Last year I celebrated Christmas with my boyfriend’s family for the first time. I was nervous about conversation topics, what to wear, the pace at which I’d gorge myself, etc., hoping to make a good impression on his shrewd clan of New Jersey Italians. Upon arrival, his 24-year-old sister leaned in for a hug in a crewneck reading “I AM UNWELL.” The precise response my friends and I saved for bad dates and missed Sephora sales, I loved it. I needed it. She proudly informed me that this was no ordinary sweatshirt, but exclusive Call Her Daddy merch—some affiliate of Barstool Sports, like a sexy baseball team I’d never heard of.
I mostly forgot about the sweatshirt and the podcast until months later when a girlfriend sent me an episode claiming it was “like porn.” I was stuck in traffic on I-76, mind dancing through realms of guilt and pleasure, when I finally gave it a listen. My reaction was visceral. I was unwell.
Episode 5 - Fine Dining: An Eating Out Special (ft. The Cooch Gobbler Combo)
“It’s so hot when your girl’s giving you head and she looks up at you and you make eye contact. Degrade me! WE AS WOMEN DO NOT FUCKING WANT YOU TO LOOK UP AT US. IT IS NOT CUTE. Man, keep your eyes down, whistle while you work, hum while you work, and leave us alone.”
Alex Cooper and then-co-host Sofia Franklyn took everything sensuous about oral sex and doused it with Mountain Dew. Call Her Daddy was the end of nuance, vocal fry gospel for the male gaze. It pandered to girls’ most performative inner demons with quips like “cheat or be cheated on” packaged as advice. “How do people enjoy this?,” I wondered, suddenly worried about the sexual futures of my peers. And still, I was kind of horny? It was that same mix of lust and cringe one negotiates during a cheesy scenario porn, i.e. this may get me off, but I will hate myself after. I didn’t voice how I felt about the podcast, but I would quietly other myself from anything parallel.
Othering is a delicate act in creating space. Half my youth was spent avoiding certain fixtures of the zeitgeist, like Taylor Swift and The Bachelor franchise, that didn’t align with my cool girl aspirations. Just when I thought I was past that, Call Her Daddy unearthed some buried pretension; I found myself one of those girls again… those girls in movies and literature whose personalities flourish in the chasm between us and them.
In Legally Blonde, we meet Vivian Kensington, Harvard Law student and new girlfriend to Elle’s ex, Warner. The Vivian character is crafted in perfect contrast to Elle: Elle wears hot pink sequins; Vivian wears oxford shirts and brown blazers. Vivian is grave in her academic pursuits—a Waspy stoic conjured by the mere words “Harvard Law.” Elle is a bouncy California sorority queen, cosplaying to win back Warner. Vivian goes out of her way to humiliate Elle throughout the film, even going as far as inviting Elle to a party she claims is costume; when Elle arrives dressed as a Playboy bunny, greeted by a sea of J. Crew cardigans, she learns her place in Vivian’s world. Eventually Vivian drops the mask. She sees the emptiness of her arrogance and finds a friend in Elle despite their differences, which later prove to be their strength.
It is Vivian Kensington’s propensity for othering that makes her relatable. It’s a handy tool in masking your motives with intellectual authority, which makes people trust you. Call Her Daddy was an easy target for girls like me to frame exactly who we aren’t in attempt to gain social power. But you can only faux-hate shit for so long before you bore yourself into wanting in on the action.
Over the summer, I learned Alex Cooper ditched Barstool Sports and Sofia Franklyn for one of the biggest deals in Spotify history. Capitulation ensued. Suddenly I had to know how blowjob discourse made someone worth $60 million at age 26.
Cooper is in what she calls “her single father era.” There’s a marked shift toward meaningful content with smart guests (many A-list) discussing all things mental health, personal empowerment, and the other hot topics of our time. There’s still locker room talk, but without escalation from Franklyn, one can finally take it for what it was meant to be all along: comedy. And so Cooper’s showing the “touch my butt and buy me pizza” girls that the trappings of basic-bitchness are still there for your enjoyment, but they are not without limitation. There is life beyond drunken Hinge dates and the to-do list includes addressing your trauma, communicating your feelings, etc.; your body is not just a tool for getting what you want, but grounds for thoughtful, independent exploration. Together, daddy gang is going deeper.
Alex Cooper rising to the top of her game made me curious at first, and then quickly, a fan. Maybe it’s because I’m an independent artist that watching Cooper’s stardom unfold gave me a new blueprint. But maybe there’s more to the appeal.
Beneath the bi-coastal glitz, partying in the Hamptons and shopping on Rodeo, there’s an accessibility to Cooper’s charm. She shares pictures of her middle school awkward phase, all gangly and eyebrowless. She got caught photoshopping and didn’t ignore or deny it, but made an entire episode about the pressure to look good online. She’s goofy on the pod, with no shortage of Jennifer Coolidge impressions and general tomfoolery. It feels like hanging out with a friend who just happened to get rich and famous overnight. You don’t envy her success; you revel in it with her.
I can assume that at 30, I’m on the older end of CHD listeners; like dubstep and crop-tops, it’s filed under “things that make me feel young and thus, alive.” So much of the Alex Cooper persona is a college girl who never ages. She preserves her youth in a cascade of platinum hair, eyelash extensions, and a spray tan, only underscored by a penchant for sweatsuits and Jordan 1s—a sort of off-duty PornHub chic. Cooper eats like garbage and stays impossibly thin with boobs and butt intact. While we’re eating kale salads and shuffling off to Barry’s Bootcamp on Saturday mornings, she is hungover in bed watching reruns of The OC, getting up only to make Spongebob mac & cheese. Alex Cooper is the every girl, and she’s living out our pipe dream: getting paid to have fun and look hot without consequence.
The success of Call Her Daddy is steeped in privilege. Would we know who Alex Cooper is if she wasn’t white, cisgendered, heterosexual, beautiful, thin, affluent, and a former D1 soccer player who dated a string of professional athletes? (Read that 5x fast.) Would she and Sofia Franklyn have been approached by one of the most popular (albeit sus) media franchises if they didn’t look like frat star prey? As Cooper navigates solo fame, she’s meeting guests who challenge her lived experience, and she’s responding with curiosity and decorum. There’s a refreshing self-awareness in her demeanor; we are watching a young woman grow up on the podcast medium for the first time. It can be frustrating to see another privileged person ushered into a position of power, evolving in the public eye with minimal critique. But maybe it’s that room for growth without fatal scrutiny that helps people evolve in the first place, and encourages them to use their platforms for good.
Perhaps Cooper’s harshest critics are the r/callherdaddy subreddit: a lively crew of 47.4k who dissect the show and the Cooper/Franklyn fall-out. Just 19 minutes ago, u/SockHead1417 posted, “Someone derail this never-ending Alex hate train”—an urgent cry to revive the #daddygang spirit as listeners continue absorbing the aftershock of the hosts’ breakup. Anonymous forum banter will not be the worst she endures in her media career. Gen Z is obsessively connected and merciless: no privilege goes unchecked, no drama goes unexposed. One can imagine it’s geared Cooper to keep her head down and continue on the path of least offense, but in an interview with InStyle, Cooper says she’s “fine playing the villain” if that’s how people interpret knowing what you want and working your ass off to get it.
I still find myself referring to Call Her Daddy as “my bimbo content,” what I unwind to in the tub after a long day. It’s a small injustice to the show’s maturation, but just like Cooper’s learning not to go through her boyfriend’s phone, I’m learning not to put things down to stroke my ego. So, am I daddy gang? That, I’m not ready to admit. But the gluck gluck 9000 isn’t off the table.