Juts look at that stare. theblindalley.deviantart.com
Ten characters that made me swoon—from a turtle bad boy to a cartoon fox to a ghost-busting nerd.
1. Robin Hood from Disney's Robin Hood
If I have learned one thing from the copious amount of time I have spent on the Internet, it is that I am not alone in my childhood crush on this charming cartoon fox. In fact, as Mallory Ortber recently wrote on The Toast: “100% of women want to have sex with a man who embodies the fox version of Robin Hood from the cartoon Robin Hood, but most do not actually want to have sex with a fox or a man dressed as one.”
Let's be real: Robin Hood represents everything a tiny proto-feminist could want in a man. He's smart, thoughtful, and manages to be both secure in who he is and what he does without presuming that this somehow grants him magical access to the girl he's been in love with since he was a kid. He has a strong moral compass, he's pretty into equality (I mean, he lets that loud chicken lady join his band of outlaws) and, when faced with imminent death, he stares straight into the eyes of his beloved and says, “Marian my darling I love you more than life itself.”
BAM. RIGHT IN MY FIVE YEAR OLD FEELS. I have never fully gotten over Robin Hood.
2. Justin from the film adaptation of The Secret of NIMH
Literally the only good-looking rat in that whole movie.
3. Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Why Raphael? He's not the leader. He's not the smart one. He's not even the party dude. In fact, not only is he none of those things, he's described as being cool but rude. He's rude. He will sleep with you and not call you for a week. He won't share his pizza with you and laugh when you show disappointment. He'll embarrass you in front of your parents, and not just because he's a hulking reptile with no table manners. There's nothing that should be appealing about him.
And yet here we are two decades later deconstructing our collective crush on this anthropomorphic turtle bad boy.
Tragically, I can tell you exactly what we all liked about Raphael: he's an emotionally damaged man-baby who seems like he would present a rewarding challenge to any lady willing to take him on. Dating Raphael would mean hours spent listening to him air all of his grievances about life. Splinter wasn't proud enough of him and didn't love or respect him the way he did the other turtles. He'd been passed over for turtle leadership because he was too unreliable and impulsive.
He'd never had a knack for building things the way Donatello did. Nobody wanted to just chill out and drink beer with him the way they did with Michelangelo. April would only ever see him as just a turtle, not a person in his own right with needs and desires. His own mother had abandoned him before he'd even hatched; probably she'd never loved him. He would be the whiniest of whiners yet at the same time would totally take you for granted, because that's just what man-babies do.
But he would be, like, really, really funny and that would make up for a lot.
4. Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters
Wikipedia describes Spengler as being “tall, laconic, bespectacled, awkward” and if that's not a panty-dropping set of adjectives I don't know what is. His hobby is collecting fungus. He has his PhD. He wants to be your boyfriend. Get with it already.
5. Hilary Wentworth from Enid Blyton's St. Clare's series
As a kid, I had a bizarre obsession with books about English schoolgirls. Their lives seemed so exotic to me, probably because a lot of the time I had no clue what they were talking about. Swotting? Prep? Fagging? Eating sardines on toast? I wanted so badly to get in on this parent-free world of midnight feasts and Easter hols, where everything good was described as wizard and obnoxious girls could be sent to “Coventry.”
Hilary was the head girl or whatever at a boarding school called St. Clare's, and I had the kind of crush on her where I wasn't sureif I wanted to make out with her or be her best friend or what. I don't remember anything about her except that she was “sensible,” really into “games” (by which they meant sports), and had no tolerance for people who screwed around. My pre-teen self had a lot of confusing fantasies about being the person to teach her the joys of blowing off responsibility; most of them would end with us kissing experimentally in a picturesque English field, all of her chilly reserve melted by my winning Canadian charm.
6. Tommy Solomon from Third Rock From The Sun
It's nice when your little kid crushes end up being validated like that.
7. Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation
Wesley gets the short end of the stick a lot, but he actually had a lot going for him. For example, he was really great at wearing ruffly sweaters. He was also great at being condescending to grownups. He mostly did okay at saving the ship. He said a lot of teeth-grittingly dorky things. In later seasons, he got really good at gelling his hair. One time he kissed Ashley Judd!
In retrospect, it's possible that Wesley was totally my beard and the person I actually had a crush on was Bev. At this point, she definitely seems like the more solid choice, but who knows what I was really thinking back then.
What's certain is that as a 12-year-old, I wrote a lot of terrible fan fiction about being a cute orphaned teen who lived on the Enterprise, wore lots of spandex, and befriended a certain lonely acting ensign. I won't go into detail here, but I will tell you that there was an extremely moving scene in which he taught me how to use a food replicator.
8. Lucas Wolenczak from seaQuest
Basically the same as Wesley, but underwater.
9. Evyn from Elizabeth Alder's The King's Shadow
So Evyn was a Welsh kid growing up in Saxon Britain who had his tongue cut out and was sold into slavery when he was young. I think because his uncle had some gambling debts? Anyway!
He somehow wound up being a slave in the house of Harold Godwinson back when he was just an Earl. Naturally, even though he couldn't talk, Harold's wife somehow realized he was super smart and cool and freed him from his slavery and got him a job as Harold's squire. Then he followed Harold through all kinds of whacky adventures right up until the Battle of Hastings, which Evyn survived but Harold, obviously, did not.
I don't remember how the book ended, but it managed to finish on a positive note even though this mute former slave's master had just been speared through the eye with an arrow and his country was being invaded by stinky Normans. Probably everything was fine, though!
Obviously I had a giant crush on Evyn. Who wouldn't? He was described as being tall with thick black hair and dark eyes. On top of all that he had a really exciting life. Knights! Earls! Intrigue! Invasion! My fantasies about being Evyn's girlfriend—some of which still exist in written format on a floppy disk in my mother's basement—involved a lot of riding around on horses, cross-dressing, and spying on Normans.
I am a person who once wrote fan fiction about dating King Harold Godwinson's squire. I am not embarrassed.
(Side note: when I mentioned to my dad after reading this book that I thought it was really sad when King Harold died, he was like EXCUSE ME THE NORMANS WERE THE GOOD GUYS, THEY WERE FRENCH LIKE US.)
10. Dickon from The Secret Garden
He has tame animals, is good at growing things, and is not an asshole to Mary. He also has the distinction of maybe being the first person Mary does not treat like dirt. He's also super patient, thoughtful, and encouraging. And did I mention the tame animals that literally just follow him around all over the moors all day long? I'm a grownup now and still don't really know what a moor is, but I do know for sure that Dickon would have made a great boyfriend.