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How Good Can It Be: An Essay on Ryan/Seth [The OC

Title: How Good Can It Be: An Essay on Ryan/Seth
Fandom: The OC
Pairing: Ryan/Seth
Author: SA
Email: sa @
Spoilers: For the first season.

Ah, the OC. It was one of those fandoms I never expected to get into, but once you watch, you can't help but get hooked on the life and times of Newport Beach, California. There's a small pool of pairings here, and the fic mostly focuses on the kids; of that, Ryan/Seth is undoubtedly the most popular pairing in fandom, and no wonder. It fits into all the classic slots for a beloved slash pairing: two guys that changed each others' lives, living and working in the same space, and, of course, falling in love. (Or at least having sex.)

The Show

The premise of the OC is classic soap opera. Take a kid from the wrong side of the streets, and put him in the rich, crazy, and occasionally nasty world of rich upper-class society. The first half of the season concentrates on Ryan (the outsider) being incorporated into the life of the Cohens (the family that adopts him), and the lives of the people in the Cohen's immediate social circle. The second half brings in more of Ryan's past while still pushing forward the storylines that focus on the Newport scene. The show has concluded its first season, and is now going into its second. This essay will only cover the first season, as I'm in the UK and have no access to the second.

Ryan Atwood: Seriously? I stole a car. Crashed it.
Actually, my brother did. Since he had a gun and drugs on him,
he's in jail. I got out and my mom threw me out. Because she was
pissed off and drunk. And Mr. Cohen took me in.

Marissa Cooper: You're the cousin from Boston, right?

Ryan Atwood: Right.

The Characters

Ryan Atwood is a sixteen-year-old kid who got caught trying to steal a car with his brother Trey; he got thrown into juvy and was released by Sandy Cohen, his lawyer. After his mom threw him out of their house, Ryan ran out of people to call and so finally fell back on Sandy. Sandy took him in, and by the fourth episode ("The Debut") the Cohens have claimed guardianship of Ryan, making him a member of their family. He enrolls in private school, joins the soccer team, and starts dating the girl next door.

Seth Cohen considered himself exiled in a Gap ad until Ryan came along. He's a hipster geek, sporting t-shirts covered with eclectic artists, living off his iPod, and dropping references to Rooney and other recent indie/hipster bands every other sentence. He has an untamed love for comic books, sailing, and Summer Roberts. From his own accounts, he had no life and no friends before Ryan arrived--unless you count Captain Oats, his childhood toy horse.

Ryan/Seth is a great, vibrant pairing that almost takes over the screen on the show. Their friendship is a constant theme throughout the first season that lasts despite various girls, psychopaths, and family marriages. They play off each other well, go to each other for advice or companionship, and are just generally cute with each other. Whether you view this relationship in a romantic/sexual context or not, there is a strong connection between the two characters that is tangible onscreen.

Luke Ward: What are you looking at, you queer?

Seth: quietly Yeah, well at least I don't shave my chest.

Luke: What did you just say?

Seth: I said you look good in a sweater vest. It was a compliment.

The Episodes

There's pretty decent sub-textual support for the Seth/Ryan pairing. They banter a lot, especially in the latter half of the season when Ryan finally starts opening up to the Cohens and trusting them. I'm not going to quote from all twenty-seven episodes, but here's the highlights.

"The Model Home"
Ryan: I didn't tell her anything. I think the black turtleneck in August tipped her off.

Seth: Okay, I was going for stealth. And also it's slimming.

In this episode, Kirsten Cohen wants Ryan to leave because she thinks he's a troublemaker. As Ryan is trying to go on his own, Seth gets an idea and instead helps him sneak into a model home that his mother is working on.

"The Debut"
Ryan: panicked You didn't tell me there was dancing.

Seth: Well if I told you there was dancing, I'd be here by myself.

Ryan: Because I really don't dance.

Seth: Neither do I. I just move well.

Featuring insecurity, waltzing, and boys in tuxes!

"The Outsider"
Ryan: Your mom bought me some new clothes. Which she didn't have to do.

Seth: Right. Because we all know you can get a lot of mileage out of a tank top.

Seth: How do you feel about a little thing that I like to call... the IMAX Experience. pause. This town sucks, it's the best I could do.

Seth: United, we're unstoppable, but divided, it's like—

Ryan: People get shot.

Seth: That's what I'm saying.

Great episode for Ryan/Seth. Ryan makes some new friend, and Seth is left out. He tries asking Ryan out on a dateto the movies, and eventually he goes out with Ryan's friend Donny only to have Ryan follow him. Seth says it: they're meant to be united.

"The Escape"
Seth: What happens in Mexico stays in Mexico.

Ryan: What happens in Mexico?

Seth: I don't know, because it stays there. That's why we must go!

They take off to Mexico; originally they were just going by themselves, a last-ditch summer trip for the two of them, though it didn't turn out that way.

"The Perfect Couple"
Seth: So when you lost your virginity, I was playing Magic the Gathering.

Ryan: You still play Magic.

Seth: Yeah, but not as much.

Ryan and Seth have the Talk. Well, more "a" talk, but it's still funny.

"The Homecoming"
Ryan: Titans. What about Legion? That was kinda cooler.

Seth: The guy is in prison, man. Have you seen Oz? But, yeah, Legion was kinda cooler.

Seth: Ryan. That's extremely minty of you. I didn't even know they had musicals in Chino. I didn't even know they had dancing. Or... laughter.

Ryan: That's because no one who lived there is as funny as you.

Seth: So, we finally agree I'm the funny one. Well look at that! Looks like we all learned some valuable lessons this Thanksgiving.

Any show that references Oz has slashy points in my book. Also, Ryan did musicals, which, yay. I want to hear the boy sing.

"The Countdown"
Seth: I'm claustrophobic.

Ryan: Seth this place is huge. It has a kitchen and a bathroom.

Seth: Sh. Ryan, do not use up all the oxygen.

Ryan: You want a sandwich, a shower, we got all that here.

Seth: Ha ha ha. We're gonna die and I'm the good one.

Ryan: I sleep here every night. Three of the walls are made of windows.

Seth: Yes, which are now covered with naked dudes. We're trapped like rats.

Ryan: Yeah. Rats in an enormous pool house, by the way. Your aunt's really cool.

Seth: Yeh I know, she can be a bit unpredictable sometimes. My shirt's strangling me.

Ryan: Great, my girlfriend's kissing some guy and I'm stuck here with a lunatic.

Ryan: Well I didn't want you to be alone.

Seth: I'm not alone. I have Captain Oats and Carson Daly.

On New Year's Eve, Seth's aunt Hailey locks them in the poolhouse together for a couple hours, creating the best potential-slash moment.

"The Goodbye Girl"
Seth: What if the girl I'm supposed to be with just went back to Pittsburgh?

Ryan: What if she just went back to Chino?

Seth: Why would Anna go to Chino? *pause* Kidding.

Ryan: Nice one. Well, at least we still have each other.

Seth: Actually, I have Summer now. But I'll put a little Seth/Ryan time on the books. That's quality time.

Ryan: Thanks, buddy. You know, I could always hang out with Luke. I wonder what he's doing right now.

Seth: I don't know. Discovering fire... Hunting and gathering... maybe shaving his chest with a buck knife. Hey you could do that together.

Ryan: I did do that.

Please note the slash between Seth and Ryan.

That is all.

"The L.A."
Marissa: You're beginning to sound like Seth.

Ryan: Yeah, well, it rubs off.

As any good relationship does.

"The Proposal"
Seth: Hey, oh ... sorry. I'm surprised that hasn't happpened before. Not saying I'm disappointed it hasn't happened before just saying the mathmatical probability of ...

Ryan: Yeah, crying during chick flicks, walking in on me getting dressed ...

Seth: Yeah, what's your point? K, I'm not seeing what you're getting at? Do you work out?

Ryan: Not really.

Seth: Cool, me neither. I'm gonna go watch some hockey.

Ryan: Hockey season's over.

Seth: Damnit. Where you going?

Ryan: Gonna go find Luke. Beat the crap out of him.

Seth: Oh, where shall this can of whoop-ass be opened?

If nothing else, this episode has one of the best oblique references to Seth being gay in the first season. He's not exactly full of machismo.

"The Ties That Bind"
Seth: Ohh ... I've missed you. It's been too long.

Ryan: You're talking to a boat, Seth.

Seth: Yeah, I talk to a plastic horse, too, but that never worries anyone.

Ryan: Yeah, that's my point exactly.

Marissa: Believe me if there was something I could do, I would.

Seth: Oh, well, I think you've done enough.

Marissa: What does that mean?

Seth: I just don't even think Ryan would be back with Theresa if it wasn't for you and Oliver in the first place. Really, all you ever did, was drag that kid into your messed up life.

Seth about Ryan: He's the only friend I've ever had.

The season finale. Ah, the slashy angst in this one is so defining. In the second quote, we get bitchy!Seth abotu Ryan leaving (he returns to Chino to take care of his friend Theresa who may or may not be carrying his child), and in the third, we get sad!Seth, already missing his friend. And then pulls the ultimate slash moment: he runs away from home because if Ryan's not there, there's no reason for him to stay. Perfect.

Ryan about Grady: He's kinda like you.

Seth: What? Handsome and charming?

Ryan: No. Geeky and sarcastic.

The Links

There isn't much on the web in the way of Ryan/Seth. Most of it is concentrated on livejournal, not on fansites. But these are the links I've compiled that might be useful to someone interested in Ryan/Seth.

Official Sites
The OC on FOX
Music from the OC
TV Tome's Guide to The OC

General Fansites
The OC
OC Fanatic
The OC Files
The OC Directory
The OC Quotes

Actor Fansites
Ben McKenzie Fansite

Ryan Atwood Sites
Outsider: the Ryan Atwood Fanlisting
The OC's Finest: a Ryan Atwood Fanlisting
All About Ryan

Seth Cohen Sites
Misfit: a Seth Cohen Fansite

Divided They Fall: The Ryan/Seth Fanlisting

For an introduction to The OC as a fandom, I offer crack_van's OC Primer.

As for fanfic, well, there I can provide a bit more. These are what I consider to be the some of the best Ryan/Seth fics in the fandom, and a good starter to the show and the pairing.

Telegraph Avenue by hackthis
War Profit by torchthisnow
stop. by Elizabeth
And I See You by sdlucly
These Grown-Up Complications by callmesandy

crack_van has some seventy fics reccomended here, which is an excellent place to continue reading Ryan/Seth and OC fanfiction in general. I'm doing recs there this month, November 2004, if you'd like to check those out too.

I have a directory of OC recs, too, at my recs journal, sareads.

There's also the recent OC Fanfic Vault, a central automated archive for any and all OC fic, as well as the OC Slash Archive. And of course, there's always the fallback of the OC on

On livejournal, there's a small, thriving community for the OC. For slash, check out:


sail_to_tahiti is specifically for Ryan/Seth slash.

For general show news I would suggest:


(Those are communities of the non-scary variety.)

I hope this has given you a good introduction into the Seth/Ryan relationship. The OC is a great show, and I encourage you to watch it for its wit, feeling, and relationships. Please let me know if I've left anything off of this essay, or if there are any broken links or misinformation.
Tags: oc

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