'West Elm Caleb' is 2022's 'John Tucker Must Die.' Here's what the film's screenwriter thinks of the TikTok drama.

·5-min read
Jeff Lowell, the writer of the 2006 comedy 'John Tucker Must Die,' opens up about the West Elm Caleb drama all over TikTok. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)
Jeff Lowell, the writer of the 2006 comedy "John Tucker Must Die," weighs in on the 'West Elm Caleb' drama all over TikTok. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

If you've scrolled through your For You page on TikTok this week, you've likely stumbled across the internet's latest punching bag: "West Elm Caleb." The New Yorker earned the ire of the app after a woman posted about being ghosted by a guy named Caleb. Multiple people in her comments section inquired whether this Caleb was "West Elm Caleb."

For the original creator, it was not — but soon, these commenters connected the dots that they had all dated the same guy. Upon further social media investigation, the women learned that not only had they all been out with West Elm Caleb, who earned the moniker after he told them he was a furniture designer for West Elm, but they all also received essentially the same dating experience, complete with identical Spotify playlists, text messages and eventually, ghosting.

Of course, the drama blew up on TikTok — with tons of users eagerly awaiting all the Caleb tea these daters could spill. A dating app even took a jab at Caleb by calling his characteristics (6'4", furniture designer, etc.) "red flags" in an advertisement.

If this all seems a little familiar to you, it may be because the story sounds like a 2022 version of the 2006 teen romantic comedy John Tucker Must Die. The film, which was directed by Betty Thomas and starred Sophia Bush, Arielle Kebbel and Ashanti as women who figure out that they are all dating Jesse Metcalfe's titular character. In order to get back at him, they band together to exact revenge, which includes attempting to make him "undateable" before enlisting Brittany Snow's character to break his heart.

The women of John Tucker Must Die didn't have smartphones, dating apps or TikTok. Still, the film's writer, Jeff Lowell, received a ton of messages about West Elm Caleb from people who instantly saw the similarities between his story and the drama playing out on TikTok.

"Tucker takes every girl to the same restaurant, just like Caleb took everybody to the Met," Lowell tells Yahoo Entertainment. "He uses the same lines, and the girls compare notes and figure it out, just like Caleb took the same text and copy and pasted it to the new girl. As much as the world changes, human behavior doesn't change much."

In John Tucker Must Die, the girls attempt to lower Tucker's appeal in a myriad of ways, including having him pose as a model for an advertisement about STDs without his knowledge (Tucker, a master of spin, ultimately gets an award for bringing awareness to the issue). Fortunately for Caleb, things didn't go that far on TikTok — though the sentiment is pretty much the same, says Lowell.

"In John Tucker, the women say, 'The way to get back to John Tucker is to make him undateable,'" he explains. "That's exactly what happens to West Elm Caleb, just with social media. They put his picture, the services he's on, they share where he works, and they did what the girls in the movie tried to do. They banded together and warned the rest of the world what this guy's game was so that no one else would date him."

Lowell says that if he were to do a newer version of John Tucker Must Die, social media and dating apps would "absolutely" play a part in it. Yet right now, there's a key difference between Tucker's story and that of Caleb's. At the end of John Tucker Must Die, Tucker is publicly dumped by his girlfriend (Snow) and learns that he was just the target of a revenge scheme. It's mean, sure, but everyone learns their lesson in the end: Tucker continues to date multiple women at once but is honest about it, and the women who orchestrated his takedown realize they went too far.

In the days following the West Elm Caleb debacle, there has been much written about why it's not OK to publicly shame Caleb this way — even if his actions were unkind.

"I've seen the initial wave of, 'You go, yay, take him down,' and I've seen the other side of it, which is, 'You're doxxing this guy,'" says Lowell. "I think the reason he got the initial backlash is because of the lying and the insincerity … In this age, when it's so easy to connect with everybody, it's a very bad idea. Caleb has learned that lesson. John Tucker was stupid enough to do it in the same school, but now, the world is as close to each other as it was when you were in a small social group."

No matter what side of the West Elm Caleb debate you fall on — it's certainly a situation ripe for a social media-fueled revenge comedy.

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