When I first saw Seth Cohen 13 years ago, he was everything I wanted in a TV crush. Funny, smart, adorably geeky with an irresistible talent for sarcasm and a heart of gold, Seth was the guy who every teenage girl and her mother fell in love with when The OC premiered in summer 2003. But, looking back at the classic teen soap, I can’t help but wonder if Seth was really all that great. In fact, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that Ryan Atwood is way more crush-worthy than Seth Cohen.
Ryan Atwood started out as the bad boy from Chino who “stole a car — crashed it,” smoked and owned nothing but white tank tops and leather cuffs. In other words, he was your classic rebel without a cause. Seth, on the other hand, was like a lost puppy, just looking for a friend to play video games with and to save him from his bullied existence. It’s no wonder everyone thought Seth was so great — he wasn’t a threat. Seth was the kind of boy who would be loyal to you no matter what, and his devotion to Summer seemed to confirm that theory.
Yep, for a long time, I thought Seth was a dream boyfriend. But — and I hate to break it to you — Seth was actually kind of awful in a relationship. He couldn’t decide between Anna and Summer, so he dated both of them, causing heartbreak all around. He finally chose Anna, only to realize that she was boring AF and that he wanted to be with Summer. He abandoned Summer to sail to Tahiti and then expected her to forgive him. (Seriously, Seth, what were you thinking?) Meanwhile, Ryan saved Marissa’s life, helped convince her mother to let her go to therapy instead of shipping her off to rehab, remained friendly after she nearly got herself killed with Oliver and only left her because he thought he had impregnated his perfectly nice ex. Ryan was even willing to kill his own brother to protect the love of his life. (OK, that last one is kind of bad, but still.) In other words, where Seth was selfish in his relationships, Ryan was always loyal and giving. Ryan 1, Seth 0.
Not only was Ryan more loyal than Seth, but he was also way more reliable in a crisis. Seth might have been smart, but he tended to panic in sticky situations. Ryan, on the other hand, was a man of action. Yes, sometimes those actions — breaking Marissa out of the hospital, for example — had some pretty bad consequences. But, when the chips are down and you’re stuck in a jam, who would you rather call, Ryan or Seth? Ryan 2, Seth 0.
Was Seth Cohen the man who made nerds sexy? Sure. But you have to admit that Ryan Atwood made bad boys look pretty good.