Sex on TV: Undercover Lovers
As long as I’ve been watching TV (basically since I was in utero), the nerd always eventually landed the girl of his dreams. Taking it on back to the days of The O.C., we had Seth, a comic book geek with a Jew-fro and a passion for two things: the band Rooney and Summer Roberts. Summer, mastering all three necessary ‘p’s—pretty, popular, and pint-sized—saw Seth as an untouchable in the caste system where she was God. And what happens? She gives in to her forbidden crush and starts hooking up with Seth in secret. She’s too mortified to admit to anyone that they’re together, and he’s too enthralled to be getting some from his dream girl on the reg to say otherwise. That is, until their relationship is discovered—and they end up realizing they’re perfect for one another, regardless of social order.
But let’s be honest here, show of hands, who here would kick Adam Brody out of their bed? Take Hollywood’s version of “the underdog” both on the big and small screens—eg. Penn Badgley on Gossip Girl, Zack Gilford on Friday Night Lights, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer, and Jesse Eisenberg in every movie he’s ever been in. I wouldn’t hide my relationship with any of them. Still, the storyline rings vaguely familiar to most of us: an unexplained attraction to someone outside your candidate bubble. A bubble dictated by a social circle or self-declared type, in which leaving said bubble will result in excommunication, social suicide, internal bleeding, and probably death. In all actuality, a departure from the norm would probably only warrant the raising of an eyebrow or two, but the consequences seem so much more serious in the moment. So you’re faced with two options: shun your rising desire, publically bash the object of your lust just to cover yourself, and drown your closeted feelings in films featuring the above storylines that will only cut deeper into your tormented soul. Or, start hooking up on the down low.
So there I am watching New Girl—specifically Schmidt and CeeCee, who are sleeping together but keeping it secret by sneaking around (check out the clip above to see for yourself). After all, she has a reputation to maintain and he uses hair chutney. We feigned surprise over their coupling (but she’s a model! And he has driving moccasins!), but in the end, we can’t really be too grossed out. How often does the underdog get the hot girl? Uh, try every time. It’s a basic Hollywood formula: (circle one in each category) Mathlete/Video Gamer/Undisclosed Social Reject But Very Quiet Guy + Hot/Popular/Talented/Charitable Girl + Prom/Impending College Departure/Big Football Game/High School Cafeteria at lunch = Underdog Will Somehow Get The Girl And We’ll Fall Asleep Dreaming Of Our Very Own Loser To Publically Declare His Love And Live Happily-Ever-Through-The-Credits. Schmidt and CeeCee will probably follow in the same vein, demolishing their societal differences like the Berlin Wall, announcing to viewers that their love can survive in the open, even if he calls his car a Manbulance.
But I’ll put it out there: I’m Lauren and I’ve crushed on a guy outside my “social caste” (in full disclosure, I’d say I fall somewhere between local backyard wrestling champion and ‘Elite’ Yelp reviewer). And instead of quelling my desire in fear of social retaliation, I started hooking up with him in secret. Few of my friends knew and I preferred it that way. I won’t lie, feeling socially superior to him was part of the attraction. But the majority, much like CeeCee feels towards Schmidt, was general attraction, even if I couldn’t explain it, excellent chemistry, and the fact that his nonsense made me laugh. Except Hollywood never addresses the fine print: sometimes there are very real consequences to spending your days with the blinds down, playing video games. Sometimes a social outcast is an outcast for a reason: because they’re socially awkward. Sometimes they’re too busy to sweep you off your feet in front of your entire school at prom because there’s a Magic: The Gathering convention the same weekend. So did I feel bad about keeping him on the down low? Yeah, I did. But did I feel a lot better when HE dumped ME for a girl he met in a MMPORPG chat room? You bet your ass I did.
Lauren Mann works in The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s Entertainment Media department. She’s been blogging about sex, love and relationships among twenty-somethings since she first joined the Campaign as an intern in 2009. Check out her personal blog at whatjewtalkingbout.tumblr.com.