A viral Twitter thread wants you to revisit some of your most formative pinups, and the answers are pretty revealing.
I have an older friend to whom I owe almost everything that could be considered vaguely cool about me.
It probably says a lot about me that I never, not once, pressured her to buy me alcohol or cigarettes when I was underage. Instead, I asked her to hand over pop culture recommendations that I would reverently consume in my spare time. She introduced me to John Hughes and Freaks and Geeks and His Girl Friday, the movie that made me want to become a writer. And it was she who, when I was 11, handed over a bootleg copy of a movie that would prove to be something of a sexual awakening for me: Donnie Darko.
11 is possibly much too young to see Donnie Darko, a movie about mental illness and apocalyptic rumblings and the end of the world, which is why I loved it so much. It felt like the most grown up movie of all time and brooding star Jake Gyllenhaal the most grown up, gorgeous boy on the planet. I wanted to cradle his beautiful face and run my hands through his floppy hair, two acts which seemed to me at the time to be just about the most sexual thing you could ever dream of doing.
By 2004, when The Day After Tomorrow was released, my obsession had multiplied and replicated like a cell mutation. Jarhead was a really important film for me aged 14. I saw Prince of Persia in cinemas three times. These days the crush has not only endured but flourished, in part because Gyllenhaal is still single, which means that I’m pretty sure we’re going to get married one day.
I was thinking about Gyllenhaal today – not in itself an altogether unsurprising act – because of this viral Twitter thread that has been doing the rounds asking people to name their biggest, most formative celebrity crush.
Some celebrities themselves even responded. Gabrielle Union shared that she lusted after New Edition’s Ralph Tresvant, basketballer Reggie Theus and Matt Dillon. For Ava DuVernay, it was all about singer Al B Sure, Esai Morales and basketballer Chris Webber.
Gyllenhaal was a very formative celebrity crush for me, alongside Jess from Gilmore Girls and, um, Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, specifically the exact moment when he turns up at Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers and pushes open that enormous door.
I think you can tell a lot about me from those crushes. Disconcertingly, they all kind of look the same – tall, lots and lots of dark hair, impossibly handsome. They always played characters who were smart and soulful with hidden depths of emotion, which is the kind of man I am attracted to today, for better but mostly for worse. (Incidentally, my cartoon crush wasn’t a Disney prince but Dimitri from Anastasia who, like Jess in Gilmore Girls was a bad boy with a secret heart of gold.)
A quick straw poll among the Stylist.co.uk offices reveals a litany of teenage crushes. There’s Seth Cohen from The OC, H from Steps, Britney Spears, Winona Ryder, Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a young Leonardo DiCaprio and Vampire Diaries’ brooding bloodsucker Ian Somerhalder. A real mixed bag, isn’t it?
But that’s the point of a celebrity crush. Even when it’s on exactly the same person as everyone else has a crush on, it’s still yours.
A crush can teach you about love and desire and the kind of things that you want from a romantic partner in the safe and low stakes space of your own bedroom. Research has proven that having a crush helps young people connect with their friends, develop their personalities and identity in opposition and relation to others. A crush is a good and healthy thing.
Looking back on your crushes, too, is an exercise in self-reflection. Sometimes, you can see the beginnings of what you would ultimately look for in a romantic partner. Other times, it crystallises a particular characteristic – sense of humour, smarts, emotional intelligence – that you are attracted to. And other times it’s as simple as Aragorn pushing open a door.
So who was your formative crush? And what does it say about you?
Images: Getty, iStock