In Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, American cultural critic Chuck Klosterman famously observed that women “love Lloyd Dobler.” His words refer to John Cusack’s character in the iconic 1989 Cameron Crowe-directed romance flick Say Anything, and his point is that Cusack’s sweet, offbeat, semi-nerd stylings set an impossibly high standard for any of us would-be daters. Over two decades later, dating rituals may have changed, but ladies still love Lloyd. Here’s how courtship according to Dobler compares with romance in the real world.
Onscreen Lloyd Dobler isn’t afraid to go after what he wants, and what he wants is Diane Court, a “brain trapped in the body of a game-show hostess.” What does he do? He finds her phone number in the local directory, calls her up and asks her out. Classic, simple and direct.
Off-screen You add him to Facebook. He noncommittally asks for your number over an online chat. You get a text from him a week later and all it says is “What R U up to?”
Onscreen Lloyd drives over to Diane’s house to pick her up. He rings the doorbell and even chats casually with her dad before she comes downstairs. When he sees her in a gorgeous white dress, he lets her know how beautiful she is with just one word: “Whoa.”
Off-screen He asks you to meet him at a local bar. He rides his bike there, so he shows up sweaty, dishevelled and late. Then, at the end of the night, you end up footing the bill.
THE GRAND ROMANTIC GESTURE
Onscreen It’s one of the most legendary romance scenes of all time: Lloyd and Diane break up, but at dawn, Lloyd shows up outside Diane’s house, holding a boombox over his head and blasting their song (Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”) in the hopes of winning her back.
Off-screen Pulling a romantic stunt like that today? He must be a stalker. Call the cops.
Andrew Wallace: Forget Lloyd Dobler. Here are four ”real” iconic movie men.
1. Rick Blaine, Casablanca
The American Film Institute ranks Humphrey Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema and his portrayal of Rick Blaine in Casablanca is one of the main reasons why. The character is iconic and the performance is vintage. Bogart’s Blaine is stylish, simple and direct, a terse man who says what he means and means what he says. In a fedora and trench coat, with a never-ending cigarette hanging from his lips, he delivers a line for the ages: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
2. James Bond, Every James Bond Flick Ever Made
No matter who plays 007, be it Roger Moore, Sean Connery or even Daniel Craig, Bond, James Bond, is always debonair, confident and deadly handsome. Instead of Cusack’s endearing earnestness, Bond offers an irresistible charm that makes women swoon, and gets him both in and out of any situation he pleases. He likes his vodka martinis shaken, not stirred, and his favourite meal is as ruthlessly utilitarian as the man himself: scrambled eggs served with coffee. In the high-stakes world of international espionage, there’s simply no room for boys.
3. Noah Calhoun, The Notebook
Sure, Ryan Gosling’s Noah Calhoun has a little more Dobler in him than the rest, but he’s still a real man. A small-town boy working at a local lumber mill, he chases after a beautiful girl from a wealthy family spending the summer in Seabrook. He writes a letter to her everyday for an entire year, refusing to let their love die. His grand romantic gesture puts Cusack’s to shame: he rebuilds an entire house in hopes it will reunite him with his lost love. The best part—it does.
4. Don Draper, Mad Men
Jon Hamm’s Don Draper is a throw back to a bygone era. He drinks too much, smokes too much and follows his baser impulses too much—but he’s also brilliant, value-driven and thoroughly masculine. Here’s a man who won’t be denied. And despite his inability to reconcile his morals and his desires, there’s something unmistakably captivating about his presence. In 2009, Ask Men named him the most influential man in America, topping real-life figures like Barack Obama. He’s just that powerful.
Read why Briony Smith laments the lack of male initiative and Andrew Wallace defends a dying breed of good guys in “The demise of dating: Two writers on what has happened and who’s to blame” in ELLE Canada’s June issue.