Why hit when he can hug?



Seth is hope.

For all those high school students who never fit in, who sang Radiohead's "Creep" alone in their bedrooms, who were picked last for kickball and never sat at the cool table in the cafeteria, Seth Cohen is proof positive that the beauty queen can fall for the nerd, that sharp humor can be as alluring as chiseled abs, and that sometimes good guys really do finish first.

The O.C. was supposed to be about Ryan Atwood, the blond hunk who was taken in by the rich Cohen family of Newport Beach. But Ryan - we're sorry to say - turned out to be a little boring. Could he throw a punch? Yes. Could he string together a complete sentence? Hard to say.

So it was Seth, who once called his fists the "twin ambassadors of pain" (sarcasm is his default mode), who emerged as the show's unlikely heartthrob. We say unlikely because he's skinny, has curly, messy hair, keeps childhood playthings in his bedroom, and is as pale as a ghost in winter. He plays Magic: The Gathering. He reads comic books. He likes The Goonies.

Yet, halfway through the first season of The O.C., girls (and some boys) were falling for him. It seems a well-timed one-liner can land a bigger blow than a right hook. Facing some bullies, Seth said, "You guys really wouldn't hurt me, because that would be so cliched." They hit him, anyway. Not missing a beat, he said, "I guess you're fans of the cliche."

Other things we love about Seth: He has a talent (art) and a possible career (writing and drawing comic books). His "Seth Cohen starter pack" - given out on his brilliant invented superholiday, Chrismukkah - includes music from hot bands like the Shins and Death Cab for Cutie and a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon.

Also, when Seth's rich parents die, he's in the will. You can't say the same about Ryan.

Ryan is a brooder who wants to be left alone and is constantly threatening to run away. Seth is perpetually desperate, often forlorn and always in need of a hug. His fashion sense is unimpeachable. His tight sweaters and polo shirts, in bright shades of red and green, are more varied and fashion-forward than Ryan's biker-wanna-be ensembles. He drinks large coffees. Ryan goes for the iced varieties.

And when he has to, Seth can stage dramatic romantic gestures. When girlfriend Summer was worried he would leave her, he climbed up on the coffee cart at school and declared his love. When another girl, Anna, was moving to Boston, he rushed to the airport to say goodbye and pressed his face against the glass as she walked away.

Those who prefer Seth are people who like to think and read and laugh. They get his pop-culture references. (When he mentioned the music club CBGB, Ryan didn't know what he was talking about.) They like his vulnerability. (He keeps a plastic toy horse, Captain Oats, in his bedroom, and he's not afraid to talk to it.)

In summary: Ryan hits. Seth hugs.

Case closed.


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