Although separated by a few years, the iconic characters of Ryan Atwood from The O.C (2003-2005) and Toby Cavanaugh of the equally popular Pretty Little Liars (2010-2017) have eerily similar narratives. The popular characters portrayed by Benjamin McKenzie and Keegan Allen respectively share similar mysterious and ominous pasts. The characters both struggle with suspicion from their overprivileged environment and seen as troubled by their peers. Yet we can’t help but feel unwarranted sympathy for them. Both shows utilize the attractive troubled but handsome and deep male lead to draw us in. To take it one step further, these two characters share a birthday.
Ryan is a wayward kid who arrives in Orange County after a history of violent and “bad boy” behavior to live with his friend Seth (Adam Brody). He is seen as an outsider and alienated from the social scene with the exception of Seth and the beautiful Marissa (Mischa Barton). Brooding and framed by a family member for a shooting incident, Ryan’s reputation never recovers in the high society of Orange County. Misunderstood and pensive, you somehow forgive all of his mistakes and root for the character.
In addition to the character’s birthdays, their similarities include betrayal by a family member. Plus social alienation and struggling to navigate the discourse of the overprivileged society they must operate within. Toby Cavanaugh (Keegan Allen) is framed by his stepsister Jenna for sexual assault. And he’s subsequently blackmailed for a fire in his garage which causes Jenna to suffer chronic vision impairment. In light of his already tarnished reputation, the town does not hesitate to blame him for this tragedy. In a short matter of time, he is the only suspect for a murder he did not commit. Just like Ryan Atwood, he can’t escape from his dark past in an insular upscale neighborhood. Public conviction is handed down swiftly without any evidence or trial.
These two fictional characters from hit television shows share much more than a birthday. Their reputations have been tarnished, their credibility unjustly destroyed and even those they love lose trust in their word. When you write a character so incredibly captivating such as Ryan Atwood from The O.C, you can expect similar ones such as Toby Cavanaugh to emerge and be successful. The handsome bad boys with the dark pasts are always great hooks for teen drama.