Welcome back to Your First Fake [Non-Platonic] Friend, in which today’s edition is kickin’ it reeeeal old school to discuss our teenage crushes.

A little background: when the March Madness committee convened to plan this year’s Teen Heartthrobs tourney, it was unanimously decided that only modern heartthrobs were to be considered, much to the chagrin of my golden age of Hollywood loving self (even though I completely agreed with the choice). Luckily, I have other FYA outlets through which I can fangirl. ERGO. 

Biographical Details

  • Name: James Byron Dean  
  • Date of Birth: February 8, 1931
  • Place of Birth: Marion, IN
  • Date of Death: September 30, 1955 (aged 24)
  • Educational Background: Majored in drama at UCLA but dropped out.
  • Trivia: He’s been name-dropped many, many times in songs — most recently and notably, T.Swizz’s “Style”. Also, he was an avid bullfighter.

Where You’ve Seen Him

James’ career only consisted of three films: East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Giant (1956).

Where You First Fell in Love

I actually discovered James Dean in a backwards way. Regardless of whether or not you’ve seen his movies, he’s one of those stars that you just know. But I first learned more about his life through the TV biopic on him starring another of my First Fake Boyfriends, James Franco. (This was, like, early ’00s, OK? It was still a socially acceptable time to crush on James Franco.) Thus began my educational odyssey and fake love affair with the man, the myth, the legend: James Dean. 

Where He Had Been

After a pair of notable teenage roles in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, James graduated to a more mature role in the decades-spanning epic (and epically long) Giant. Sadly, his promising career was cut short due to a fatal vehicular collision, but his brief time in the spotlight cemented his status as a Hollywood icon for generations to come.

Your Current Relationship Status

The thing about crushing on a celeb way before your time is that, obvs, they don’t change at all, but you do. Now that I’m older than James ever got to be, I can only tolerate so much of that tortured method actor business. (Even back when I was younger than he was, I did find his acting could be, in the words of a Regina George t-shirt, a little bit dramatic.) And not to speak ill of the dead too much, but naming a car “Little Bastard” is kind of worthy of an eye roll. Being as raw and profound as he could be, it’s easy to forget that he was just a 24-year-old kid. Like, whom among us wasn’t a bit of a little shit in our early 20s? 

Still, James was an originator of onscreen teenage angst, a master of brooding looks off into the distance, and an owner of a FANTASTIC head of hair. And when I take one look at him, I quickly remember that NOOOOOPE, I AM NOT IMMUNE.

Circumstantial Evidence

There’s a reason why the classics are timeless. So here’s to you, James.


Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.