Give Me Douche Chills: ‘Arrested Development’ Rewind: ‘Not Without My Daughter’

Let me state outright: “Not Without my Daughter” is a magnificent piece of comedy. This episode is quite possibly in my Top 5 of the first season. The ease with which it keeps multiple threads running at a gallop without stumbling is astounding. The multiple plots subvert gender, social, and class roles without getting mired in any bloviated theorizing.

The men try to assert their masculinity with disastrous results. Lindsay can’t admit she got a job and claims she’s been stealing all her new clothes. Her need to be seen as a woman of status is at odds with her actual economic situation. She decides to play shoplifter because minimum wage has no glamour. That’s the thing about crime: Like wealth, it has a sense of prestige, even at its most perverted.

Believe me, all those aspects are incredibly interesting. They point to how sharp Arrested Development’s satire could be. Still, I’m going very specific this week. I want to call attention to a lesser known moment of Arrested Development lore.

While so many moments from the show have become iconic, there is, in my estimation, still one line the culture at large hasn’t picked up on. A possible improvisation, a possible throwaway joke that I believe deserves our full and undivided attention. What I refer to is Tobias’s line “douche chill.” Uttered twice this episode, the phrase has somehow, despite its irreverent power, escaped our lexicon.

David Cross’s delivery—perfect. The two times it appears in this episode are so fleeting you can be forgiven if you forgot it. I’ll admit that even after watching Season 1 numerous times, the line never quite wormed its way into my memory. Until now. I’m here to try to give it its place in history. From here on (and retroactively since as far back as 2003), I invoke the power of the internet to resurrect this phrase.

According to Urban Dictionary—the chronicler of our language’s Darwinian growth and decline—the phrase douche chill is “an exclamation calling attention to the embarrassment of someone who has brought ill consequences on themselves.”

The successor to douche chill is the popular womp womp, a two syllable phrase often used in the show Archer, whose cast consists of several AD veterans. Womp womp is not original, though, being an adaptation of a trombone’s mocking bellow—and the trombone, as we all well know, is the most vulgar of the brass instruments. Its tone, when played poorly, approaches grumbled flatulence. Moreover, it’s ubiquity in ska music will tell you where the instrument lies on the high and low art divide.

Finally, if the nomenclature “tromboner” doesn’t indicate to you its vulgarity, then consider the infamous Rusty Trombone. (Described here by the great Kathleen Turner.) It’s an act not to be performed by the feint of heart, but then again neither is ska. Both, I’ll have you know, will leave a foul taste in your mouth.

Where as womp womp is crude and low, douche chill rings out as innocent, even angelic. It cleanses the palate rather than sully the air when spoken. It can’t be said without half a smirk worming up your cheek. If you consider what the phrase might mean literally—the shudder accompanied by a cold douching—the phrase magnifies, taking on uncomfortable, even poetic qualities.

You might be asking, “When is it appropriate for me to use this fascinating piece of cultural rebuff?” My friend, you can use it anywhere. The best part of douche chill is that it’s applicable to all sorts of uncomfortable moments. Let’s examine a few contemporary examples.

As I’m sure you’ve heard, Kristen Stewart got a little handsy with her director, Rupert Sanders, recently. Her indiscretion created such a stir she had to publically give this apology: “I’m deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I’ve caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I’m so sorry.”

It’s at this moment, the moment where Stewart finishes speaking, bites her lip, shakes, and runs her hands through her hair that you would have every right to raise your voice with a resounding cry of douche chill!

But it’s not only celebrities who deserve it. Homophobic CEOs, politicians, their press, and even their spokespeople could benefit. When Romney’s aid Rick Gorka blew up on reporters at Poland’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with the unassailably funny “Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect,” the situation could have been defused with a well-timed douche chill.

And it certainly doesn’t have to end there. While it began as an idiom to indicate a poorly timed or humiliating statement, it can rise to the occasion as an imperative, too. As in: Douche, chill! 

So now I’m calling on you, citizen, to employ this phrase in all its discomfiting glory. I believe, as much as I’ve believed anything in my life, that if everyone had a few douche chills in their pockets ready to be disseminated at dinners, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and board meetings, the world would truly be a better place. And if I’m ever caught saying or doing something boneheaded, you have my permission to douche chill me.

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2 Comments

  1. After re-watching this episode, I have decided I am going to do my part in bringing "douche chill" into the mainstream. Well written article, (as always), and this makes me even more excited that filming of Arrested Development has started up again!

  2. Howard Stern used “douche chills” in 1988, that’s the earliest example I can recall.

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