Personally, I was a Dylan girl. As the years passed, I went on to be a Ben girl, a Jordan Catalano girl, and so forth. My friends who loved Brandon went on to be drawn to Noel.
The men I've been attracted to in real life ended up fitting a very similar pattern. When it comes to this important life choice, there’s really only two ways you can answer, and which way you answer will ultimately tell you who you are. And where you stand on the Dylan path may just be the ultimate dating personality litmus test.
For me, Dylan was the ultimate bad boy, and that made him undeniably attractive. Maybe it was Brenda’s desire to “fix him” or let him make her a little less squeaky clean (which he obviously did), but from his motorcycle to his drinking problem and his deliciously dark demeanor, I was totally into him. In real life, I went on to learn that these men are not the best choices.
Rewatching 20 years later, "90210" is shockingly (or maybe not?) not all that great of a show. Back then, the series was the be-all, end-all for me and my preteen besties. But despite having being written by a geriatric Jewish man and actors in their 30s pretending to be teenagers, this show completely shaped how I was going to go on to live my life.
Now in my early 30s, I look back on the last two decades or so of dating (or crushing, fantasizing and wasting a whole lot of time, as often the case is for those of us with the bad boy fetish) and realize I’ve been looking for Dylan McKay (or Jordan Catalano, or Ben Covington) my entire life. Let’s be real; it’s that edge keeps things interesting. Bad boys are all about the edge, and that’s why I want them.
Probably the first movie I ever saw and enjoyed to the point of still having fantasies about its various entanglements months later was "Dirty Dancing." I wasn’t even out of elementary school at the time and probably shouldn’t have been having these feelings, but Johnny Castle made my pulse flutter. Decades later, he still does. Post-"90210," I was obsessed with "Buffy" -- OBSESSED -- and would argue how though I loved her with Angel (I mean, he wasn’t all bad, really), I preferred when he was Angelus. He was exponentially hotter without a soul.
“But it’s the same actor…”
“Doesn’t matter, he’s hotter.”
The creators of "Buffy" threw us the ultimate curve ball when Buffy had sex with broody Angel for the first time and he turned into a soulless fiend. Suddenly, he was trying to kill all her friends, but he was also wearing these ridiculously hot leather pants EVERYWHERE. I just couldn’t get enough. Most disturbing was how his character totally flipped -- how after all this buildup, there’s this one moment of “perfect happiness” followed by him becoming someone else. In real life, we may not have vampires and gypsy curses, but we’ve all been with that guy. Some of us may be with him right now.
And chances are, it’s that guy that I keep looking for time and again because of spending my formative years being obsessed with television and movie bad boys. Our personal “Mr. Big,” so to speak. The guy I’ll always chosen over Aiden, no matter what my friends say.
The Ben vs. Noel conundrum is one that my friends and I argue about to this day. If Angela Chase, Brenda Walsh or Buffy Summers didn’t shape my view of dating forever, Felicity Porter absolutely did. Noel was the idealist vision of romance -- one that many of us couldn’t appreciate because we can’t allow ourselves to believe he exists.
Ben wasn’t exactly bad in the way that, say, Angelus was; but like so many of the other aforementioned bad boys, he was broody, thoughtless, often incredibly narcissistic. He was also a little bit too sexy. I know where that gets me. Even when they were together in the most intimate of ways, he was still somehow just a wee bit unavailable, which obviously made Felicity insane. And I totally got that, too.
All the other TV bad-boy triangles always involved a foregone conclusion, but the Ben/Felicity/Noel one was a pivotal point for those of us who follow the Dylan trajectory. Felicity could have gone either way and would have had fan support, and her choices represented were two very real I’ve-been-there archetypes: the sweet guy who adores you or the sort-of-maybe-not-that-into-you (but then again, sometimes he really, really is!) boy you can’t get out of your mind. Obviously, this choice isn’t just about the guy -- it’s about the girl making the choice. Each type has their distinct appeal, and I totally got why she went with Ben in the end. It’s where I would have gone, too.
Dylan, Brandon, Ben, Jordan -- especially Angel! -- they were all tortured souls. They were broody, they were bad boys, but there was something in them. Something that always made the heroine come back for more, against the advice of her friends, Jim Walsh, tape-recorder Sally, or her own better judgment. Something I can strongly identify with.
For anyone checking out the latest "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie installation, consider too, Raphael. I was never attracted to him (he IS a turtle that lives in a sewer, after all), but he was, too, part of the Dylan trajectory in his own time. He’s moody, he sort of disappears at night to roam the streets, but he has totally sexy ninja skills, no?
Bad boys are sexy, and Luke Perry’s brooding Dylan with his poetry reading and love of motorcycles started me on my path to ruin. Remember this later tonight as you are texting your best friend, crying about how you really want to meet a nice guy but keep chasing after the ones that treat you like garbage. You aren’t alone, and if the eternal TV paradigm is any indication, it’s a truth that isn’t changing any time soon.