Does Hollywood's new heartthrob follow in the footsteps of handsome stars like George Clooney, Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Gosling, and Harry Styles? Not exactly. On the surface, the only thing that Pete Davidson has in common with other Hollywood dreamboats is his history of dating other celebrities. However, his latest girlfriend has turned heads everywhere—the soon–to–be–divorced Kim Kardashian.

Their relationship sparks an odd fascination that draws viewers in and leaves them with more and more questions. Why are they dating? How did he get her? Is this all for publicity? In short, to the public, Davidson and Kardashian's relationship seems to be a complete enigma. 

However, Kardashian's fascination with Davidson might not seem so odd when one considers that Davidson is a modern bad boy with a heart of gold. Davidson smokes weed, is covered in tattoos, makes edgy jokes, and is best friends with equally tatted–up, controversial rapper Machine Gun Kelly. On the surface, Davidson is the modern quintessential Hollywood bad boy. 

Davidson gained fame as a 20–year–old by starring as a comedy writer and cast member on Saturday Night Live. On the show, he often portrays youthful, chilled–out stoner characters that deliver edgy one—liners. Outside of SNL, he makes no secret of his drug use and cynical humor in his standup comedy, making dark, borderline offensive jokes that have come to define his comedic style. For instance, Davidson has no qualms about making 9/11 dick jokes, even though he's the son of a fallen 9/11 firefighter.

Despite his comedy often making light of touchy subjects, Davidson's humor inspires sympathy in viewers. Continuing the trend of sympathy for the bad boy, Davidson is framed as the scrappy underdog that is often misunderstood. He's mysterious, edgy, funny, and, most importantly, damaged. 

But despite Davidson's bad body persona, many think that he has a heart of gold. For instance, in a Vanity Fair interview, Emily Ratajkowski, an American model, detailed why women find Davidson alluring. Ratajkowski said, “he seems super charming. He’s vulnerable. He’s lovely. His fingernail polish is awesome. He looks good! [And he has a] good relationship with his mother. We love it, that’s hard to find.”

The surprising juxtaposition between his bad boy appearance, crass language, and his perceived "golden retriever" personality is in part due to his open discussion of his mental and physical health. Davidson has battled Crohn's disease and borderline personality disorder. He frequently makes jokes about having poor mental and physical states that lead to his often disheveled appearance and very pronounced eye bags.

As a mental health advocate, Davidson also encourages the destigmatization of mental health, incorporating this subject into his comedic performances and public statements. In fact, once on SNL, Davidson told Kanye West that there was no shame in “taking his meds.”

Although Davidson stays out of drama, he may be sucked into the Kardashian tabloid cycle because of Kim's messy and ongoing divorce from Kanye West. Recently, West threatened in his new song “Eazy” to “beat Pete Davidson's ass.”

But in spite of this messy relationship discourse, West and Davidson represent two sides of the same coin. Broadly speaking, both are troubled artists who at one time or another were romantically involved with Kardashian. However, while Davidson is seen as "vulnerable" and "lovely," West is seen as "crazy." In short, West’s treatment by the media and perception by the public is starkly different from Davidson's. 

West’s expression of trauma is seen as uncool and disturbing, especially following his blatant support of former President Donald Trump on Twitter and other platforms. Recently, West has also been accused of battery for punching a man asking for an autograph. In an interview with Hollywood Unlocked about the altercation, West said, “…this dude, he just had this real attitude, like, 'What are you gonna do? And see that?' [I said] Imma just tell you, that blue COVID mask ain't stop that knockout, you know what I'm saying?”

In contrast, when Davidson mentions his trauma, he purposefully takes a lighthearted approach, attempting to make the audience laugh or addressing his mental health in a casual but evocative way. From this, Davidson's expression of trauma seems "appealing" and nonthreatening, which inspires sympathy in fans rather than outrage. Compared to West, it seems that Davidson's struggles with mental health are less publicized and attract less media attention, making him seem more palatable and allowing the public to more easily romanticize his mental health.

But while the two men often have to deal with similar struggles and trauma, their largest physical difference is hard to ignore. West is Black and Davidson is white. In the expression of trauma, white men are often characterized as deeply troubled, but still worth saving. Contrastingly, Black men face racial stereotypes in which they are described as aggressive, dangerous, and prone to violence. 

Stereotypes create a stigma that suggests Black men aren’t allowed to be mentally ill or express their trauma. Instead, they must fit into the stereotype of the hypermasculine, insensitive Black man.  

Undoubtedly, racialized perceptions of Davidson and West have impacted their characterization by the media and in the mind of the public. Both men have their issues, but one seems more appealing to the public. However, the appeal of "damaged" men must also be scrutinized. To have physical, mental, or emotional trauma is not something to be romanticized—trauma is painful and sometimes debilitating.

Men with mental health issues shouldn’t be fetishized, just as no person with mental health concerns or physical issues should be fetishized purely on the basis of their ailment. Both men deserve to be supported and cared for regardless of their issues, not directly because it fits into a fan's fantasy of fixing a broken bad boy.