Friday, March 27, 2015

In Ross Poldark, we have reached romantic hero nirvana

Sarra Manning
March 25, 2015

Ross Poldark
 ‘He straddles different social classes with the same mastery with which he straddles his stallion.’ Aidan Turner as Captain Ross Poldark. Photograph: Mike Hogan/BBC/Mammoth Screen

Stripped to the waist, his pecs lightly furred, a faint, photogenic sheen of sweat delineating his six-pack, the sun glinting on his dark Byronic tumble of curls, the classic patrician lines of his face given distinction by the devilish scar that lovingly caressed one sharp cheekbone, Captain Ross Poldark treated the nation to some hot scything action on Sunday night – and the nation did swoon. By the time Poldark, aka Aidan Turner, had saved a misguided young poacher from transportation, gainfully employed the local peasantry by reopening his father’s mine, then bedded and wedded Demelza, his flighty young serving girl, Twitter was a’twitter with love for the kind of romantic hero that has been absent from our screens for far too long.

Not since Colin Firth, as one Fitzwilliam Darcy, strode purposefully out of the lake at Pemberley, his white shirt clinging to the planes of his chest, have Sunday nights been such a treat.

In Ross Poldark we have reached romantic hero nirvana. Whether he is straddling different social classes or his stallion, it is always with the same mastery. He has the life experience that can only come from fighting in a war then returning home to find his father dead, the family tin mine all but derelict and his one true love married off to his doughty cousin. He’s equally at home in the drawing rooms of the gentry as he is supping cider in the fields with the great unwashed. He has contempt for those who are rich only by accident of birth and knows how to perform all manner of household tasks. He’s part alpha male, part metrosexual, all combined in one HD-ready, smouldering package.

Now, compare Poldark to that other romantic hero of our age, Christian Grey. Grey’s deep inner turmoil comes from the kind of mummy issues so basic that even a GCSE psychology student would roll their eyes at them. He may be suited and booted, but in the box office-busting adaptation of Fifty Shades Of Grey, with every extraneous hair felled from his body, Grey looks disturbingly pre-pubescent for a tortured torturer. Even more disturbing is that Jamie Dornan looked sexier playing a serial killer in The Fall than he ever did when he was getting down to some sexy slapping in the Red Room.

There’s something incredibly reductive and old-fashioned about the pumped-up posturing of the BDSM-lite billionaire. It harks back to the days when steamy bodice-rippers featured brutish heroes and love scenes that bordered on rape – the kind of romances that have long fallen out of favour with the readers of romantic historical fiction, who now prefer the more considered and contemporary novels of writers like Courtney Milan, Stephanie Laurens and Elizabeth Hoyt. Their heroines have backbone, their heroes aren’t autocratic arseholes, and any bodice-ripping is entirely consensual.


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