The Poetics of Rudy Jude
Tony's wearing a gold chain in the wood-fired hot tub, and the time has come to discuss what's going on here.
Listen: I’m a professional. My analysis of momfluencers is done in the spirit of scholarly detachment. I am hard to move, in any direction. But there’s one mom who has my number. The woman has got me in the palm of her hand. This mom is Julie O’Rourke, she of the Rudy Jude line of small-batch clothes, and the @rudyjude Instagram account. She lives in midcoast Maine with her two sweet young sons and Tony, her extremely hot husband. Their lives translate beautifully onto the teeny tiny screen.
Today we must discuss her, because her recent content has pushed me, in my mid-January-2022 frailty, over the edge. I’m not alone: My DMs and texts have been ablaze with my friends near and far as they process today’s Instagram story, featuring Tony soaking in their brand-new wood-fired hot tub (it’s one of these, and I feel like it was a gift? It was unclear) wearing an understated gold chain. Not since Connell in Normal People has a chain generated so much interest.
(Normally I embed a lot more images in my posts. but there’s a request in the bio of @rudyjude not to use photos without permission, and there’s no way in hell I’m getting permission for this newsletter, like I’m not even going to bother to ask. But, nonetheless, and I apologize Julie if you’re reading this and would rather I didn’t do this, but here’s a screenshot of Tony/hot tub/chain, from today’s Story, because it will be gone soon):
I follow most momfluencers for academic purposes, but it’s personal with Julie. My own sensibilities, fantasies and insecurities are all lit up like a Christmas tree by Julie’s content, so this little analysis is necessarily as much (or more) about me as it is about her. Also, please bear in mind: I’m always writing about content, not the essential character of individual human beings. Let’s not get it twisted. Whoever, and however, Julie O’Rourke and her family “really are” is not my concern. I’m interested in the content that they make.
I don’t feel comfortable casually discussing children so I won’t touch on Rui and Diogo, the adorable kids, except to say this: If there is an apocalyptic climate event in 50 or so years, I fear that most of our kids will not have the skills required to thrive. Rui and Diogo, meanwhile, will be organizing a ragtag traveling theatre troupe, Station Eleven-style, so as to preserve the values of play and improvisation for those who survive.
OK now that I’ve gotten all the disclaimers out of the way, I invite you to put on a giant, questionable-looking fisherman’s hat, and join me in this Hard-Hitting Analysis. Why is the RJ gram so appealing?
Julie is skilled
The woman knows how to do a lot of different shit. She’s a gifted seamstress and she improvises a lot of her designs. She chops wood in a relaxed manner. She’s a shrewd business person. She makes her own butter. She makes all kinds of stuff - like a broom, one time? A mattress? And she seems to do it for fun, not out of some holier-than-thou mission to Demonstrate What One Can Do With One’s Own Hands. She convincingly appears to be just messin’ around. All I can say is: Bruh.
To mess around for fun while also making money: Is there a higher calling? Julie’s content has a heavy emphasis on fun side projects that she seems to have time for in the interstitial moments of her day. She shows us these projects without any supermom posturing — she just seems to make time for various different things. For me, this is a dream that is perpetually stymied by my circumstances and my bad habits. (She also seems to prioritize working with her hands over almost everything else, including, uh, consuming substances. It might be one of the reasons why she gets so much done.)
But perhaps what I find most enchanting about Julie’s skillfulness is that it’s never presented in the narrative frame of personal improvement, life optimization, or neoliberal hustle — even if demonstrating your day on social media for money is inherently interwoven with all of these icky synthetic fibres. She does not give advice on how to do a better job of living. She doesn’t engineer opportunities to share her “secrets” or recommend that we begin each day with hot water and lemon. For this I am grateful.
Julie has an air of mild superiority
I’m really interested in how momfluencers create a good rapport with their followers, and what’s different about Julie is that she kind of doesn’t. She never addresses her followers directly (no “Mama, I know hard how it is” pablum from her) and sometimes she even seems annoyed by us, which I totally understand, because I bet like 70% of her followers are suuuuper annoying rich ladies who cultivate an “earth mother” aesthetic while being crippled by status-consciousness.
For example, she often engages with the questions that she gets via DM, and unlike almost any other momfluencer, it feels like labour when she does it. There’s often a tiny air of exasperation when she’s reassuring people that, yes, making your own butter is easy, if you feel like spending the time. Or yes, the jeans are all sold out, but more will be available soon. Yes, you can darn your own socks. Here’s how — it’s kind of hard, but aren’t most cool things? Quit whining.
Julie uses social media the way we all wish we did
There are a fair amount of ads on @rudyjude. Julie always runs her ads in her Instagram Stories, bookended by slides announcing the “Ad Break!” and then “The End!” By irreverently announcing her ads (and, by inference, inviting you to skip ahead if you’re anti-ad), she’s successfully having it both ways: Both monetizing her content, and keeping the whole lame song-and-dance at arm’s length. As a maneuver, it’s very effective.
Julie obviously has to be on her phone a ton in order to make her content, but she very convincingly gives me the impression that when she’s not making her money, she’s not prone to dead-eyed scrolling.
How do I get this impression? Because her environment appears to be strewn with the remnants of her projects. She is demonstrating how we all wished we lived: Making interesting use of our time, not succumbing to the absolute soul-brutality of our phones.
Smugness, like selling out, is no longer a crime
Some people have remarked to me that they find the whole Rudy Jude deal a little riche. The whole thing - the DIY building projects, the picnics of clams steamed in seaweed on the coastal Maine rocks, the handmade bayberry candles, the overall hotness - is smug, they say. I’ve been thinking about “smugness” as a negative trait and I am beginning to think that it’s going the way of “selling out”: A bygone era’s diss. When I was a teen in the 90s, “selling out” was an insult reserved for the lamest cultural producers. Today, if you don’t figure out how to make money from your passion project, people wonder what’s holding you back.
If you have enough good stuff going on in your life that other people are a little jealous of you, and you continue to beam out at the jealous masses unbothered, that doesn’t make you rude, it makes you fuckin lucky. Maybe “smugness” was annoying at one time, but fewer and fewer of us will ever get the chance. Nice work if you can get it, as far as I’m concerned.
Rudy Jude’s clothes are by all accounts worth the price
I don’t have much to say here beyond the fact that I know a few people who are lucky enough to own RJ jeans, and they all say they’re incredibly well made and nice-looking. A lot of expensive stuff is not actually that great, but I understand that RJ is one of those brands where you get what you pay for. I’d buy all their shit (not the sou-wester though) if I could afford it.
Tony should smile more
Tony’s blazing hotness is a “family joke,” according to Julie. (When she shared this anecdote, it was a wink to her followers that I think a lot of people really enjoyed.) In the spirit of every man who’s ever said this to me (although not many men have, because I have the habit of smiling even when I don’t want to): Tony should smile more. We would all enjoy it. It’s cold out here, Julie. None of us have wood-fired hot tubs. Only some of us have hot spouses. You are literally the only lady in the land with both. Please share the wealth. And a discount code for your jeans.
oh - looked up the $7k hot tub and Tony is a "community partner"
You are beautiful & brilliant, with a hot husband who knows how to smile.