California, Here We Come

Why You’re Attracted To Seth Cohen In Every Font

It’s science.

Elite Daily; NBC/20th Century Fox Tv/Warner Bros Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock;

Certain characters are so endearing, they show up on television again and again. They have different names, jobs, and hobbies, but their core attributes remain the same. Think: the badassery of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, the optimism of Leslie Knope and Janine Teagues, and the charm of Seth Cohen and... almost every cute, awkward brunette guy.

On The O.C., Seth (played by Adam Brody) wasn’t the most expected choice to set everyone’s hearts racing. (Lest we forget Ryan Atwood was the residential bad boy.) But as Seth won over one of his harshest critics, Summer Roberts, he also captivated the show’s biggest fans. Although he may not be the blueprint for hot dorks, considering all those that came before him — ahem, Gilmore Girls’ Dave Rygalski (also played by Brody) and Friends’ Chandler Bing — he perfected the art of geek charming. Plus, he led the way for characters like New Girl’s Nick Miller, Brooklyn 99’s Jake Peralta, and Teen Wolf’s Stiles Stilinski.

Throughout the show’s four seasons, Seth went from the show’s teen outcast to the audience’s teen heartthrob, all without ever abandoning his love of comic books. Sarcastic, self-deprecating, and unapologetically himself, Seth is best-known for his quippy one-liners, like “I think closure’s overrated. I’m more of a fan of open-ended, unrequited love,” and his Spiderman-themed kiss with Summer. He’s an easy character to root for — and an even easier character to crush on.

It’s not just that Seth is a great character on The O.C. — it’s also the fact that he’s somewhat of a mascot for men who make dry humor their personality. Awkwardness and approachability aside, each of these characters followed the same outline. Seth had his comic books and video games. Chandler had his boring job, Nick had his inability to lie (and love for “Cotton-Eyed Joe”), Jake had his Die Hard obsession and Taylor Swift playlists, and Stiles had his humanity in a world of supernaturals. They all pined after their crushes, too — in a sweet way that was more endearing than cringe. Seth loved Summer, Chandler loved Monica Gellar, Nick loved Jess Day, Jake loved Amy Santiago, and Stiles loved Lydia Martin.

These charming, dorky guys aren’t just strikingly similar; they also tend to elicit the same response in fans. There’s undeniable thirst for the Seth Cohens of the world. Fan fiction site Archive of Our Own, where enthusiasts write and read steamy scenes about their favorite characters, has 456 Seth Cohen stories, 710 Nick Miller stories, and 4,608 Jake Peralta stories — with names like “Summer Lovin,” “He’ll Never Love You Like I Can,” and “Taking Control.”

With the resurgence in early 2000s nostalgia, plus streaming services constantly promoting these classic shows, these awkward brunettes have also gained traction on apps like TikTok, where video montages of their appeal abound. As of publication, the #SethCohen hashtag has 224.6 million views, #ChandlerBing has 3.8 billion, and #StilesStilinski has 11.3 billion, all filled with fan edits of the characters’ most lovable moments.

So what, exactly, makes this category of TV boyfriend so crush-worthy? For one, their brand of cute isn’t movie-star level but something more attainable and realistic. Take Seth, for example. According to licensed therapist Nicole Richardson, “He's good-looking, but not so good-looking that the average person would think that he would never give them a second look.”

Seth’s love story, specifically his relationship with Summer, also contributes to his crush status. “His character pines for (and eventually wins over) the person that he thinks is just out of reach, which is how so many people feel about love,” licensed mental health counselor Gabrielle Morse tells Elite Daily. His attractiveness might come from that: the fact that people are able to see themselves in him. “People are so drawn to certain shows and characters because of how they bring comfort and familiarity,” Morse says.

Casting obviously makes a difference, too. Conventionally attractive Brody made Seth work, and O.C. creator Josh Schwartz said as much to The Daily Beast in 2013. “Very early on it was always, ‘If Ryan is our Luke Perry, who’s our Jason Priestley? It couldn’t possibly be the comic book-loving nerd?’ Once we cast Adam [Brody], they felt like he was cute for the girls, and we could make it work.” At the end of the day, the dorky brunette still needs a pretty face to carry him, even if it is ultimately his charm that draws people in.

But there’s also an aspirational element to Seth’s character — and the other awkward brunettes written in the same font. “In so many ways, Seth is who we wish we were,” Richardson says. He’s wealthy without being spoiled, funny without being mean, and sensitive while still being outspoken. He isn’t the standard golden retriever boyfriend, but he’s pretty close — and just as lovable.

Now, 20 years after the show first premiered, a Seth Cohen-coded character is as much of Hollywood’s DNA as the three-act structure. Steven Conklin in The Summer I Turned Pretty, Steve Harrington in Stranger Things, and Junior Johnson in Grown-ish are all iterations of the same sarcastic brunette — and the thirst is still as powerful as ever.