THE OC

OC_LogoFor this issue of So Bad, It’s Good, let me take you back to TV viewing of approximately 12 years ago, to a land of mansions in the hills of California, bagels and Christmukkah. Yeah, you know it. I’m talking about The O.C.

If you don’t know it, you should. The O.C is early 2000s, teen-angst, drama-filled gold. Created by the people who later brought us Gossip Girl, The O.C. was first released in 2003 and eventually cut in 2007. It has gone down as somewhat of a pop culture symbol – revered, utterly quotable and an early 2000s example of TV that allows us to peer into the lives of the Rich & Famous.

The Good

While this show was in its hey-day, I was a youngster forbidden from watching the teenage drama unfold onscreen. As a result, mine were sneaky viewing sessions on the rare, happy occasion when we visited our cool neighbours next door and only then could I catch up on the latest antics of the kids from Orange County.

However, I’ve since re-watched the show and I’m as equally enthralled as I was when I was eight by the characters’ glitzy, ridiculously troubled lives. I only recently questioned what it is that has me so entranced.

Is it dorky and impossibly charismatic Seth Cohen and his kick-ass one liners? Sassy, hilarious Summer Roberts? Better yet, the two combined providing adorable onscreen interactions? The on-again-off-again magic between brooding boy-from-outta-town Ryan Atwood and the beautiful yet unstable Marissa Cooper certainly makes the show deliciously addictive. These four characters are unforgettable 2000s legends and you will find them nestled close to your heart before long (or swear to name your children after them, like my creepy eight year old self).

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The O.C. should also be commended for distorting the usual stereotypes about how “cool kids” versus “nerds” are supposed to behave. These stereotypes are flipped around, showing a darker side to the supposedly perfect lives of Californian rich kids. In doing so, the show subtly shares an age-old message with its young viewers – that success and glamour on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean happiness on the inside.

The show also brought Indie Rock music into the limelight, with feature performances by bands including Death Cab for Cutie and The Killers. Seth’s taste for Indie music is reflected in the unusual soundtrack, indicating that it’s ok to branch out from the mainstream.

The Bad

I can hear your doubtful whisperings, O.C. fans – “Where is she going with this? What’s BAD about this show?” I feel you. It’s hella good viewing most of the time.

While it remains loveable almost a decade since its finale, the show does sometimes inspire a chortle thanks to now clearly ridiculous moments. Ever noticed Marissa’s perfectly expressionless vodka-swilling face? Almost as though it was oh, I don’t know, water. Such enjoyably terrible acting. Also it’s clear when re-watching the show that in the name of extra drama, the storylines get a little whacky (say, the miraculous coma recovery of a certain character’s brother). Whipping from one plot point to the next kept audience members hooked, but also led to some pretty weird scenarios. It’s adds to the fun – you’re laughing at them, as much as with them.

Aside from such overly dramatic, corny script-writing every once in a while, the major shortcoming of the show is glamorising the wealthy lifestyles of its characters and their hidden, messy secrets. Marissa suffers from substance abuse, depression and a miserable home life, yet is portrayed as the most desirable and popular girl in Newport. Meanwhile, Ryan is also attracted to other troubled women besides Marissa. This seems to suggest that the more damaged you are, the more intriguing you become.

The role of Marissa is problematic too in that she is very often a damsel in distress. She is damaged and broken, constantly in need of saving by Ryan whether it is from an overdose or other threatening men. By reducing Marissa to a victim, the show offers the bleak message that despite her wealth and status she is not in control of her own destiny. Marissa never finds her way out of the dark prison she is stuck in, which in my eyes is a failing on behalf of the production team who could have turned one of their main characters into a symbol of hope and power instead of depicting a trapped female lacking agency.

So does the bad outweigh the good? No way! The show remains fun and addictive. Plus for added bonus, keep your eyes peeled for the occasional, surprising cameos from now A-grade (ish) celebs including Shailene Woodley, Olivia Wilde, Lucy Hale and Chris Pratt.

Appropriate for binge-watching on days where you don’t plan to leave the comfort of your couch, the classically enjoyable, sometimes cheesy show The O.C., has got your lazy butt covered.

– Annabelle Pendlebury

 

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