Before we begin, let us be clear: We speak not of the Rivers Cuomo that was, nor of the Rivers Cuomo that is, nor yet of the Rivers that shall be. We speak, now, of the Platonic ideal of a Rivers Cuomo: The Rivers Cuomo you have never met, nor ever can meet, nor can ever be sued by , but who lives, nevertheless, within your brain. Specifically, if you happen to have grown up in the 1990s, and are heterosexual, and also a girl.
Because you totally have one. I mean, come on.
He was cute; he was vulnerable; he had glasses. Really cool glasses. His hair was unfortunate; his features were delicate; in his videos, he could never quite hold eye contact with the camera. He wore sweaters a lot, and he sang about wearing the sweaters; he was a sweater-wearing dude, that Rivers Cuomo. He sang at you on the radio. He loved you, more desperately than anyone ever had, or would.
If you happened to be of a certain age when “The Blue Album” came out—let’s say, for the purposes of total non-specificity and universal relatability, “exactly twelve years old”—the highly sweater-centric single from that album, and the revelation that its singer was in fact good-looking, opened up a whole new landscape of sexual possibility. It made you think that sex might not, as you had previously supposed, be scary or harsh or done with any of the dudes at your school who smelled like pot and cheap beer and unwashed laundry and were sporting, with greater or lesser success, floppy Kurt Cobain haircuts. Instead, sex could be something you did with someone as soft-spoken and gentle and enthused about sweater-wearing as Mr. Rogers. Girls before you had learned about the power of male vulnerability—from Lloyd Dobler and his tear-stained boom box of rejection, or from Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, he with the body of a weightlifter and the soul of a tender wood nymph—but for you, it was Rivers. He made sex seem simultaneously safer and more intense. He gave you the power, the power to accept or reject him; he proclaimed, constantly, his own weakness before you.
In the song, he gave you detailed instructions for removing the sweater. Slowly. Piece by piece. A whine that was a striptease. Watch him unravel. He’ll soon be naked. Lying on the floor, he comes, undooooooooooooooooone.
You should have paid more attention, maybe, to all the whining. But it was too late: You had the album. On the album, he sang about being scared to dance with girls; he sang about Dungeons and Dragons; he sang about comic books. He mentioned Kitty Pryde. Not even any of the hot lady X-Men; not Rogue, or Emma Frost, or even Jean Grey, the ones that were busty and assertive and all terrifyingly developed in ways you could never be. Rivers Cuomo liked Kitty Pryde: The everygirl, the (relatively) flat-chested one, the awkward teen. The one that was… you know. You. In the age of Pamela Anderson’s ascendance, Rivers Cuomo thought it was hot that you looked like Mary Tyler Moore. And he didn’t care what they said about you, anyway. He didn’t care about that.
Perhaps no adult rock star has more enthusiastically appropriated the iconography and reference points of childhood than Rivers Cuomo. (Well. There is Kimya Dawson! But that is a different thing.) When Weezer finally did a video with the Muppets, it was not a surprise; the surprise was that Weezer hadn’t done it already, and that they didn’t also get Spike Jonze to insert them into an episode of He-Man. The result of Rivers Cuomo’s exceptionally prolonged adolescence—which only came into the public eye, mind you, when he was already twenty-four years old—was that he was a grown man who remained approachable and sympathetic to tween girls; simultaneously more powerful than you and less so, older than you and also your age. Rivers Cuomo was Justin Bieber, if it were possible to imagine Justin Bieber ever having grown a chest hair. Oh, but no, there is a better comparison: Rivers Cuomo was the Michael Cera of his generation.
But he was a Michael Cera who played guitar, loud guitar, and he sang. Imagine Michael Cera in a stadium, screaming about how girls don’t like him back and it makes him sad sometimes, a guitar strapped to his hips. The power unleashed was nuclear.
“I, like, imprinted on this shit. I suspect an entire generation of girls did,” wrote Emily Gould once, in a long-ago and far-away blog post about Rivers Cuomo. I can confirm that suspicion! And demonstrate that at least one of the generation is willing to write 5,379-word essays about it, which are not pleased about that fact!
Because he got inside your head, Rivers Cuomo. HE FUCKED YOU UP. You still give dudes a closer look if they wear cool glasses.
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