A lot of people are going to dismiss the O.C as being just another soap opera that’s aimed at a teenage audience and has a lot of teen drama. That’s what they said when the show was still on, and now it’s already transitioning into being something of an older television program. It’s hard to believe that it started more than ten years ago already. The 2000s don’t feel like a historical period yet, but they will soon enough. I think the 1990s started to feel like a historical period a few years ago, and the 2000s aren’t too far behind.
A lot of people who are into 1990s shows are already defending all of the 1990s hairstyles and music styles that have already become dated. 1990s soap operas have to suffer with the stigma of being called soap operas, in addition to the stigma of being called dated. The O.C. is eventually going to suffer from that stigma as well. The 2000s technology already dates the show to a large extent. No one is talking about social media or advanced smartphones. George W. Bush is still president. I never watched the O.C. for the fashion or for the show’s general awareness of pop culture, though, so none of these inevitable changes are actually going to bother me at all.
A lot of the pop culture references throughout different episodes are actually a lot of fun, as long as you don’t care that they genuinely are somewhat dated these days. It’s actually fun looking back and remembering that a lot of the stuff that they’re referencing used to be completely recent, such as the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movies. Personally, I always thought those were the best ones. Who would have thought that they would get remade only a few years later, instantly making the other set of Spider-Man movies seem artificially older? One way or another, the pop culture references don’t happen so often that they become terribly annoying if you’re just not the sort of person who’s really into that kind of humor or setup. The O.C. is a show that’s genuinely about the characters.
With shows like the O.C., the plots aren’t really what’s important. The plots are largely going to focus on the kinds of dilemmas that all adolescents experience. If they didn’t focus on those dilemmas, it wouldn’t even feel like a real show about adolescents in the first place, which is why it is important that it manages to strike all of these notes. Watching the O.C. is about building up an emotional connection to the characters and exploring all of the ways in which these unique people change over the course of the television series.
The protagonist Ryan is a teen that’s been getting into trouble, and a sympathetic and wealthy public defender more or less takes him under his wing. Ryan gets affection that he never really had before in his life with his impoverished and abusive family, and he also gets to be introduced to the sort of lifestyle that a lot of people in his position would never see. The series makes an interesting comment on class issues as a result, showing that the nice people of Orange Country truly have the privilege of being that way, and it isn’t a simple matter of personal inclinations.
Naturally, this also means that the audience gets to experience O.C. life right alongside Ryan, which is satisfying. The people of Orange County have the sort of wealth and privilege that not a lot of us will ever have, and experiencing it vicariously is really something. We get to watch Ryan grow and change after being affected by this world, which certainly isn’t perfect, despite its tremendous privilege. These are people who have fewer concerns than other people, and they can spend more time fixating on their romantic dramas and other personal concerns. As a result, these sorts of concerns will become inflated, exactly the way they are during adolescence in general. The show creates an interesting dramatization of the adolescent experience as a result.