Luke Perry, Dead At 52 From A Stroke, Has Broken My Heart

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Luke Perry, Dead At 52 From A Stroke, Has Broken My Heart

Why people like me are so upset over the death of 'Dylan McKay'.

Luke Perry died Monday morning, March 4, 2019. It shouldn't come as a shock, considering the actor had a massive stroke last week, but I still can't believe it's real.

When I heard the news about Luke Perry's stroke last week, I was terrified. I wanted to believe it was a hoax, or perhaps just a severe migraine that mimicked stroke symptoms. But it wasn't.

As TMZ reports:

"According to his rep, Luke was surrounded by his children Jack and Sophie, fiance Wendy Madison Bauer, ex-wife Minnie Sharp, mother Ann Bennett, step-father Steve Bennett, brother Tom Perry, sister Amy Coder, and other close family and friends ... His reps said doctors had sedated Luke, hoping to give his brain a fighting chance to recover from the trauma of the stroke ... but apparently, the damage was too extensive."

Luke Perry played Dylan McKay on the 1990s mega-hit Beverly Hills, 90210, and more recently played Fred Andrews (Archie's dad) on CW's hit show,Riverdale. But it's not just the loss of an actor who was famously generous with fans that makes this loss feel so personal.

It's that he felt like one of us.

As silly as it may seem, Luke Perry was one of Generation X's first real heartthrobs.

90210 was one of the first TV shows that was not just targeted at our generation, but really about us ... and Dylan McKay was the perfect sexy, brooding loner for us, as fans, to pine over. We pinned posters of his face to our walls and inside of our lockers. That's probably why it's so hard to believe he is gone.

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As members of Generation X, loosely defined as the generation born between the mid-1960s and early 1980s, we haven't lost many of our own to natural causes. We've had our share of drug overdoses and deaths by suicide, but Luke Perry feels like the first Gen X-er to die of a sudden health crisis like a stroke or heart disease.

Hearing that Dylan McKay had a massive stroke was like finding out one of your classmates died of a heart attack. It feels somehow unreal, like something that could only happen to an older person.

But now that Luke Perry has died, it feels all too real.

Confession: I was a major 90210 fan.

As teenagers, we had viewing parties on hot summer nights surrounded by our friends, celebrity magazines featuring our favorite 90210 stars, and the kind of snacks our parents only let us indulge in during the summertime. Running the first few years of 90210 in the off-season was brilliant — it set the show apart from other nighttime TV dramas, and allowed more adolescents to stay up late to watch.

And boy, did we watch. By Season 4, 21 million fans were regularly tuning in.

Actress Jennie Garth, who played Kelly Taylor on the show, told The New York Times:

"The show was on for a while, and it was O.K. [in] the ratings. Then we filmed all of our risqué summer episodes at the beach and aired those at the time when the other shows were in reruns. So we caught a huge teen audience, kids that were home from school. And then it just went crazy."

When I went to college, my roommate, Tim, and I would watch the new episodes religiously. We were also hooked on the daily afternoon 90210 reruns on FX. Tim is, to this day, still a shameless fan and a formidable expert on all things 90210.

A couple of years ago, for his birthday, my husband managed to get a personalized autographed headshot of Ian Ziering (who played Steve Sanders on 90210) for Tim. We conspired with Tim's wife to surprise him with it, and he almost cried of joy when he saw it. That's how 90210 fans are — emotional. Because it was such a big part of our lives as teenagers, the show and its stars feel like part of our own history.

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Growing up in a conservative Evangelical town in the midwest, Beverly Hills 90210 was about as far away from my life as possible. But somehow, it was the perfect blend of relatable and aspirational.

The kids lived in big houses in a fancy city with palm trees and expensive cars. Some of their problems, like Dylan being a trust-fund kid or Steve (Ian Ziering) living in the shadow of his famous actress mom, were totally unrelatable, but most of the storylines in 90210 felt like they came straight from our own lives, and spoke to us in a way nobody had ever done before.

That's why Luke Perry feels like an old friend, and why his death strikes so many people my age surprisingly hard. He's one of our own, and now he's gone.

My husband is the same age as Luke Perry, and that hits me hard, too. Like Luke Perry, my husband had that "bad boy with a heart of gold" appeal when I met him. He was also a Southern California surfer who lived in a little beach bungalow. As silly as it sounds now, it occurs to me my first TV crush on Dylan McKay may have played a role in why I was instantly so attracted to my husband.

Perry reached a whole new generation of young people playing Archie's dad in Riverdale, a CW drama based upon the characters from the classic Archie comics. The role was perfect for him, playing a wizened but thoughtful dad who still had enough brooding sex appeal to remind older viewers why we fell for him all those years ago.

It's rare for a former teen heartthrob to land such a solid role so many years later, but Perry rose to the occasion, stepping out of the shadow of Dylan McKay and shining as Fred Andrews.

In fact, Riverdale fans are probably as broken-hearted today over the loss of their beloved character as we are over ours.

Regardless of our age, we will miss you, Luke Perry.

Thank you for being an actor who stayed true to himself, and for giving us many years of joy through your work. We will never forget you.

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RELATED:Who Is Luke Perry's Wife? New Details About Rachel Sharp — Including How Their Marriage Ended

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Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and media critic whose writing has appeared on sites like Time, Redbook, Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, Babble, Vox, and more, as well as the mother of three and an editor at YourTango.For more, follow her on Twitter.

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