Aidan Turner’s abs have ruined the BBC for men
They didn’t even have protein shakes in the 1700s
Most of us sat down at the end of Christmas feeling a little ashamed of ourselves.
We’d had a few too many Buck’s fizzes over the last couple of days, we didn’t turn down the second helping of chocolate log and we’d already devoured three roast potato sandwiches by lunchtime.
Like any year, we decided to take our mind off things by putting on the BBC – expecting the classic Boxing Day easy-to-watch adaptation of a novel we’d never heard of. What we weren’t expecting was the visual gut punch of Aidan Turner and his impeccably-sculpted abs.
Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None is a prim and proper 1940s murder mystery, but that didn’t stop the screenwriters shoehorning in a strip-search scene in which Turner could whip his top off. It’s not the first time, either – remember Poldark? Yeah, that’s him.
Sunday Times journalist Rosie Kinchen called Turner’s naked torso “the highlight of television scheduling over Christmas”, proclaiming it a glorious end to “the year of the objectification of men” – and indeed over the last year men on TV have gained muscles and lost clothes.
The BBC was the channel which sent everyday blokes like Martin Freeman and Christopher Eccleston into the stratosphere, so why does every tedious Russian epic or Cornish mining saga they produce now look like an aftershave advert? Each new drama brings forth an even more chiselled face than the last, until you’ve got War and Peace’s impossibly dashing James Norton making all of us scratch our chubby chins in woeful despair.
It wasn’t like this back in the good old days – Colin Firth’s Darcy may have had a wet T-shirt scene, but he’s not exactly ripped. In the 1993 version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Sean Bean’s Mellors looked like he’d just rolled out of a pub. In contrast, Richard Madden’s version last year looked like he’d be more at home getting a Toni & Guy cut-and-colour than building a chicken coop.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine in Hollywood. When I watch Thor or Man of Steel, I’m expecting to feel belittled by Chris Hemsworth’s biceps or Henry Cavill’s daunting delts. But when I’m watching Downton on a Sunday night, I don’t want Hugh Bonneville to rip open his shirt to flaunt his washboard stomach.
It makes sense for the Gods and superheroes of Hollywood blockbusters, but not so much for country squires who ride around on horses complaining about wheat and taxes. The original Poldark gets it much more spot on – you wouldn’t let Robin Ellis scythe in your field, let alone unbutton your corset.
There were no Nutribullets in the 1940s, and burpees definitely didn’t exist yet in Victorian Britain – and unless the dirty wells outside those cottages are filled with Alberto Balsam, there’s going to be a fair few more split ends than we’re being led to believe.
Women have faced objectification on TV for years, but the unexpected rise of the period drama hunk is too much for men’s fragile egos to take. We’ve been thrust into a world where wearing a long coat and speaking in a posh voice don’t qualify us to look like TV stars any more, and it’s scary.
The Times celebrates our “permission to perve” as a good thing, but the BBC should be a safe haven. We can lament our pot bellies at the cinema, but at least let us watch our shit TV without feeling guilty.