10 Effed Up Life Lessons We Learned From 'One Tree Hill'
If you came of age in the early 2000s and had access to The CW, chances are that you, like me, were an avid One Tree Hill fan. Really, the show had just about everything: the broody and undying love between Lucas Scott and Peyton Sawyer; the ever-fraught basketball career of the Tree Hill Ravens; a terrifying and pseudo-immortal villain in Dan Scott; a soundtrack that put every Buzz Ballads album to shame. Prime teen soap material, 100 percent.
Recently, I noticed that the series had popped up on Netflix, so I started mainlining it once more — only to realize that, amid all the emo rock and shoehorned literary references (I mean, their basketball cheer was "When are we gonna lose? 1-2-3, NEVERMORE!" fer chrissakes), there were also some pretty serious life lessons to be gleaned from the twists and turns of our protagonists' tales.
And those lessons were straight bonkers.
So, I took it upon myself to compile 10 of the top One Tree Hill PSAs, just to see exactly what it was the show implicitly taught us all those years ago.
(Full disclosure: I could only make it through to Season 6 in my re-viewing before the insanity of it all just plum wore me down — but that's right before Chad Michael Murray left anyhow, and who really kept watching after that, right?) Let's get to it.
10. Running red lights is fine, as long as you have a deep, emotional motive.
This is an early one, sure, but it remains a personal favorite: the episode in which Peyton purposely waits for every light on the main drag of Tree Hill to turn red before speeding through all of them at a breakneck pace, a ritual she performs daily to commemorate the fact that her mother died in a car crash. At no point is she stopped by authorities, or harmed in any way; in fact, it only serves to bring her and Lucas ever closer as they bond over the broody, broody tragedy of it all. Also, it spawned by far the show's most excellent piece of angst art (next to the canvas she paints all black then titles "Love"):
9. All boys in black nail polish are date rapists.
This one also comes courtesy of the Season 1, when Brooke and Peyton head to a college party, where the latter winds up in the room of a boy who is in the midst of painting his nails with, yes, black polish. After they banter for a bit about The Descendents, he cajoles her into drinking, slips her a roofie, and attempts to assault her — before she is gallantly rescued by Lucas, and the two continue their tortured non-romance for another zillion episodes. It's the prominence of the nail-painting that gets me, really — the not-so-subtle cautioning against Alternative Boyz. Though I will say, the show reverses its stance on this somewhat a few seasons down the line, with a very special cameo — which brings me to...
8. Pete Wentz avidly reads the blogs of high school girls and is super stoked on dating them.
Yeah, remember that time Pete Wentz decided he wanted a crack at acting and hopped on One Tree Hill for a two-episode arc as Peyton's beau? I didn't either — and it's truly the kind of thing you have to see to believe. The story goes that Wentz (whom every single character calls "Pete from Fall Out Boy," every time, as if terrified we won't recognize him) develops a crush on Peyton after playing in Tree Hill twice — so naturally, he follows her and her friends out to a cabin in the woods for a weekend.
At least the producers are kind enough to address just how odd this scenario sounds: "I just never would have pictured this — a famous rock star showing up in the middle of nowhere to hang out with a girl he barely knows," Peyton admits at one point. Actually, he assures her, he knows her pretty well, because he's been listening to all of her podcasts and looking at her artwork online — the implicit message being, of course: Pete cares sooo much about his fans, ladies — blog about him and he will come court you!
In short, this was also known as the plotline that launched a thousand Xangas (e.g., ..::~*PeTeLuVv666*~::.., et al.).
Of course, the cherry on this gloriously improbable sundae is that Wentz was 26 at the time the show aired, making Peyton almost ten years his junior. Not that I'm one to be ageist — please, everyone, date whomever you wish, numbers be damned — but the fact remains that, well, it's the pre-Instagram version of the James Franco scandal and then some. Witness just how creepy it sounds when he monotones at her, "So a hot girl quotes me to me — is it wrong if that turns me on?"
Then, of course, their romance was dashed by his contract coming to an end — though the producers did try to string it along for an episode or two, implying Wentz by showing a stretch limo outside Peyton's window. But alas, it was not to be.
7. Always make sure your stalker is really, 100 percent dead/imprisoned, otherwise he'll just come back to ruin prom.
Another Peyton romance lesson, also known as, "Maybe don't have a webcam constantly running in your room in conjunction with a podcast that reveals intimate details of your personal life" — which, sure, is not entirely unreasonable. Still, I doubt very much that the upshot of that would be a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man named Derek with six pack abs and a giant back tattoo of you showing up and pretending to be your long-lost brother.
This plotline got pretty dark, too: The strange incestuous overtones aside, Stalker Derek also paid a prostitute to wear a Peyton wig before beating her so badly she ended up in the hospital.
And then, it went from "yikes" to full-on slasher film, when it turned out that he survived a fall out a second story window, then his subsequent arrest had been a hoax, and he returned to straight-up Funny Games Brooke and Peyton on prom night.
But of course, everyone essentially shrugged when the girls came to collect Brooke's prom queen crown bruised and blood-spattered. Just another day in Tree Hill.
6. One good speech absolves you of a lifetime of sociopathic monsterhood — and makes you worthy of being mayor.
Yes, I am of course talking about the one, the only Dan Scott, television's most terrifying patriarch. Not only does he simply refuse to die — surviving a heart attack, an intentionally-set fire, a shooting, and a car accident — but he is also the personification of pure evil. I mean, Dan Scott taunts his own son for having a heart condition, then threatens to beat his other son to death in front of his basketball team. Dan Scott (rather symbolically) clobbers a raven with a rock as a small child in a flashback, clearly displaying one of the prime signs of serial-killer-level sociopathy. Dan Scott puts superglue on his wife's phone, calls her so she'll pick up, then blasts an air horn into the receiver. And lest we forget, Dan Scott ultimately shot his own brother in the head, after emotionally wrecking him by paying a woman to seduce him into proposing and then leave him at the altar.
And still, when it comes to the race for Tree Hill mayor — in which, if you'll remember, he's running against his former flame and Lucas's mother, Karen — he talks for a few minutes on election night about how yeah, he's not such a great guy, but, y'know man, he's trying, right?
And he wins.
Clearly, Dan Scott is invincible, and we should all cower before him.
5. Everything in life is improved by (terrible) puns.
In addition to constantly saying "Well, well" (see below) and nicknaming everyone who likes to drink alcohol "Boozy," the inhabitants of Tree Hill really love their puns: Peyton's webcam site is called "Punk & Disorderly"; the breast cancer benefit album she makes for her long-lost birthmother is called "Friends With Benefit"; Chris Keller's AIM name is "HellInKeller" and his blog is "Keller Instinct." So what, pray tell, would they call their online search engine? Apparently, this one's just "Internet Search." Can't win 'em all, I suppose.
4. Get head-to-toe plastic surgery before your 18th birthday, and you, too, could be featured on the cover of Maxim.
Oh, Rachel Gatina — one of the most strangely conceived latter-season add ins. Sure, Felix was bizarre and Anna was pretty cool (yay, visible bisexual characters!), but Rachel had the added benefit of a backstory that included hundreds of thousands of dollars of plastic surgery performed before her senior year of high school. As an overweight kid with an endless bank account and no adult supervision, Rachel apparently made her own decision to have her stomach stapled, breasts augmented, face re-shaped — and aside from Mouth, who shyly bemoans the girl she used to be, everyone seems basically fine with it.
Not only does she date a Nascar driver and later become a model, but her new look lands her a cover feature in Maxim magazine while she's still in school, and from a pretty small town to boot. Speaking of which...
3. Four out of five people in every high school friend group will achieve national fame within four years of graduating — unless they were already a touring musician in junior year, that is.
Season 4 ends, predictably, at the gang's high school graduation, but Season 5 jumps four years in the future — and finds all of our protagonists doing inexplicably well for themselves. Let's tally this one up, shall we?
Lucas is the published author of An Unkindness of Ravens (har, har), a memoir that everyone insists on calling a novel — and has a deal in place for a second book. Brooke is a multi-millionaire celebrity fashion designer of the line "Clothes over Bros" with her own magazine, titled "B. Davis," and dates lined up with Nick Lachey. Nathan was almost in the NBA, with his own shoe endorsements and everything, before he got thrown through a plate glass window during a bar fight.
Peyton is down and out in L.A. to begin with, but she soon moves home to start a record label — and within a month has discovered and signed a successfully touring artist. Hayley... is mostly wife-ing and mothering — but hey, she already toured with Michelle Branch while still in high school. Also, you can't really blame her, given that the latter seasons of the show do everything they can to remind you why...
2. You probably shouldn't have any career aspirations, unless you want to be sexually harassed or have your child kidnapped.
As if Hayley and Nathan's age-16 marriage weren't clear enough — or the fact that her valedictory address is literally cut short by the birth of her son — Season 5 is not messing around when it comes to stay-at-home messages. And it's not just for the ladies. In fact, just about every single plotline discourages anything remotely resembling a life plan that isn't settling down ASAP in your hometown to make as many babies as possible. Observe:
Lucas dumps Peyton for opting to stay in L.A. instead of accepting his sudden long-distance marriage proposal; he then tries to wed his literary editor, Lindsay, after she admits she would be thrilled with life as "a small-town basketball coach's wife." Mouth has to quit his job at a TV station after his boss manipulates him into sleeping with her, because "a job isn't worth it." Brooke gives up her extreme success and celebrity to move back to her hometown and try to adopt ("I spent four years working, and I realized all I want is to have a family" is an actual line she actually says).
And when Hayley hires a nanny to watch her son, so that she can head back to the recording studio, not only does her son utter the nightmare phrase "I wish Nanny Carrie was my mom," but Nanny Carrie then goes through leaps and bounds to seduce Nathan and ultimately kidnaps the kid.
It's like the producers are trying to beam into the brains of America's youth, "Quick, get someone to rub their parts against yours and stick a diamond on your finger, before you even have to move away in the first place!" Which I suppose makes sense for the world of the show, given the ethos implied by its title — except that...
1. "There is only one Tree Hill" — except for, y'know, the other one in New Zealand.
In the Season 1 finale, it's up to Karen to shoehorn in the explanation for the title — "No matter where you go, or who you become, this place will always be with you. There is only one Tree Hill." — which makes sense, because in her sixteen-plus years of awkward strife with Dan, she never saw fit to move even, like, one town over; clearly, she must really love it there. The problem is, though, when Karen's rich boytoy (and eventual husband) Andy is introduced just one season later, he mentions that there's also a famous One Tree Hill in his home country of New Zealand. (Also, Bono wrote a song about it.) So, oops. But, I mean, who knows — maybe the Down Under One Tree Hill is also full of sociopathic patriarchs and hunky psycho-stalkers and teenagers with unnatural penchants for fame. If nothing else, I'm sure Pete "From Fall Out Boy" Wentz would love it there.
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