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Dave season three is doing masculinity like nothing else on TV

Aug 18, 2023Aug 18, 2023

The semi-autobiographical series from Philadelphia rapper Dave ‘Lil Dicky’ Burd offers a wry, sexually unencumbered look at modern manhood. It’s throwing preconceptions about men out the window, writes Louis Chilton

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Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky) playing himself in the FX series ‘Dave’

Television has never lacked for toxic men. From the explosive violence of Tony Soprano, to the self-righteous egotism of The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty, to the warped privilege of Succession’s Roy siblings, TV has spun some of its finest moments from the fibres of male toxicity. And it’s not just those “toxic” men that have come under the microscope: in recent years, onscreen masculinity has been rejected, subverted, disassembled, cast aside and scrutinised from every angle. Just when you think there’s nothing new to be said on the subject… along comes Dave.

The American comedy-drama series, created by and starring Philadelphia rapper Dave Burd – known both in the show and IRL by the sobriquet Lil Dicky – returned for its third season last week on Disney+. Dave has drawn comparisons to Donald Glover’s brilliant, genre-bending sitcom Atlanta (to the ire of Glover himself), but the truth is, they are different beasts. Dave is the story of a white man’s efforts to make it big as a hip-hop outsider; everything is filtered through his own unwieldy ambition and interpersonal neuroses. And the series is, quietly, one of the most radical depictions of masculinity ever put to screen.

In some ways, Dave (the character) is a nebbish in the Woody Allen mould. (Burd’s Jewish background is mined for laughs and symbolism in season three; one giddily risque scene sees him pal around with a hallucination of Anne Frank.) But Burd resists this kind of pigeonholing. His character, unlike the nebbish archetype, is sexually liberated; throughout the show he talks about his own sexual history and bodily abnormalities with a shamelessness that verges on social dysfunction. Burd, both the character and actor, was born with a tangled urethra and the penile condition hypospadias; surgeries left him with “two pee holes” and what he refers to as a “d*** made of balls”. His approach to sex could safely be described as unconventional, especially for a heterosexual man. In previous seasons, Dave saw its protagonist make use of a “milking table” and an unnerving silicone sex doll. Male sexuality is almost never shown to be this ridiculous, or this exposed.

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Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky) playing himself in the FX series ‘Dave’


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