Sorry to ‘The Bear’: HBO’s “Love Life” Shows Peak ‘Sexually Competent Dirtbag Line Cook’

Hulu’s The Bear has skyrocketed the concept of “sexually competent dirtbag line cook” into the collective consciousness. The concept and phrase was introduced in a viral tweet (and later, an article in Bon Appetit) by podcaster Sarah York upon seeing a promotional image of the character Carmy (played by Jeremy Allen White) from The Bear (she had not actually seen the show). The qualities she ascribes a sexually competent dirtbag line cook are things like “[no] curtains in his apartment but he has a 1,400 dollar knife that is only for cutting fish.” Kitchen meme account @thesussmans also painted a fairly apt picture, which included characteristics like “will not stop ordering $70 bottles of wine and $19 crudos then asks to split the bill.”

But while the sexually competent dirtbag line cook (henceforth for efficiency’s sake, SCDLC) has been vaulted to the top of everyone’s imagination, there’s just one problem: There is no such character on The Bear. In fact, there is, somewhat famously, no sex on the show whatsoever — viewers just think Carmy is hot and emotionally damaged, and while these are surely two important components of the SCDLC, they aren’t enough to warrant this descriptor their own merit. Those searching for an example of a SCDLC have one clear specimen in the world of television, and one who quite frankly should have stirred this conversation two years ago: Magnus Lund from HBO’s Love Life.

Love Life is a gem of a show: In Season 1, it follows the evolution of Darby (Anna Kendrick) throughout her 20s and 30s by focusing on her various relationships, from a fling she meets at karaoke to the a thrilling relationship with older, wiser, just-divorced boss to finally finding her person. Smack in the middle of the show is Magnus Lund (played by Nick Thune), a true SCDLC. (Spoilers ahead for a show that ended in 2020.)

Magnus is introduced as “a young chef who always jumped in with both feet.” When we meet him, he’s working as a sous chef at a restaurant, although he claims to have created the whole tasting menu. He’s tall, bearded, keeps an urban beehive, and has anger problems and tattoos. (In fact, he proposes to Darby by getting her name tattooed on his chest.)

In one scene, Magnus calls out sick “for his mental health,” and he and Darby visit upstate New York to follow a lead from Forager Reddit that there were truffles in the area. While there, he reveals his dream to buy a farm in the area and operate a true farm-to-table restaurant (here he also pressures Darby to have six children with him). He comps lavish spreads at the restaurant for Darby’s friends and family. He makes his own hot sauce. He and Darby have lots of sex. They soon move in together (with her three other roommates) so they can save to buy their/his dream farm. Although we never see Magnus’s apartment, I’m pretty sure it did not have curtains.

Of course, when Darby gets serious with Magnus is when things start going to hell — because the SCDLC is not for keeps. Magnus is fired for comping too many meals and becomes obsessed with bringing a wrongful termination lawsuit against the restaurant (he apparently tried to unionize its staff but refuses to get other employees to attest to this for his wrongful termination because that would be “throwing them under a bus”). He says he is depressed, starts texting a little too often with a waitress at his former job, and sits on the couch all day drinking $14 beers — sorry, “ales” — and “working on his case” instead of finding a new job. (In fact, when he is offered another job, he turns it down because he “knows his worth.”) When he goes out with Darby and her friends to celebrate her promotion, he orders a $300 bottle of Dom Perignon, pointing out that Darby can afford it with her new salary.

In the climax of their relationship, Magnus disappears for an entire day during which Darby finds out that he is deeply in debt — but still spends $15,000 on a motorcycle (yes, I realize that for the perfect SCDLC example, this expense should be for kitchen supplies). When he finally resurfaces, he tells Darby he had to go upstate to “clear his head” and then proposes with the aforementioned tattoo.

Carmy may be hot, tattooed, emotionally damaged, and in debt; and yes, he drinks out of plastic quart containers (it should also be noted that he’s actually the head chef/owner of his establishment, not a line cook). But in just two episodes of Love Life, Magnus checks all boxes: He is sexually competent, a dirtbag, and closer in position than Carmy to a line cook (although he probably spends more time in “dirtbag” territory than “line cook”). As Magnus says when he and Darby finally break up, “Good luck finding this. I’m the best you’re ever going to have.” Peak SCDLC behavior right there.