Earlier this year, the entire internet sported a massive boner for a bro named Peter Kavinsky.
Played by Noah Centineo, Peter served as the love interest to Lara Jean Covey in Netflix’s uber-popular rom-com To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. Tumblr fandoms formed in his name. Twitter staged 250-character word orgies in his honor. BuzzFeed quizzes were erected, Cosmo articles written, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine Peter Kavinsky served as a new generation’s sexual awakening (R.I.P foxy Robin Hood).
But what was it about Peter Kavinsky that got the girls (and guys) so randy?
The answer: basic sh*t.
We creamed our pants when he saved Lara Jean a seat on the bus. We got flushed when he put his hand in her back pocket. We swooned when he remembered her favorite Korean yogurt drink. And we justified our prepubescent hysteria over, again, this most basic of sh*t, by pulling out the good ol’ douchebag meter.
Peter Kavinsky wasn’t machismo, he never withheld his feelings from Lara Jean, he wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable. The douchebag meter falls down a notch.
Peter Kavinsky actually got upset when someone filmed his hot tub make-out session with Lara Jean instead of basking in the glory lesser men would’ve enjoyed. Another notch.
Peter Kavinsky never blamed Lara Jean for her indecisiveness. He liked her quirky style. He didn’t mean to let his ex-girlfriend steal her favorite scrunchie.
Douchebag meter at full zero.
We set the bar so low with Peter Kavinsky, it’s no wonder a guy like Chilling Adventures of Sabrina's Harvey Kinkle has become the Internet’s next golden-standard of what a boyfriend should be.
Now, this isn’t a criticism of the actors. Centineo and Ross Lynch are sexy, cool dudes who seem like a good time. They did the best with the characters they were given, and they probably made them more appealing than they were on the page.
But dammit, if I’m supposed to believe that a teenage witch would consider giving up immortality and absolute power in exchange for sucking face with a guy who can’t keep up with a riveting discussion about the subtext of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, I’m gonna need more from Mr. Kinkle.
Harvey’s a nice guy, a good guy, the kind of guy your parents want you to date, marry, and have babies with. He’s a salt-of-the-earth type, a misunderstood artist, a man in touch with his feelings. And, to be fair, he puts up with a lot from his girlfriend, Sabrina Spellman.
But, if we’re really reflecting on Sabrina’s journey over the course of the first season of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, it’s Harvey, and the dilemma he poses, that’s the cause of most of the troubles in Glendale. Sure, the show makes a half-hearted attempt to persuade us that Sabrina’s friends, Ros (Jaz Sinclair) and Susie (Lachlan Watson) also play a part in her decision not to sign her name in the Book of the Beast, but time and again, it’s Harvey, his feelings, his troubles, that spur Sabrina to make terrible decisions.
She performs exorcisms, flees her Dark Baptism, practices necromancy, all on Harvey’s behalf.
And why? What’s so goddamn special about Harvey Kinkle?
He’s not particularly smart. On more than one occasion, the poor guy fails to keep up with Sabrina and her friends’ conversation.
He seems to have no friends of his own. When he’s not with Sabrina, he’s drawing mediocre doodles in his dimly-lit bedroom and brooding about his father’s insistence he actually helps out with the family business.
He seems to be okay with pressuring Sabrina to go against her family’s wishes – how many times did she have to explain she couldn’t spend her birthday with him because of a prior family engagement? And, for most of the season, he remains clueless as to the struggles of his significant other, despite professing his love and undying devotion to her.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I do prefer the devilishly handsome Nick Scratch (Gavin Leatherwood), a guy who is most certainly spying on Sabrina on Satan’s behalf, to a one Harvey Kinkle.
But that’s not what this is about.
This is about raising the bar of what an ideal boyfriend looks like.
Harvey’s not a bad guy. He reacted better than most when he found out his girlfriend had raised his brother from the dead and failed to get the mechanics of that resurrection right. And congrats to him for elevating himself above most of mankind when he didn’t use Sabrina’s anxiety over her witch mark and her request to strip naked in front of him as an excuse to sexually assault her. Again, not a high bar there, but credit where credit is due.
Still, I'm loathed to believe that any young woman, especially one with the kind of responsibility and promise Sabrina shows on this series, would settle for a guy like Harvey Kinkle. A guy who lives his life mainly in fear – fear of his father, fear of spending his life working in the minds, fear of losing his girlfriend to something bigger than he’ll ever understand.
Stan Harvey Kinkle if you want to, fam. No judgment here. But remember the cost of what you’re giving up.
Unlimited power. A long life. A bitchin' hairdo. Conjurings, castings, rituals and blood rites.
All for a guy whose shining quality is that he’s actually read The Bluest Eye.