‘Say Anything’ 25th Anniversary: How Lloyd Dobler Scarred Me For Life
‘Say Anything’ scarred me for life.
I’ve been aware for a few weeks that the 25th anniversary of ‘Say Anything’ was approaching and I’ve kind of gone out of my way to ignore it – even though there’s no doubt it influenced my teenage life more than any other movie. But, good grief, did this movie ever influence me to do some stupid things that I've suppressed from my memory. For one day only, I'll bring one of these memories to the surface.
In high school (at least when I went to high school), there really are only two types of guys: There are the loud guys who say the word “pussy” a lot and then there are the others who thought they were just like Lloyd Dobler. I was in the latter category. Not that we were all aspiring kickboxers, but we liked to think of ourselves as misunderstood romantics who would totally be the right guy for Diane Court, if only she had any idea who we were.
The problem with this line of thinking is that, even though Lloyd Dobler was portrayed as kind of an everyman, John Cusack is a very handsome man. Plus, Lloyd Dobler was into kickboxing (which seems like something that would be interesting to other people, as it is the sport of the future), not ‘Star Wars’ (which is not very interesting to other people).
I owned ‘Say Anything’ on VHS and, as a high school sophomore, I watched this movie an insane amount of times -- as if it were a guidebook of some sorts on “how to ask out the girl you like.” The girl I liked in question was in my history class, though I was fairly certain that she had no idea that I existed. (Spoiler alert, I was correct.)
Now, one of the best scenes in ‘Say Anything’ involves Lloyd cold-calling Diane Court to ask her out on a date. Diane has no idea who Lloyd is, but agrees to attend a party with Lloyd, hosted by Eric Stoltz. This scene made it seem like it was completely normal to cold-call a girl who had no idea who you are and ask her to spend time alone with you!
Even though there are no R.E.M. songs on the still-wonderful 'Say Anything' soundtrack, I equate pretty much every song on ‘Green’ with the movie because the night I decided to call the girl in my history class, let’s call her Beth – and just like Lloyd psyches himself up using Fishbone’s "Skankin’ to the Beat" -- I tried to psych myself up with a cocktail of watching ‘Say Anything’ and listening to "Pop Song 89." (I was not really what you would call a “rocker,” I guess. I think the two CDs I owned at the time was that and Billy Joel’s ‘Storm Front.’) After finding her father’s name in the phone book (ha!), I dialed her number.
“Hello?,” a man answered.
“Hi, may I speak to Beth?,” I asked.
“Who is this?”
“Mike?,” responding as if I wasn’t even sure who I was.
“I don’t think it matters, she probably won’t know,” I said, off to a rip-roaring start.
“Beth!” I could hear the man yell into the background.
Beth picked up a phone. “Hello?,” she asked.
Now, I don’t specifically remember much after this. I do remember having to describe myself in depth, which didn’t seem to have much affect on her memory one way or another. I do know that I asked her if she had plans for the upcoming weekend, to which she replied that she in fact did have plans. I then asked if it would be okay if I called another time, to maybe ask her out on a night that she didn’t have plans. I’ll never forget her reply for as long as I live, prefaced with a long sigh … “If you feel the need.”
I don’t remember that particular line being in ‘Say Anything.’
Now, looking back, the kind of hilariously sad thing about being told “if you feel the need” is that I tried to analyze those words in every way looking for a positive angle. I mean, that certainly wasn’t a “no.” (Yes, it certainly was a “no.”) The next day in history class, both of us pretended like this never happened and we never spoke. (It’s possible she never quite figured out who I was. At least I like to pretend that’s true.)
‘Say Anything’ made me believe that an act that has, what, maybe a four percent success rate was something that could totally happen. Obviously, I never tried this again. I learned the hard way that I was not Lloyd Dobler. From then on, I even needed the added “I promise she will say yes” insider trading information from her friend before I even came close to making that kind of a phone call. (Which, now, seems preposterous now for about 85 reasons.)
But, maybe that’s the magic of ‘Say Anything’: that scene felt so real and so alive -- it did feel really like anything can happen, even though it can’t. (Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go ahead and suppress these memories again for the next 25 years wile listening to the live version of "Stripped' by Depeche Mode.)
Mike Ryan is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.