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6 Ways The O.C. Changed the World

No show perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the early 2000s like The O.C

Sadie Gennis

No television show has perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the early 2000s like The O.C.For one hour each week, the world stopped as the Newport drama unfolded before us. Of course, the world didn't actually stop, as my unfinished homework would always attest, but the world was changing.

It's been years since The O.C. premiered on Aug. 5, 2003, yet we're still reaping the benefits of the Fox drama. So before you go lamenting how "it just wasn't the same after Marissa died," remember all the good The O.C. brought into the world and be thankful. Here are six ways The O.C. changed the world.

1. It made indie music mainstream: It might be hip to like bands "before they were cool," but in the early 2000s that didn't matter. There was nothing cooler than when your favorite band was featured on The O.C. Because while indie music might be mainstream now, back then most people's idea of alternative was Avril Lavigne.

The show's soundtracks became an integral part of the experience and often were key to shaping the story lines, a practice creator Josh Schwartz exercised since the show's inception. When writing the pilot, Schwartz admitted he started with the song "Honey and Moon" by Joseph Arthur, which capped the episode, and worked his way backwards.
The O.C. cast: Where are they now?

2. It popularized the term "The O.C.": Unless you were from Orange County, you probably had no idea the area wasn't actually called the O.C. At least no one called it that until the Cohen family came and made the abbreviation a global phenomenon. 

3. Chrismukkah: In Season 1, Seth introduced a holiday that would change lives forever: Chrismukkah. For those of us with one Jewish parent, this was a revelation. Yes, there have obviously been joint Christmas-Chanukkah celebrations long before the Cohen family, but now they had a name (and cute little Santa yarmulkes)! More importantly, The O.C. showed an interfaith marriage in which no one had to sacrifice their religion in order to create a beautiful, blended family.


Adam Brody, The O.C.


4. It helped usher in meta TV: For a teen soap, The O.C. was surprisingly postmodern. The series was filled with self-referential humor and pop culture references that didn't come off insufferably out of touch (probably because Schwartz was only 26 when it premiered). Not to mention the show-within-a-show The Valley and Seth's comic book Atomic County, which took self-reference to a whole new level. And though meta TV became very common on broadcast TV (30 Rock, Supernatural, Arrested Development), in 2003, it was much more of a rarity.

5. It gave us Laguna Beach and Real Housewives:While The O.C.'s legacy is practically perfect, it has one questionable consequence: Speidi. Inspired by The O.C.'s popularity, Orange County became the new TV hot spot, giving us the reality knock-off Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, which lead to the Heidi and Spencer-starring spin-off The Hills. And don't forget The Real Housewives franchise, which premiered its first edition Orange Countyin spring 2006.

6. It made geeks sexy: Brooding (and bulky) bad boy Ryan Atwood was supposed to be the star of The O.C. So imagine the surprise when the majority of viewers started hanging up pictures of the neurotic and nerdy Seth Cohen instead. Seth was an outcast music savant with an obsession for comic books, but the fact that no one in Newport seemed to appreciate him only made him that much more desirable. Suddenly there were girls who typically preferred Cosmo wishing Seth Cohen had given them The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for Chrismukkah and searching for Death Cab for Cutie on Limewire instead of Matchbox 20.

The O.C. is available to stream on HBO Max.