It’s been a while since I’ve done this, but the last installment in this series was on Jesse Eisenberg around two years ago. Back then, I wrote about how my Eisenberg crush was as much based on my wish to be (like) him as was about a desire to be with him. It’s not like a would have turned him down or anything, but my attraction to him has always been at least as much about a sense of personal chemistry as physical attraction. From the first time I saw him on screen, in Dylan Kidd’s Roger Dodger (2003), I fond his neurotic cuteness and intelligence extremely appealing. In that sense, it’s only natural that he’s succeded on EGC by Adam Brody, who made a name for himself by possessing the same qualities.
There are some signs that this fact has become the source of something of a type-cast problem for Brody, forever associated with his signature role as Seth Cohen on the glossy mid-aughts teen angst dramedy The O.C. On paper the roles may have charted a slightly different path from the Cohen type, but both in temperament, function and delivery, there was lots of insecure, slightly geeky motor-mouth in his roles in Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2003) and Thank You For Smoking (2004), for instance. Not that I’m complaining. Brody is one of several young actors who are eminently watchable as long as they stay within their comfort zones (Logan Lerman and Ryan Phillippe are others).
Of course, Brody is watchable in more than one sense. Even if Seth Cohen worked on The O.C. in no small part because of Brody’s natural charm and sharp delivery – and because he, reportedly being a semiautobiographical version of showrunner Josh Schwartz as a young man, so obviously was the character written with most love and care – I never quite accepted him as a loner. A geek, yes, and one whose interests may have been slightly obscure to girls of lesser minds. But one who never had a serious girlfriend? Nah. Not when you look like that. At the very least, I’d assume that the acerbically funny but surprisingly tenderhearted type would have potential to become the (presumed gay) best friend of lots of girls? Then again, while I didn’t quite buy that about him, I felt closer to Seth Cohen for it. When I discovered The O.C. in 2005 at age 20, and still a year away from accepting that I was gay, I saw strands of myself in him; an arrogant pop culture snob without any luck with the ladies; a deeply felt bond with some of my male friends; and a sense of humor that I used to paper over personal insecurities. There was an ironi in all this, of course, in that my developing crush on Adam Brody, which I processed as a wish to be like him, contributed to that insecurity.
However, I think I was beginning the slow process of interpreting these feelings as gay. I remember watching the show and falling for Brody immediately, emotionally and physically. I couldn’t say so to my brother – who, I later learned, struggled with similar feelings of closeted homosexuality and Brody-crushing – but I when I tested my no-way-Seth-can’t-get-girls thesis on him, a part of me was aching for him to say something that indicated that he’d seen through me. If he had indeed said anything to suggest that I only said that because I found him hot, I would of course have denied it furiously. And there was really nothing in my question that could have set off any alarm bells about my latent gayness. It was just the kind of hyper-sensitivity I had toward the subject at the time. Because I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself yet, I thought just about anything I did would raise suspicions.
So, where does this leave Adam Brody? The O.C. is long gone, and his movie career seems to have stagnated somewhat, with appearances in In The Land of Women and Smiley Face in recent years, and a supporting role in the fourth installment in the Scream series earlier this year. But as with most of my other Early Gay Crushes, there will always be a place in my heart for Brody. He remains very pleasant to look at, and when it comes to earning my loyalty he has not one but two things going for him. Like all other ECGs, yes, he helped me to realize I was gay. But, in a way perhaps rivaled only by Jesse Eisenberg, his screen persona in my formative years as a searching homosexual helped me understand myself better in other ways as well. And as Seth Cohen, he gave me someone to aspire to. Now I only hope that Aaron Sorkin would extend a helping hand to Brody, by writing a movie or a TV series that made complete use of his knack for rapid-fire delivery and cocky wisdom beyond his years.