There’s no more emotionally volatile time in a person’s life than their teenage years. And no television show reflected that emotionally volatility quite like The O.C. did for my generation. Ten years ago, the show premiered as a soapy piece of summer escapism, but it ended up having a surprising number of emotionally honest moments before its run as king of the “teen soap opera” genre was over.
Most of those emotionally honest moments came from Seth and Summer, everyone’s favorite couple on The O.C. (or at least everyone with good taste). As a sophomore in high school, I latched on to Seth Cohen as my nerdy, sincere dream man. Seth was the kind of guy who wouldn’t judge you for being a virgin; he would take a relationship at whatever pace you wanted; and he would be content just to dance with you in his room because he loves you exactly as you are.
This scene still makes me cry because it’s so sweet. It’s funny and realistic and honest in what it says about sex and relationships. I love how earnest Seth is when he tells Summer that he could never think less of her upon finding out that she was a virgin before him. Seth is the kind of guy we all wish we could have found for our first love. He’s willing to take things slower because Summer wishes they wouldn’t have rushed into such a milestone, and that conversation rings with a truth not often heard on TV—and it’s a truth told with so much love and respect between these two characters.
When Seth offers his hand to Summer to dance with her (with Ryan Adams’s gorgeous “Wonderwall” cover playing in the background), I still get tears in my eyes at the simple romance of his gesture. There’s such a beautiful innocence to this moment. Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody had such a genuine, warm chemistry, and it’s used to great effect here. Bilson is especially endearing and emotionally affecting with just how vulnerable she allows Summer to be. It feels like you’re watching two teenagers fall in love in such a real way, and it resonates as strongly now as it did for me back when I watched it as a teenager for the first time.