Oliver Trask was a rich teenager who lived in the penthouse of the Four Seasons Hotel. His parents owned a chain of hotels, and apparently leave him unsupervised. He left his last school, Pacific High, because a girl took out a restraining order on him, after he became obsessed with her. Oliver eventually attempted suicide because she rejected him. He met Marissa at therapy, and falls for her, inventing a fictitious girlfriend, Natalie Bishop, to make her feel safe, and sorry for him. He eventually transfers to The Harbor School, much to the dismay of Ryan Atwood, Marissa's boyfriend at the time.
During his time on the show, he gets arrested for attempting to buy cocaine, fakes an attempt at suicide, and winds it all up by threatening to shoot himself if Marissa doesn't go out with him. Throughout all this, Ryan and Luke are the only ones who are wise to his wicked ways.
Oliver's appearance lasted only a few episodes. However, the character's actions had long term implications. Already existing trust issues between Ryan and Marissa were exacerbated by the conflict over Oliver's true colors. It is angrily stated by Seth in The Ties That Bind to Marissa that her relationship with Oliver may have driven Ryan to seek solace with Theresa, resulting in the scandal over Theresa's pregnancy and marriage that arises in the final episodes of Season 1.
The Portrayal of Mental Illness Edit
In an early episode, it is mentioned that Oliver was previously diagnosed with depression. However, he also exhibits many of the criteria for borderline personality disorder, as listed in the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Borderline personality disorder is a disorder of emotion regulation and those who are borderline have been found to have high co-morbidity rates with depression and other affective disorders, as well as high rates of abuse, neglect, or separation as children . Oliver’s parents own multiple hotels around the world and are often away from home, so much of his life has been spent away from his parents and on his own. He claims to constantly feel like everyone he is close to eventually rejects him and he says “everyone who knows me for more than five minutes ends up hating my guts”.
Like others with this disorder, he has an unstable and false image of both himself and his relationships with other people . Many of his actions are executed in order to make others like him, and he tries especially hard to keep Marissa as his friend, to keep her from leaving him. One way he does this is by recurrent suicidal gestures and threats. In one instance, Oliver claims to swallow a bunch of painkillers, knowing that Marissa will become worried and pay more attention to him. Oliver believes that he and Marissa are meant to be together, and he does everything he can in order to make that happen, including transferring schools, lying, and actively trying to ruin her relationship with Ryan.
Additionally, he meets the criteria, because his mood fluctuates very rapidly, going from depressed states to relatively happy ones, and he occasionally has trouble controlling his anger, as in the above-mentioned case of him repeatedly hitting himself in the head. Lastly, he shows signs of impulsivity in his willingness to spend a lot of money on his friends and in his drug and alcohol use.
Controversies in this Portrayal of Mental IllnessEdit
While his behavior may indicate that he has a mental illness, the portrayal of this disorder may not be considered entirely accurate, because it is so exaggerated. Someone who is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder only has to meet five out of the nine criteria listed in the DSM-IV-TR , and Oliver meets at least seven. In addition, the behaviors that match the criteria are often extreme examples, like his use of cocaine.
Oliver is depicted as dangerous. When Marissa uncovers his lies about his feelings for her and the fact that he made up Natalie, his supposed girlfriend, he breaks down, holding Marissa hostage in his apartment with a gun. He points the gun at her, tells her that he is in love with her, and threatens to shoot himself in the head when she wants to leave. This intense situation is great for an increase in drama for the show, but the majority of people with mental illnesses actually pose little threat to others. A person with borderline personality disorder is more likely to harm himself than someone else , and although the show does emphasize Oliver’s desire to hurt himself, he also appears to be a threat to Marissa.
Societal Ramifications of this Portrayal of Mental Illness Edit
The portrayal of Oliver Trask, which emphasizes his deceptive and dangerous nature, is an example of how the media helps to create the stigma that surrounds those with mental illnesses. The creation of a stigma begins with the labeling of differences and negative stereotyping (Link and Phelan 2006: 528). Additionally, slang terms, like crazy or nuts, may be introduced as ways to both describe and emphasize these differences, as well as to devalue the stigmatized individual.Some of the stigmatization is also a consequence of the “stripping” process that Erving Goffman describes in his 1961 book Asylums. For example, by the end of his time on the series, Oliver has been “stripped” and his mental illness becomes his defining characteristic (Goffman 1961: 148).
The kind of stigmatization that results from the labeling process of the mentally ill can lead to avoidance, rejection, and discrimination by the rest of society (Link & Phelan 1999: 365). The mentally ill become thought of as different from everyone else. Because of this portrayal, people with borderline personality disorder and depression may be more closely associated with the psychotic and dangerous reaction that Oliver exhibited.
Fan reaction to the character of Oliver Trask was mixed at best. There were a variety of reasons that fans of the show cited for disliking him. These ranged from the petty (fans being angry that Oliver was threatening the established pairing of Ryan and Marissa) to the more substantive (that the character was over-the-top, one-dimensional, poorly acted, etc.). Ultimately, it became difficult to tell if the character had succeeded and if fans simply disliked him because he was a good villain, or if the character had failed. This polarizing and slightly puzzling reaction may explain why the rumored returns of the character never came to fruition.
In the world of The O.C. fanfiction, very little fiction is written about Oliver, even in the slash communities, where a variety of minor male characters of The O.C. are written about frequently. The lack of fanfiction may be a standing testament to the lukewarm fan reception of Oliver as a character.
Rumors having pegged that Oliver would come back during the season finale of the second season were untrue (though in the second season finale, after Seth hears a door bell ring he quips: "With the way things are going right now, I bet that's Oliver. This is likely a reference to these rumors) After the finale for that season aired, rumors then arose that Oliver would return in the third season with Kirsten, who was in rehab for alcoholism. However, this never happened, although in the third season finale when Marissa apologizes to Ryan for all the craziness, Ryan assures that he would not have done anything different, "except for maybe Oliver," to which Marissa laughed and said "me too."
- The Heartbreak
- The Telenovela
- The Goodbye Girl
- The LA
- The Nana
- The Proposal
- The Strip
- The Ties That Bind