To say that I love television is a serious understatement, but I’ve recently wondered how much of my love for television is for the actual art of storytelling and how much of it is me going all ga-ga for the actors. And, if I am just a glorified fangirl, how much of my visceral attraction towards the cast members is intended by the show’s creators? Is my beloved TV being a tease?
This is the perfect time of year to be asking these questions because ‘tis the season of objectifying bodies! It’s spring and off come the clothes and out comes the long-time slumbering lust (ta-da!!). ‘Tis also the season that the most naked show on television returns to the official channel of sexy sex sex. I am, of course, talking about ‘Game of Thrones’ on HBO.
The thing about sex on ‘Game of Thrones’ is that it is not a plot device for the most part. The sex is commodified and often traded for power within the dangerous game all of the characters play, so, in my opinion, the nakedness and hypersexuality of the show is justified. This is not to say that I like the sex scenes. Usually they are betwixt characters for whom I have no affection — needless to say, they don’t leave me all that hot and bothered.
I am, however, concerned about how much I love and adore Robb Stark, the King of the North. He’s assertive, honorable, dangerous, noble, bearded, furry, brooding, family oriented and into vengeance. He also sports perfectly tousled curly black hair, has a dire wolf and looks like he’s about to make out with you through the screen every time he opens up his pillowy, sensual lips. In other words, I would like to write sweet, sweet fanfiction about Robb Stark. These thoughts scare me, as I genuinely love the show and hope that my reverence is due to the entire production. I want to say I’ve evolved from that 12-year-old girl who only watched the new Star Wars movies to admire Ewan McGregor.
To test my fangirl maturity, I did a little experiment. I IMDB’d the actor that plays Robb Stark, Richard Madden, to find a less famous, possibly less good show in which he’d acted earlier in his career. I proceeded to watch this show to determine a) the actual quality of the program and b) the likelihood that I would continue to watch the show due to Dick. The results were surprising.
The show I chose is called ‘Hope Springs.’ It’s about four ex-convict ladies who steal a lot of dough and then botch their plan to flee to Barbados and end up running a dingy hotel in the middle of rural Scotland. It’s like ‘Sex and the City’ except with attempted murderers and arsonists and in the Highlands. Anyways, Richard Madden plays a love interest of a self-proclaimed “robber and nobber.” Yes, he was cute, but he definitely wasn’t Robb. He didn’t have the same hold on me, and he was definitely not the primary reason I continued to watch the show. Awesome lady offenders and a sassy old Scottish lady were enough to sustain my interest.
The results of my study are heartening. I have matured in my fantasy crush things. I have learned to appreciate a show as it is, and not because of the sex, nudity and handsomeness of its characters. Even more to the point, the attachment I developed to Robb and the entire Stark clan is evidence of the quality of writing in the show and not just the quality of its casting.
‘Game of Thrones’ is playing with me, pulling on my heartstrings, but only because its creators understand how to construct an effective narrative. Come to think of it, I can’t think of a show that I watch exclusively for the love of an actor. Movies, sure, but that’s only two hours of my life. A TV show is a different monster. It takes heart and intrigue to keep me watching episode after episode, season after season, springtime after springtime.