A little over a month ago, we announced an essay contest for which we asked our readers to bare their souls on the topic of which fictional characters they’ve had crushes on. This essay, by Lana Schwartz, spoke to us the most. Congratulations Lana!
The process of falling for a fictional character can be a deeply personal experience, specific to each of us. Sometimes you develop a crush on a made-up character because they’re Dr. McDreamy levels of swoon-worthy, and sometimes without a lack of any age-appropriate males to feast your eyes on, you settle for the least threatening onscreen option available to you (to wit: I recently came to the conclusion that I harbored a small childhood crush on R2D2 because I wasn’t ready for Han Solo yet and R2 was the closest thing to a cute, funny tween in the original trilogy).
For much of my life, my crushes were guided by the former: As love-hungry monsters who are never likely to know affection quite like the movies, our onscreen crushes are often manifestations of what we want for ourselves IRL. (And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that people in movies and on TV are literally professionally attractive). Just got dumped and want to believe there are good men in the world? Then, yeah, you’re likely to form an attachment (that can vary in degrees of healthiness) to Ryan Gosling’s Noah in The Notebook. Looking for someone dark and mysterious who can introduce intrigue and sexy drama into your life? Well, then you’ll probably be into one of those hot vampire brothers from The Vampire Diaries – or maybe even both of them. From what I understand, not being able to choose between the two sexy vampire brothers is kind of the crux of the show.
For much of my life, I was predominantly enticed by said romantic dreamboats, as they gave me the hope I needed to believe that maybe there were a few good men out there, and that someday, I too might have a swoon-worthy relationship. This changed my junior year of college. I was introduced to Henry Pollard via the hilarious and all too short-lived TV show Party Down. Gamely portrayed by Adam Scott, Henry is a waiter turned actor turned waiter again with a gloomy disposition but a killer sense of humor. Henry quickly becomes romantically entangled with Casey Klein, a fellow waiter and struggling comedian.
When Party Down first aired, Henry struck me as cute and funny, certainly, but it’s in recent years and upon re-watches of the show that my crush on Henry has become a defining one for me. You see, in the years since college, I like, Casey, have become a struggling comedian. Watching Casey and Henry joke around and find ways to make their day job tolerable for the other holds a different significance. The road to any creative success is not an easy one; for most of us, it’s filled with constant roadblocks, doubts, and much time spent doing menial work you rather wouldn’t in order to survive. Having someone there who can make you laugh throughout makes all the difference. And even though Henry and Casey don’t spent a ton of time making weepy declarations of their love or engaging in mushy romantic moments, Henry shows up for Casey in the moment she needs him most. This is what love is, I think: Moments where you make someone’s life better, in both big and small ways.
To me, this makes Henry, and in turn, his relationship with Casey, more desirable than other ones I’ve seen on TV or in movies. It’s attainable. Fantasy is all well and good, but to me, seeing a model of what you might actually have someday is far more satisfying. Casey and Henry’s story isn’t fairy-tale worthy — she was married when they first met — and neither of them are perfect, but who amongst us is?
As I get older and my wants and needs continue to change, I expect that I’ll find a different onscreen crush to attach myself to. In fact, I’ve already begun to grown fond of Ralph Stilton, the cartoon mouse character romantically involved with Princess Carolyn on BoJack Horseman, who comes along exactly when Princess Carolyn least expects it and treats her with kindness and adoration. Nothing fancy, but hopefully — attainable.