Ah, the joys of the harmless television crush can make the world such a happy place. When even big, butch newspapers find themselves in metaphorical Regency drawing rooms talking about an actor’s “posterior” and “locks” and referring to audiences “swooning”, we know we might as well all put on A-line dresses and eat soft-boiled eggs.
This of course is the Aidan Turner effect in Poldark, where as 18th-century Cornish mine owner Ross Poldark he smoulders like a bank holiday bonfire to such incendiary effect that even resolutely heterosexual columnists such as occasional RT contributor Robert Crampton out themselves as Aidanettes. As he said: “I’m attracted to him because at some level I, ahem, well, I fancy him. There, I’ve said it.”
But don’t be shy, Robert. There’s nothing wrong with a thoroughly innocuous passion. It’s not like any of us is going to bake Turner’s likeness in shortbread or turn up on his doorstep wearing a wedding dress and bunny ears. (Well I’m not. I can’t vouch for you, of course.)
There’s been harrumphing from some men that it’s just objectification, but it’s not, it really isn’t. Women have always loved a tortured romantic hero, someone who’s damaged and whom we think we can change. Mr Darcy (below), Mr Rochester and Ross Poldark, scarred from the American War of Independence and wronged in love. The fact that Turner looks as tasty as a glacé cherry-topped knickerbocker glory is just a delightful bonus.
But men who go on about the silliness of “women of a certain age” should listen to themselves talking with painful seriousness about football and Doctor Who. Besides, you get books, magazines and sections of newspapers devoted to your delights, so please leave us to our innocent pleasures.
You can even attend events and applaud your heroes in a way that Aidanettes can’t. It’s not as if we can all pile into Loftus Road as he runs around the pitch in shorts while we cheer, sing and wave. Though it’s a nice thought.
Women have always fancied men from the telly, as men have always fancied women from the telly. It’s just that women have grown in confidence and can actually admit it, publicly, in sisterly high spirits. It’s an all-right thing to do. Fancying deliciously unattainable people of either or both sexes makes the world go round.
Without reducing Turner to his component parts like a 1980 Ford Escort in a scrapyard (and the Daily Mail did just that, please note, labelling Turner’s naked torso with “Manly But Not Too Muscular” and “Flowing Locks and a Fuzzy Chest”), the point of all this is that it’s fun.
Our imagination is caught, newspapers run pointless Poldark “stories” on their front pages and break down scenes, using lots of pictures of Turner’s naked torso, as they wonder, “How Did Demelza Dress Herself?” And don’t forget to click on the little embedded clips of turner scything a meadow, half naked. You haven’t forgotten, have you?
This is great! Television drama is making us smile for once. It’s brining us together in a pleasurable little tea party. Besides, Ross Poldark is a sexy feminist. He married his kitchen maid, for goodness sake! He taught her to read! What’s not to love?
Poldark has brought back the TV community aspect of viewing that we haven’t known since the first series of Broadchurch. And in an increasingly bitter online world, social media has become fun again. Poldark and its sexy hero are mass entertainment as its most beguiling. So head-shakers and tut-tutters, leave us alone. We’re happy, and we know it.
Poldark is on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One