumpy grandpa with the immortal phrase, "Christ, what an asshole."

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 8:32 AM Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy—and a Mess. Can the Movies Fix It?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.