John Cusack: The Perfect White Boy

If you’ve ever heard the age old aphorism, “White boys care,” then surely you must know that John Cusack pioneered the concept. His film roles in the 1980s are the very personification of every girl’s wet dream. In movies like The Sure Thing, Better Off Dead and Say Anything…, Cusack shows white boys–and men of all races–everywhere how to be.

As hopeless romantic Lane Meyer in Better Off Dead
As hopeless romantic Lane Meyer in Better Off Dead
His first major role as a romantic lead came in 1985 with The Sure Thing. Playing the oblivious, sexually inexperienced Walter Gibson, Cusack demonstrates the innocence and earnestness of a man who has yet to gain confidence with women. His attraction to a girl named Alison Bradbury (Daphne Zuniga) in his English class goes nowhere, even after he feigns needing her to tutor him. When she finds out his academic ineptitude is a ruse, she becomes completely irritated with him and writes him off. Gibson’s old high school friend, who has been faring much better sexually as a freshman at UCLA, assures him that he’ll set Gibson up with a “sure thing” over the winter break. In order to get there, however, he must endure the pain of a ride share, which he finds advertised on a bulletin board at his school (because, again, this is 1985). To his dismay, he must ride with an overly enthusiastic couple named Gary Cooper (Tim Robbins) and Mary Ann Webster (Lisa Jane Persky–apparently three name people have to play three name characters), in addition to Alison, who is repulsed at the sight of him. In the end, of course, Gibson wins her over with his gawkiness, purity and sense of adventure–which is all the antithesis of what her current white boy boyfriend embodies.

The second in Cusack’s 80s trilogy of perfection as a leading man is Better Off Dead (also released in 1985), in which he plays a lovelorn, rejected and recently broken up with suicidal wreck named Lane Meyer. In thinking that he’s already met the love of his life, Cusack as Lane exhibits a kind of endearing sincerity that can only be described as encouraging to all women who want to believe a man as passionate as Lane could exist. Plus, he’s willing to serenade you on saxophone over a candlelit dinner and somehow make it seem genuine.

Before transitioning to his ultimate masterpiece, Cusack also starred in 1986’s One Crazy Summer, bearing a similar plot to Better Off Dead in terms of random bouts of animation and dejection. And clearly by this point, he had proven himself as leading material by snagging Demi Moore as his co-star. In 1989, Cusack reached the pinnacle of his white boy charm with Cameron Crowe’s classic, Say Anything… As the indecisive Lloyd Dobler, uncertain of his future after graduating high school, he makes the sole object of his ambition Diane Court (Ione Skye), who plays him some Peter Gabriel after the first time they have sex, therefore prompting him to hold up a radio over his shoulders in order to show her just how sentimental and caring he can be. And every white boy would do well to take a page from his book. After all, he gets Diane back in the end.

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  1. Pingback: Men Who Are Not Sentimental. | Missing a Dick

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