December 2, 2021

How Taylor Swift Muse Dylan O’Brien Turned the Web’s Greatest Heartthrob

6 min read


In some unspecified time in the future in our media-consuming lives, all of us partake in what Letterboxd scribes check with as a “thirst watch.” It’s whenever you spend a number of hours of your life watching a movie or tv present you’d in any other case have little interest in, if not for an actor or actress you discover deeply engaging and must see doing extraordinary, scripted issues like consuming an apple or placing on a shirt or simulating sexual activity.

The primary time I bear in mind having this expertise was in highschool when my Tumblr feed was inundated with GIFs, fanfiction and ship names from the hit sequence Teen Wolf, which ran on MTV from 2011 to 2017. I wasn’t precisely all for sci-fi exhibits, the unique Teen Wolf movie it’s loosely based mostly on or something that appeared like a post-Twilight bandwagon challenge. However after encountering Dylan O’Brien’s expressive, partly boyish-partly rugged face again and again on-line, I started to know the web’s affinity for the present’s third-billed actor.

Dylan O’Brien, Taylor Swift and Sadie Sink on the New York premiere.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

So I sat down and binged two seasons of crappy CGI and a plotline involving Colton Haynes turning right into a lizard earlier than deciding that was all of the Teen Wolf I might digest. Nevertheless, I walked away with an enduring crush on O’Brien and his portrayal of Scott McCall’s (the titular character) finest pal Stiles Stilinski, who felt like a non secular descendant of The O.C.’s anxious heartthrob Seth Cohen. I watched O’Brien’s interviews on YouTube and sought out his different tasks just like the indie rom-com The First Time and even the horrible Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson car The Internship. By the point O’Brien starred in The Maze Runner in 2014, I had seen one too many YA novel movie diversifications however was nonetheless excited for O’Brien to turn into a family title.

However that meteoric ascent didn’t actually occur, a minimum of within the type of franchise-star-to-Oscar-contender-pipeline sort of way. Whereas The Maze Runner trilogy was a monetary success, the sequence is essentially thought-about a flop, failing to make the identical cultural imprint as its female-led dystopian predecessor The Hunger Games and even the deserted Divergent series. The franchise, largely comprised of up-and-coming actors, additionally suffered from an absence of star energy that may entice eyeballs outdoors of the group of younger moviegoers who have been almost certainly already conversant in O’Brien. Moreover, the movie sequence was dropped at a halt when O’Brien suffered critical accidents on the set of the ultimate installment The Loss of life Treatment (he ultimately totally recovered, permitting him to complete taking pictures).

Dylan O’Brien in The Maze Runner

twentieth Century Fox

Since then, O’Brien has not continued starring in blockbuster films or, extra curiously, landed on one in every of a thousand streaming tv exhibits (though he starred in a well-received episode of the Jordan Peele-produced YouTube anthology sequence Bizarre Metropolis in 2019). However over the previous 5 years, he’s discovered a method to harness the last word movie star superpower of being unproblematic and likable on social media and keep a novel stage of attract that’s cemented him because the “Web’s Boyfriend.” Most just lately, this public favor—and expertise, clearly—earned him a job in Taylor Swift’s newly-released “All Too Well” short film as a supposed analog for Jake Gyllenhaal in addition to an look on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm enjoying a rock band-leading model of himself.

Whenever you consider “Web Boyfriends,” the class of (largely white) male celebrities that Twitter frequently finds themselves sexually flustered over—from Harry Kinds to Daniel Kaluuya to John Cho to Timothee Chalamet—these lovable males are sometimes adored along side their regular contributions to the zeitgeist, whether or not it’s Oscar-nominated movies or pop earworms. So why does O’Brien, regardless of his restricted filmography and low-key presence in popular culture, have such a robust maintain over millennials?

“I feel he’s a part of this preliminary crop of, like, beloved white boys/Web Boyfriends—Logan Lerman involves thoughts—for being largely unproblematic and down-to-earth,” Natalie Oganesyan, a celeb information author for BuzzFeed tells me.

“In fact, as a fan, I don’t know the only very first thing about him, however the way in which he presents himself on social media, throughout press excursions, whereas assembly/interacting with followers, and so on., is tremendous real and engaging to me and to lots of people,” she provides.

In line with O’Brien obsessives I surveyed on Twitter, plainly the actor tasks an affability and non-threatening power akin to Chalamet that makes him the type of straight, white man ladies and folks of shade really feel snug unabashedly stanning (till they’re not, in fact). He’s continuously been on the fitting facet of Twitter discourse, whether or not it’s defending Caitlyn Jenner from transphobic athletes, amplifying sources for Black Lives Matter protesters or expressing bewilderment over Joker’s 11 Oscar nominations. These examples are arguably the type of bare-minimum expressions of decency and consciousness that progressive Twitter goes wild for. However that’s typically all you want from a well-known individual you’ll presumably by no means have actual entry to. As Jess, often known as @midwestbimbo on Twitter, summed it as much as me, O’Brien “offers off cishet bestie vibe[s] however NOT in a nasty approach.”

In line with O’Brien obsessives I surveyed on Twitter, plainly the actor tasks an affability and non-threatening power akin to Chalamet that makes him the type of straight, white man ladies and folks of shade really feel snug unabashedly stanning (till they’re not, in fact).

Another social media antics that’ve gotten O’Brien a whole lot of fanfare just lately is a formidable re-enactment he carried out with actress Sarah Ramos of a notable scene from 2010’s The Social Network during which Andrew Garfield’s character Eduardo Saverin confronts Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg. There have been additionally pictures this previous summer season of the actor donning bleached hair and pretend tattoos for a job within the upcoming Hulu movie Not Okay that despatched Twitter right into a meltdown, a handy makeover for our present punk-obsessed occasions.

“He was like Timothee Chalamet earlier than Chalamet was round,” gives Nia Tucker, a former Teen Wolf viewer. “O’Brien had a YouTube channel from his youth that you might watch humorous bits on. And he was so charming off-camera and on-camera as Stiles, however you might at all times inform he took appearing very critically.”

Together with O’Brien’s charisma and physicality—one Twitter person informed me that he has “good fingers”—followers reiterated the truth that, whereas we’ve identified O’Brien for a decade, we nonetheless have but to see all he can do. At a time when Hollywood appears to recycle the identical handful of main males, O’Brien at age 30, purposely or not, has but to fall sufferer to the identical overexposure that has made some overly-booked actors like Chalamet and Noah Centineo exhausting and even overrated to some.

“I really feel like a whole lot of main actors that could possibly be comparable [to O’Brien] proper now both take roles which might be completely ridiculous, like Noah Centineo, for instance, or they take themselves too critically, and we don’t get to see their personalities,” Tucker says.

“I really feel like there’s a lot untapped potential for him as an actor,” Oganesyan continues. “Like, he’s genuinely good. And the films he’s been in haven’t actually matched his ability as a performer, in my view. So, I’m actually excited to see if his subsequent slate of films like The Outfit and Not Okay assist him come into his personal/solidify what we already find out about him being gifted.”

Whereas it may be the common aspiring actor’s dream to be immediately catapulted into A-list territory, it looks like the still-unfulfilled promise of Dylan O’Brien, the star, in any case these years, has made him one of the fascinating public figures to control. It is probably not probably the most financially profitable tactic, nevertheless it looks like his model might proceed to learn by retaining followers hungry.





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