“I Think About This a Lot” is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
I have always been an inveterate advice seeker. No matter what choice I’m facing, big or small, I will get input from someone before I act. I’ll routinely ask my Mom if email responses strike the right balance between professional and convivial before hitting send or spam my friendship circle’s WhatsApp group with links to stuff I’m thinking about buying to get their okay. So imagine my jealousy when, during a routine viewing of The O.C., I came across an episode in which Star Wars fan and all around mega-nerd Seth Cohen seeks guidance from none other than George Lucas — and gets some sterling advice.
When Lucas cameos, in the penultimate episode of the show’s second season, our glitzy Newport Beach crew is busy getting ready for prom. True to form, Seth isn’t sure whether he should go. He’s been stuck in teen TV’s most uninteresting love triangle with longtime paramour Summer and her new guy, Zach, who also happens to have co-written a comic book with Seth that George Lucas — for insane, suspension of disbelief-y reasons — is interested in developing into his next big blockbuster. Lucas has requested a meeting over dinner the very same night as prom, so the two decide to flip a coin to determine who will take Summer to the dance and who will attend the important meeting. Zach wins, and Seth can barely conceal his disappointment.
A dejected Seth takes himself to this insane, once-in-a-lifetime meeting with Lucas to talk Atomic County, his comic book featuring characters based on himself and his friends — who happen to have superpowers. During the bread course, Seth asks Lucas a super-basic question about the light saber’s conception, but then, in true Cohen fashion, conversation turns to his personal life. He admits that he’s not sure he made the right decision about prom. Instead of calling this kid unprofessional, good sport George has some sage advice. “Prom is a great American tradition,” he says with easy gravitas, “and it’s important to experience being a teenager when you’re actually a teenager!” Lucas confesses that he missed out on such a “pivotal teen experience” himself, and regretted it so much that he tried to re-create it by making American Graffiti. This is all Seth needs to hear. He promptly excuses himself and heads to the high school, just in time to watch Summer be crowned prom queen and share a Hollywood kiss with her (lucky for Seth, Zach already ditched prom to belatedly try to join the dinner meeting anyway). Sometimes we do know what to do, we just need a little encouragement.
At first I had a hard time taking this scene seriously. For all the show’s soapy theatrics — shooting siblings, fights in which patio furniture was catapulted into swimming pools, secret porn careers — this is the one that put me over the edge. Sure, the teens of Newport Beach are privileged, but are we really supposed to believe that Lucas sought out this 17-year-old to turn his IP into the next big blockbuster? But in the 15 years since the episode aired, I have thought about it countless times because having a ridiculously famous person give me advice or simply listen to desires and fears of a mere mortal like me is pretty much my dream.
I’m not saying celebrities are better than us, not really, but as they experience these sorts of things in a goldfish bowl, surely they are forced to gain clarity and perspective faster and more exhaustively? Why wouldn’t you want to hear two cents from people dealing with fame and regular problems in tandem?
When I started dating my boyfriend, who is a bit older than me and had previously been married, I often recalled Seth’s exchange with Lucas, because I longed to ask a notable pair with a May-December romance how to deal. If only I had a celebrity there to lend an ear. I thought about how if, in a 1940s fantasy world, I were to go barhopping with Lauren Bacall, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask how she handled it when her relationship with Bogey went public, as I imagined my pairing receiving the same kind of negative reactions theirs did. I assumed nobody in my life could enlighten me, since my situation seemed so far removed from their more traditional paths. In truth, I was projecting my own irrational fears about its “unconventional” nature onto everybody else and what I needed was to relax. Nobody cared.
Eight years later, my boyfriend and I are still together. Turns out I didn’t need that perfect advice, after all. (What I could have used, however, is guidance on how to grow out bangs in a flattering way — where were you when I needed you, Zooey Deschanel?) I’d still love a nugget of wisdom in any type of crisis from, say, Jennifer Aniston or Taylor Swift. I’d even settle for something superficial like a compliment on my awful pandemic manicure, if I’m ever in the same place as an aesthetically pleasing celeb. But until then, I’ll have to settle for the normies I call friends and family to fill the void.