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I’m Gen Z and I Just Watched ‘The O.C.’ for the First Time. These Were My Thoughts

By the end of Season 1, the Cohens and Coopers are so intertwined that I had to draw a family tree to get my head around it. Julie Cooper (Marissa’s mother) marries Caleb Nichol, after a brief romance with her daughter’s ex-boyfriend Luke. Caleb is the father of Kirsten Cohen and Hayley Nichol. Julie’s daughter, Marissa, is on/off dating Ryan Atwood who, as we know, is under the guardianship of Kirsten and Sandy. And Hayley is dating Jimmy Cooper, Julie’s ex and Marissa’s father. So, in just one episode, Caleb has become a stepdad to his adopted grandson’s girlfriend, and father-in-law to his new wife’s ex-husband. Oh, and is on the verge of bankruptcy. Normal stuff.

The storylines were chaotic

Let’s not get bogged down in the details of what’s realistic or not. For ease, we are going to assume that rich families do take in troubled 16-year-olds from the wrong side of the tracks after they find themselves in juvie. We will also assume that these 16-year-olds do party hard every night, and make it to school on time and don’t fail their classes. And we will also assume that mothers do get romantically involved with their daughters’ 16-year-old ex-boyfriends and suffer little to no consequences (where is Julie Cooper’s jail time?).

Quite frankly, The O.C. walked so the likes of Gossip Girl could run. It’s got the messy plots, the fashion, and the soundtrack that all teen dramas need to thrive. Of course, it has its pitfalls. There are plenty of flinch-worthy moments in the script (Sandy egging on his son to get with Summer because “she’s hot”) and diversity is, unsurprisingly, lacking within the cast. The one character of color in Season 1, Theresa Diaz, is given a terrible storyline—lying about having a miscarriage is pretty unforgivable stuff—that makes us resent her. Then there’s also the fact that the show could have handled subjects around mental health, especially those seen in Oliver Trask’s storyline, in a more delicate manner.

Nevertheless, I’m a fan—ultimately, the teen dramas of today could really use a bit of the unhinged 2003 spirit that The O.C. brought to the beaches of California all those years ago.



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