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Oliver Trask: Sneaky Fucker

Sneaky FuckerWhile we await a new episode of The OC, I offer this for your consideration: Oliver Trask is a sneaky fucker. This is not a generic judgment about his propensity for prevarication; rather, it is a hypothesis about his place in the reproductive hierarchy of the show. "Sneaky fucker" is a phrase first used in this context by evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith. He was describing males who, despite their subordinate status, manage to get some.

Ryan is, obviously, the alpha male in this teen drama. He's a taciturn young man—he doesn't bust out in raucous pant-hoots, nor does he engage in any ostentatious chest-pounding—but he has a commanding physical presence, and he's always a twitch away from punching somebody in the face. If he were an orangutan or a chimpanzee, he would have free and abundant access to the females of his troop.

While Oliver has status derived from wealth, the heir to a hotel fortune just doesn't emit the the hot, hot pheremones of a ripped working-class kid with a history of violence. Thus, in order to get access to the ladies, he must strategize. Ryan might lock horns with the simian Luke and win, but he cannot outwit the wily Oliver.

What is Oliver's primary weapon? Feminine pity. While Marissa trusts that Ryan can take care of himself, she believes that Oliver needs her sympathy and her care. It's an ignoble tactic, to be sure, but a powerful one. Oliver's greatest strength is, paradoxically, his willingness to appear utterly helpless. When Ryan finally hauls off and splits Oliver's lip, Marissa isn't impressed by the brute power of her man; she's horrified by the damage done to the frail Oliver.

In a recent posting, I passed along my pal Griffin's suggestion that Oliver is, in fact, a girl—and not just any girl, but a bad girl, a girl like 90210's magnificently evil Valerie. I still find this characterization compelling. By suggesting that Oliver is a sneaky fucker, I am not refuting this depiction; I am, instead, adding another layer.

Oliver Trask, certainly, occupies a space somewhere between the feminine and masculine ideals. Neither precisely male nor precisely female, he works both sides. In closing, I ask: Did you notice, in the scenes from the next episode, how small his gun is?

February 5, 2004 | Permalink

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