The actor Luke Perry, whose performance as Dylan McKay in the TV show Beverly Hills 90210 was an early ’90s cultural phenomenon, has died aged 52. Emily Writes pays tribute.
Luke Perry, aka Dylan McKay, was my first love.
There was no separating Luke from Dylan. He was Dylan. Wearing a white shirt and leather jacket, painfully cool, he sat by my bed in poster form. The paper had small smudges where I had become overcome and pashed him.
Being a teenager is nightmarish but Dylan McKay somehow made it easier. He was “psyched” about everything but somehow his excitability just made him cooler at a time when being psyched about anything seemed a bit over the top.
He sold the absolute falsehood that you would be cool in high school. That you’d somehow do very little schooling and mostly just make out and ride around in cars with boys.
One day you’d get a man like Dylan and after the prom you’d make sweet love. You’d save him from his fledgling alcohol addiction.
Instead you likely lost your virginity to Sam while your uncle played ping pong in the room next door. I don’t know your circumstances, I’m just saying.
But we forgave Luke Perry for selling us this fantasy because it helped us to escape just for a little while from what being a teenager was really like.
And he was woke before anybody was woke. He was a bad boy but he knew being a bad boy was about sneaking booze into the Peach Pit and not being dodgy about consent.
He was a perfect role model for the boys our age, especially where I grew up in Australia, where they mostly viewed girls as somehow less than human.
When Kelly was date-raped, Dylan was the voice of reason. Consider how much this needed to be heard in the ’90s from the most popular guy at school (even though he was never at school – did he go to school?)
Dylan: Can I say something? I mean, I know the last thing you need right now is another guy telling you what to do or what to think.
Kelly: Go ahead, please.
Dylan: You’re blaming yourself for leading that guy on, but I want you to know as a guy it doesn’t matter how much of a magnet a girl turns on. A guy always has a choice of not making her do something she doesn’t want to do.
Kelly: I didn’t make that choice very easy, now did I?
Dylan: Yeah, you did. You said no.
He taught the snobs at 90210 about classism. His dad was in jail, his mum was a mess, he was broke and had to maybe deal drugs. Brenda couldn’t understand this but it did lead to the line that has imprinted in my brain forever because I thought it was so romantic.
Brenda: Like your friends. Brandon loves you, all the guys think that you’re totally cool. I mean every girl I know would love to go out with you.
Dylan: Every girl. But one.
I had braces, acne, a haircut that I’d hoped would make me look like Jennifer Aniston but instead made me look like I had a comb-over. I was far more like Andrea than Brenda but I believed he could be saying this about me. I willed myself to believe it.
Dylan was so cool that nobody else on 90210 could compare. When my only friend who had insisted Brandon was hotter came out as strictly les a few years later I felt validated. No boy could compete with Dylan. He sparked a deep-seated obsession with bad boys in the hearts of many girls and boys – one that would lead to broken hearts and disappointing sexual encounters. But again, we could never blame Luke Perry. It wasn’t his fault he was so cool, born to play the coolest guy in school.
And then suddenly we all had jobs and there was a hole in the ozone layer so we stopped living as children, and we stopped pining for Dylan.
And then, just as suddenly as he’d entered our teenage lives, he returned triumphant – as a DILF.
The show Riverdale is a hot mess but I will love it forever for basically being 90210 in 2019. The diner, Pop’s, is the Peach Pit. Nobody seems to go to school. Everyone is having sex. And just to make you feel not creepy about watching a show about teens having sex when you’re in your 30s, they bought in Luke Perry as Fred Andrews, Archie’s father.
It was perfect casting. Luke Perry as a hot dad banging Riverdale mums was exactly what we needed in these troubled times.
He was the dad we wanted our husbands to be, endlessly patient with Archie and his ridiculous antics. But he also had a dark past, just like Dylan – one he was trying to protect his idiot son from.
He was Dylan as a dad and it was a joy to watch. A full circle.
Luke Perry was an actor who has been an integral part of the sexual awakening and reawakening of so many.
It’s heartbreaking that he is gone so soon. The swagger, the hair, the sideburns, the perpetually troubled look like he just needs you to fix him…. He set the mould for the TV bad boy and nobody ever really lived up to it.
Hopefully he’s back at the Peach Pit, making panties drop at the mere sight of those expressive eyebrows and that double denim. Or at Pop’s wondering why teenagers have the ability to run a bar underneath an ice cream parlour but also causing all the yoga mums to hope menopause holds off long enough for one elicit encounter with Fred.
Rest In Peace Luke Perry.
Thank you for that Vanity Fair cover from 1992 that made my dad so uncomfortable I couldn’t put it on my wall.
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Thank you for Dylan and Fred and for making us believe we can heal bad boys even if this leads to a life of frustration and stunted emotional growth.
You brought light into the lives of many darkened bedrooms decorated in Teen Hits posters. You understood us when our parents didn’t. When our boyfriends didn’t. And then somehow you returned to us again to be a fantasy for us, away from Lego-strewn floors and endless after school activities.
Thank you for it all.
Enjoy the waves in Baja.
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