Max Schneider Reports From the Dirtbag Side of TikTok

Max Schneider Reports From the Dirtbag Side of TikTok

Collage: Gabe Conte
Max Schneider’s satire of LA dudes who wear pristine workpants and can’t handle commitment is going viral with men and women alike. GQ gets coffee with him to see where the character ends and the real man begins.

The videoMax Schneider—wearing a t-shirt printed with eight-balls and his signature snaking mustache—faints into the arms of a friend, who revives him by plugging wired EarPods into his ears and playing Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. The caption: “We just got word you’ve been talking to her for 2 months, so now you have to subtly sabotage it or else you might end up in a happy relationship.” The metrics: 4.6 million views and 597,400 likes. The comments: “LMAO ME EVERY TIME” and “Bro this is me I feel bad for her fr” from the men; “He sent this to me” and “Gonna break no contact to send this to him” from the women.

A 27-year-old Los Angeles resident with a daytime job doing brand marketing who very much looks the part of a 27-year-old Los Angeles resident with a daytime job doing brand marketing, Max Schneider is thriving in what you might call the dirtbag side of TikTok. His skits about beating the “navy sheets allegations” and fainting and getting revived with classic Frank Ocean albums or La Labo perfume encapsulate a distinctly 2023 notion of masculinity. Like previous iterations of this guy—the underemployed skateboarder, the young finance bro who sleeps on a mattress with no bedframe—the Max Schneider character is liable to ghost women. But unlike them, he’s image-conscious, a consumerist as much as he is a hipster, rocking pearls and tooling around in a vintage Jaguar. And the persona is resonating: As one commenter notes, “I’m not sure how he does it but he has mastered the art of seamlessly combining industry specific niche content with popular content.” 

Given all that, I’m not sure what to expect when I meet up with Schneider at a coffee shop in Soho. The native Californian, who is briefly in New York City for work, is soft spoken and thoughtful, and simply but sharply dressed in a shaggy No Maintenance cardigan and red baseball cap. “Here’s how I see it: It’s like, if you have to describe what you do, you’re not [doing it right],” he says. Given the specificity of his videos and the extent to which they resonate, one might have expected him to come armed with a clear strategy and a defined rubric for his content. But maybe that’s New York dirtbag behavior. The LA dirtbag takes things at a more leisurely pace, riding each viral video like a long board instead of striving to make a larger comment on society.

Schneider launched his TikTok account earlier this year with the goal of reaching 20,000 followers by the end of it. Once he blew through that milestone, he moved the goalpost to 75,000. Now has almost 100,000 followers, over 9 million likes, and a chokehold on a niche but passionate subset of culture.

“Just copped the ‘white boys who date bi girls’ starter pack,” starts one video, which goes on to list a “dumb old car” (the Jag) and “work pants that have never been worked in.” “As a bi girl I approve this message,” reads one comment. 

As a female member of Schneider’s audience, I see his videos as capturing  a contemporary kind of hetero masculinity, evolved enough to be ashamed of its pitfalls but not enough to overcome them. And so they resonate both with the men who are guilty of similar behavior and the women who will throw their hands up because they keep falling for it. But the creator doesn’t quite see it that way. 

“I don’t go out of my way to try to show modern masculinity, but if there’s a way to make fun of myself or my taste in a way that I feel others might relate to, that is what I’m after,” Schneider says. “What your brand is defined by is the people that consume your content. Ultimately I have no control over how people perceive it and what the narrative is, and I wouldn’t even try to.”

Schnieder is, however, down to analyze his numbers. He initially anticipated that his videos would resonate more with women, but his demographic is over 60 percent men (mostly—unsurprisingly enough for the platform and his content—between the ages of 18 and 24). He credits his success not to his portrayal of masculinity, but his ability to identify modern archetypes that hadn’t before been named. 

“A lot of it is dating,” he says. “That seems to be what captivates people. Like an indie girl would be an archetype that doesn’t really exist outside of today’s society. Or a Hinge girl.”

He shows me his list of ideas for other archetypes, like “Tim Burton-chic.” The Notes app where he noodles on concepts for videos that may still never see the light of the For You page.

“One that I just thought of is the funny products that are marketed towards men that are named by men,” Schnieder says. “It’ll be like the Phoenix 2830—a combination of weird but interesting name, a series of numbers and then something else. Women are much smarter—[instead] they’ll be like, It’s this thing.”

Schnieder doesn’t have any larger goals for his TikTok character, mostly because he’s not earning enough on the labor he puts into making the videos. Instead, he might see if any brands want to work with him on a race car he’s building with one of his friends. “I like to think about it this way: anyone who has some kind of [online] presence, their persona is a robot that they climb into,” he says. “But at some point you gotta climb out of your robot… it should be serving me instead of me serving it.” Wise words for any dude trapped in a guise of his own making.

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