I’ve made NO bones about how deeply I love a value the Primetime Teen Soap as a genre. I think it’s a wonderful, special style of storytelling that’s meant a great deal to a lot of people over the past three decades, and I think it gets undersold, because most of those people were girls when they fell in love with those shows, and as a culture we force girls to disown the things they liked as girls when they become women, while boys get “grown up” versions of their shit when they become men.
But that’s another point entirely. (And Ms. Shonda Rhimes, queen of my heart, did quite a bit to change this.)
It’s kind of impossible to overstate how important Luke Perry is to this genre, and how heartwarming and kind of sad the past few days of love outpouring for him and his work have been. While I’m immensely glad that the general cultural consensus is that Luke Perry’s performance as Dylan McKay was iconic and perfect, (Seriously, I rewatched the first few seasons last year, and he’s insanely good.) I hate that it took Perry dying for the entertainment media to get around to talking about it.
The time to talk about Luke Perry and Dylan McKay was goddamn every time there was a criticism of shows and movies aimed at teen girls having shitty love interests. It was whenever a show flailed after losing a key cast member, especially when said cast member was integral to a love polygon. “This has been done before, nearly perfectly, MODEL AFTER IT!”
And it was certainly time to talk about Luke Perry and Dylan McKay, two years ago, when Riverdale premiered and everyone who remembered him was so deeply and profoundly happy to see him again as Fred Andrews. (Honestly casting iconic teens as the parents was a masterstroke on that show’s part.) And it did start then. It’s certainly why I revisited Beverly Hills: 90210, and I’m sure it’s not a small part of why he got cast in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, the new Quentin Tarantino movie. (Also, because dude was a really good actor.)
Anyway, I just don’t want us to sleep on other icons of this genre so that this happens again, that we forget to appreciate what they did for us while they were here. I send you light and love, James Vanderbeek & Joshua Jackson. I think you’re both quite talented and handsome. James Lafferty and Sophia Bush deserve all the goodness in the world. Don’t you dare disappear after Gotham, Ben McKenzie, we need your broody sneers! I hope Blake Lively and her beautiful perfect skinned children thrive, and Leighton Meister becomes the coolest of the cool indie girls. And especially to the cast of Beverly Hills: 90210, thank you. Seriously, it’s unfathomable that the world doesn’t give you and the show you helped form the credit it deserves. It was a wonderful, deeply special piece of our pop culture landscape, and I’m forever grateful for the way you inhabited those kids with dignity, intelligence and fun.
And Rest in Peace Luke Perry. Seriously, your work was incredible, and you will be missed. Thank you.