Whether or not you believe you're an impressionable viewer, chances are that your favorite shows have some bearing on the way you see the world. As such, the terrible life lessons we learned from The O.C. aren't exactly surprising. After all, this was a show about teens with way too much power (in the form of insane quantities of both money and beauty) for such an impressionable age. It's time to admit that, if you'd had the flawless skin of Marissa Cooper or Summer Roberts' L'Oréal hair model tresses, you wouldn't have been much more responsible than they were. And let's not even get started with their shopping budgets.
But that is neither here nor there. It seems unlikely that anyone watched California's most bold and beautiful hook up so they could get a moral grounding for adulthood. The joy of the iconic teen drama was that it was a slice of pure escapism. It was a realm without zits, where the loser dude persuades his forever-crush and most popular girl at school to be his girlfriend and where the bad boy and the geek forge a friendship that felt a lot like brotherhood. What it wasn't? Reality.
1That It Is A Good Idea To Marry Your High School Boyfriend Or Girlfriend
The storyline of Summer evolving after Marissa’s death and changing in the way that people do in college, discovering a whole new eco-warrior side of herself that was anathema to her old shopping and celebrity gossip persona was laudable — especially as Seth and Summer began to grow apart. It was realistic. It suggested that sometimes people change, and sometimes a relationship that felt meaningful at one point may fall apart and that this is no one’s fault. But no. The mismatched pair get married while in living rooms across America, which was sweet on the show but a bad blueprint for real life.
2That Losing Your Virginity Would Be So, So Terrible
After Seth and Summer spontaneously have sex, this is the reaction. And, sure, losing your virginity isn't necessarily going to be great. But if the two most adorable people on television with insane chemistry had intercourse so bad it had Seth exiting immediately afterwards, viewers kind of got the idea that their first time was going to be the worst.
3That The Pain Of Being A Teen Justified Embarrassingly Melodramatic Behaviour
Sure, Marissa has had to weather her parents' divorce and her father's criminal investigation. But, all the same, 20 seconds of screaming and flipping a sun bed because your mom wants to know what's bothering you? Not cool.
4That Liking Comic Books Was Nerdy
The crap Seth put up with for liking comic books was insane. One argument could be that it's hard to understand this from our post-Marvel franchise era. But I was a teenager when The O.C. aired and I loved comic books, graphic novels and everything in between. I read Love and Rockets and Ghost World and Maus, and all I got was requests to borrow them from other kids at my high school.
5That Helping Individuals Is Better Than Campaigning For Wider Social Change
This was a weird recurring life lesson in the show. It was presented as a an unambiguously good thing that Sandy took Ryan in, and it was presented as kind of a bummer that Summer kept forgetting about Seth when he visited her at college to go protest for environmental policies. These two things seem unrelated but aren't. All that time that Sandy generously invested in looking after a stranger could have been spent campaigning for wider social change to close the rich-poor divide or doing pro bono legal work for those of a similarly disadvantaged background in Chino. The show was always about changing things person by person, which is kind of a slow way to effect any sort of social change.
6That Taking In A Strange Kid Is A Thing We Should All Do
Remember how Sandy bringing Ryan home was presented? Kristen was understandably shocked and unsettled; her husband knew next to nothing about the kid from Chino aside from that he'd stolen a car. The show made it seem like she was being such a stick-in-the-mud in being doubtful about taking in a stranger. But who knew if Ryan had issues that their family wouldn't be equipped to support him on? They really lucked out with the criminal with a heart of gold and a peculiarly strict moral code, but this was never acknowledged.
7That Being A Fuccboi Is Fine
Ryan had sex appeal, but Seth was presented as a dream boyfriend; he was sweet and witty and whimsical. So Season 1 Episode 11, "The Homecoming," where Seth was forced to choose between Anna and Summer, was seriously problematic. He ends up two-timing them, but the whole thing is shot like a Mrs. Doubtfire-style comedy scene, with Seth switching between the pair. Encouraging viewers to take Seth's side devalued Summer and Anna's feelings.
8That Marrying Some Guy For Money Is Also No Big Deal
Be honest. Julie Cooper was probably one of your favorite characters. She had the best lines and the best outfits and it felt like everything speeded up imperceptibly when she came onscreen. So the fact she married Caleb Nichol purely for his money wasn't great. While nobody ever endorsed this, it also wasn't really frowned upon. It was presented as just another cute quirk of hers.
9That It's Fine To Stay In A Bad Relationship
Marissa and Luke had been a couple since the fifth grade, and that's way too damn long to spend with someone who is violent to his peers and is unfaithful to her. Not a great life lesson for teens or adults.
10That Low-Key Homophobia Is Chill
Because if you've fallen in love with someone of one gender, you can't fall in love with a person of a different gender? Not great.
11That Summer And Marissa's Friendship Was #Goals
Marissa makes little to no effort to get to know her BFF's new boyfriend, Seth. She mostly talks about herself and rarely asks the brunette about her own life. This friendship was so one-sided that it hurt.
12That Bisexual Women Make For Scary Partners
The fact that the show's only major bisexual character had a complete personality change for no obvious reason and went from being chill, mature, and sophisticated to someone who demonstrated erratic, scary behavior and stalked their girlfriend was problematic.
So re-watch The O.C. for its drama, or its so-bad-it's-good '00s fashion or for the bantering between Seth and Ryan. But for life lessons? Nah.