What I Did For Lloyd
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Two Valentine's Days ago, in the Style section, it was discussed at great length why women still think about Jake Ryan -- the cool-mannered, Porsche-driving, completely fictional hunk from the 1984 teen flick "Sixteen Candles." Then came the e-mail. Women (and some men) wrote in for months, mostly affirming this fantasy. One dreamer in Dallas talked about the lady down the street with toddler sons named Jake and Ryan. There was much linking and blogging. Even now, once in a while, Google will lead the Jakelorn our way. A New York documentary filmmaker came by last summer and set up lights and rearranged furniture and interviewed me -- she was making an entire movie about Jake Ryan.
"But what about," she finally asked, "Lloyd Dobler?"
Because, it turns out, for every one woman with a residual Jake Ryan thing there are maybe 100 with a persistent Lloyd Dobler fetish. Those women wrote in, too, extolling the character played by John Cusack in the 1989 movie "Say Anything": "How oblivious can you be," went a typical harangue. "Jake is plastic. Lloyd Dobler is God."
Heaps of devotional words have been written about Lloyd Dobler. The early stages of a popularized Internet seemed to exist for people to make Lloyd Dobler references, and Lloyd Dobler tribute pages that linger ("Last updated on July 1, 1997"). There's a fairly successful Wheaton-based band called the Lloyd Dobler Effect, which has toured forever. (Sadly, a Hootie and the Blowfish comparison in a review of the Lloyd Dobler Effect's work prevents us from going any further.)
Anyhow, here is your sequel, '80s ladies: Lloyd Dobler rules over Jake Ryan.
* * *
"Say Anything," which like all Saturday cable movies became a hit only in hindsight, was directed by backdoor zeitgeister Cameron Crowe, who sometimes nails it, especially about loners and rogues. In it, Lloyd Dobler has just graduated from a Seattle high school, class of '88. He is fond of wearing a tan wool trenchcoat, a Clash T-shirt and sweat pants with high-top sneakers. He drives a beat-up Chevy Malibu. He is in love with kickboxing, which he calls the "sport of the future," and more than that, he is in love with Diane Court (played by Ione Skye).
She is the smartest, perhaps prettiest girl in school, who is about to go to England on what in movieland passes for a Rhodes scholarship. She wears flowers in her hair or funky vintage-store '80s girl hats. She has a problem, as present-day screenings of "Say Anything" now demonstrate, with VPL (visible panty line), as did so many of her peers back then, before thongs. She has never given one single thought to Lloyd Dobler, until she does.
And so goes the love story: Diane assigns huge, symbolic importance to the moment when Lloyd makes sure she doesn't step on the broken glass in a 7-Eleven parking lot. Lloyd is thoroughly devoted to Diane, in spite of the skepticism from his platonic girlfriends, who like to hang out at a guitar store. (This is a Cameron Crowe conceit: Seattle chicks hanging out in guitar stores, writing post-punk songs about bad boyfriends, just before the grunge era.)
"You're not a guy," one of the chicks tells Lloyd. "The world is full of guys. Be a man, don't be a guy."
So he was a man. He writes a letter to Diane and says he loves her. She breaks up with him and gives him a pen. A gloomy montage later, he is standing on Diane's street in the predawn, trying to get her to love him.
In lore, he will be forever holding his boombox tape player high above his head, solemnly blasting the Peter Gabriel ballad "In Your Eyes." That's his song, their song. She chooses him in the end, mostly because her father is convicted for tax fraud.