Actor Ben McKenzie is best known for his portrayal of Ryan Atwood, the brooding kid delivered from the streets of Chino to a pool house in Newport Beach, California, on The O.C. But lately, the self-described former teen idol has been making headlines as a cryptocurrency critic — a curiosity that sprung up for McKenzie during the pandemic and is now the basis of a book with journalist Jacob Silverman. While McKenzie has been digging into the risks of unregulated markets, his work has raised a number of serious questions, including: What would Ryan Atwood think? Here, the show’s main characters are ranked by how interested they’d be in today’s web3 world.
Full-on Crypto Bros
It should be obvious that Seth makes NFTs. Even Josh Schwartz and Adam Brody agree.
Along with minting illustrations of the characters from his comic, Atomic County, as well as making a series of Captain Oats and Princess Sparkle NFTs, Seth sells the entirety of the Seth Cohen Starter Pack as an NFT. Thanks to the anonymity of the blockchain, Seth does not realize that Zach Stevens owns the Seth Cohen Starter Pack. After all these years, Zach still thinks about Summer and hasn’t fully gotten over her leaving him at the airport like that. But thanks to all of this, Seth has finally been able to purchase a large enough sailboat to make it to Tahiti. It’s obviously named Summer Breeze II.
Looking to keep busy now that her youngest, Sophie, is out of the house, Kirsten revives NewMatch, the dating service she and Julie once owned. This time, following Seth’s advice, she brings NewMatch to the blockchain, assured that this is more secure and will prevent her humble company from once again devolving into an escort service. Users on NewMatch can also purchase NFT avatars and use NewCoin to pay for and unlock the ability to get more matches at once. It is very successful among the Silicon Valley set, and she ends up selling it to an investor for a stupid amount of real U.S. dollars.
With the windfall from the sale of NewMatch, Kirsten then starts a second business to address California’s housing crisis. Unfortunately, this does not involve building any housing. Instead, inspired by her and Sandy’s early relationship, she refurbishes old mail trucks for people to live in.
Taylor was girlbossing and gatekeeping before we even had the words to describe it. She definitely works in politics, though she had to take an extended break after being personally devastated post-Hillary 2016. She now advises progressive candidates to be bullish on crypto, helps arrange political fundraisers for insiders to raise funds in crypto, and she’s published a number of op-eds on why politicians should embrace crypto. While she’d never admit it, as she’s had years of therapy to overcome her attachment issues, she is of course doing all of this in the wild hope that she’ll get Ryan’s attention.
Jimmy Cooper is constitutionally unable to avoid a get-rich-quick scheme, no matter how many times it fails and he gets his ass kicked over it. Still, he has held up his promise to Marissa that he would never return to Newport after ruining his and his family’s life multiple times. After many years of absence, fading from memory even among the people who loved him most, Jimmy reappears with a Tweet. Once again the victim of both his own hubris and the cruelties of a hypercapitalist society that promises a deliverance only achieved through the accumulation of wealth, he reaches out into the void with a simple plea: “All my apes gone. Please help me.”
Sandy always embodied that early 2000s, pre-recession ethos that it is totally fine to be personally very wealthy as long as you are also sort of skeptical of other wealthy people and do something “good” that is only minimally disruptive to your lifestyle. Like — hey! — taking a down-on-his-luck kid from Chino under your wing and into your pool house.
Still, we love Sandy. So, much like when he traded being a public defender for working at a private firm, Sandy makes a personal bargain wherein he is somewhat morally compromised but still gets to enjoy the spoils of his family’s digital wealth. Somehow, this still does not tarnish his reputation nor his self-image as an outsider who is generally above all that.
Also, being a very supportive dad, Sandy buys one of Seth’s NFTs, which he prints out and frames. Seth makes fun of him incessantly for this, arguing that this is the opposite of the point. Sandy definitely says “nonfungible” in the same way he says “yogalates.”
Until season four, Katilin’s primary contribution is being the disappointed owner of a pony with alopecia, one of the many cards out of which the house of Cooper is built. She later returns from boarding school a bit of a troublemaker but, much like her mom Julie, is finding her way by the end of the series. Still, Kaitlin always loved being the center of attention — she’d probably end up living in L.A. and definitely would be an Instagram influencer. The guys she dates are into crypto and so she is passively interested, just so she can find the next richest one. She’s still her mother’s daughter, after all.
Luke lives through no less than seven major storylines, just one of which would cause a person to engage in some serious self-reflection. Puka-shell-necklace-loving Luke has a veritable metamorphosis.
So, while the Luke we last see in season two is not the same “Welcome to the O.C., bitch” Luke we first meet, he remains, canonically, a little bit stupid. After high school in Portland, he moves to Seattle and is peripherally involved in the tech scene, probably in marketing or something. His friends are really into crypto — some of them have even made a lot of money — and he feels like they are smart people so they must be right. Right?
Luke has tried several times to read more about how the blockchain works, but if he’s being honest he doesn’t really get it. His kids have also explained it to him and still it’s not sticking. This does not stop him from buying into Elon Musk’s meme coins, which turn out to be a bad investment. He would be more disappointed, but he also lost the password to his wallet so it doesn’t matter anyway.
A definite no. In the final season, Summer becomes an outspoken environmentalist and gets temporarily suspended from Brown after she sets some lab rabbits free. She later gets involved with G.E.O.R.G.E., an organization dedicated to reducing carbon emissions, and travels the country staging protests and lecturing students.
Today, Summer would be very concerned about the catastrophic effects crypto mining has on the climate. While she and Seth are still married, his breakout into NFTs is definitely causing a strain in their relationship. Summer lectures him frequently about how he’s destroying the planet and urges him to read the latest IPCC report. When Seth tries to change her mind, she replies, “Get over yourself, Cohen.”
Julie Cooper’s lived experience of having been through the ruin of her first husband’s fraudulent business, and then being married to and the widow of Caleb Nicol, will have made her skeptical of dubiously earned wealth and volatile currency. While it’s hard to ignore that both of the men in her vaguely polyamorous relationship — The Bullit and Frank Atwood — would absolutely be members of Mar-a-Lago at best, she’s otherwise thriving and working in like, “holistic arts.” She just doesn’t need this!
Like his real-world counterpart, Ryan would also be majorly skeptical of cryptocurrency. By the end of the series we see Ryan, now an architect, about to take on a Sandy Cohen-esque role for a downtrodden kid who looks much like he once did. Ryan was and is a sort of champion for the vulnerable; crypto would seem to him like just another way for the already rich to enrich themselves, leaving everyday people susceptible to major losses in a speculative market.
Eager to combat the hype, Ryan starts a newsletter chronicling the downsides of cryptocurrency. He gains a fairly large following and, with that, a number of haters who hope he “has fun staying poor.” It doesn’t bother him in the least, though, because you know what Ryan Atwood likes about rich kids? Nothing.
I just don’t see it. If Marissa hadn’t perished in a fiery car crash, I’d hope she’d have found the peace that long eluded her. She’d have left behind Newport and dedicated herself to a simpler way of life. Maybe she’d live in Ojai and be a Cali sober yoga instructor. When she found herself overcome with bad feelings, she’d deal with them constructively, taking a moment to meditate instead of flipping chairs into her pool.
Cryptocurrency proponents tout its many legitimate use cases and economic benefits but, while illegal activity represents a small percentage of all crypto transactions, proponents of doing crimes still have found a lot of crimes to do. As one of Newport’s most unscrupulous residents, Caleb Nichol would’ve loved crypto. Think of how much more discreetly he could’ve sent secret child support to his secret daughter! And when he had to pay off zoning board officials so he could destroy some wetlands by developing them? He could’ve made transactions from multiple wallets, making it that much harder for Sandy to trace! Seth is just lucky Caleb isn’t around to surreptitiously turn the Atomic County NFTs into a criminal enterprise.